NCAA selection committee gives little love to the Big Ten
BY SETH GRUEN Staff Reporter March 16, 2014 11:31PM
Michigan State players and coaches pose with the championship trophy after they defeated Michigan 69-55 in an NCAA college basketball game in the championship of the Big Ten Conference tournament on Sunday, March 16, 2014, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
Updated: March 16, 2014 11:58PM
INDIANAPOLIS — Maybe it was the Big Ten’s topsy-turvy season. There really wasn’t a conference that was a better example of inconsistency. Or quite possibly, the conference paid the price for finishing its tournament last.
Regardless, it appears there wasn’t a conference tournament given less respect than the one staged at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Heading into Sunday’s Big Ten championship game, the scenario appeared obvious: If Michigan State beats Michigan, move the Spartans up to a No. 3 seed and the Wolverines down to a No. 2.
But Michigan State stayed put on the fourth line. It drew an unenthusiastic cheer from the Spartans’ locker room. Coach Tom Izzo had a so-be-it attitude, acknowledging a modicum of surprise.
Izzo has the right outlook. It’s the least shocking news in a season of shockers. Calling this season a roller coaster for the Big Ten wouldn’t do it justice. It was more like pulling G’s in a biplane.
Michigan State lost three starters for extended time and went nearly 1 1/2 months without putting together back-to-back victories. Wisconsin lost to (gulp) Northwestern at home for the first time in the history of the Kohl Center.
Michigan saw its record blemished by Charlotte, a middle-of-the-pack team in Conference USA, and Big Ten bottom-feeder Indiana, which barely finished above .500. And Illinois was ranked at the start of the conference season, only to lose eight in a row but finish, arguably, a missed runner by Tracy Abrams short of giving the tournament committee reason to consider the Illini.
But once the 12 teams gathered in Indianapolis for the conference’s annual basketball conclave, it appeared a dizzied conference fell back into equilibrium.
The four teams expected to contend for the conference crown — Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan State — were the four to make it to the weekend portion of the Big Ten tournament.
Nebraska fell just short of making it to the final weekend after being the surprise of the season. Boy, were they severely punished, jettisoned to an 11-seed, where the Huskers will play Baylor in San Antonio — about a three-hour drive from the Bears’ campus.
Ultimately when the Michigan State beat Michigan by 14, it served to justify that the Spartans, when healthy, are by far the most-talented team in the conference — and probably the country, too.
“That doesn’t mean you’re immediately better the next day,” Michigan coach John Beilein said of the Spartans returning to full health. “That means it takes time to get timing down, to get your guys ready. But their timing in this tournament, you can see [it returned] by the gravity of their wins.”
Clearly the tournament committee couldn’t see.
Respect might be some phantom idea that doesn’t help any team in the field win. However it’s characterized, the Big Ten didn’t get any Sunday.