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Big Ten had a terrible year, and the NCAA tournament selection committee punished it

The Big Ten had enough decent teams to get seven into the field, but lots of them should go home quickly.

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament Final-Michigan vs Wisconsin Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Ten wasn’t good this season. The league didn’t have any obvious elite teams. It’s No. 2 and No. 8 seeds had similar resumes, which was an insult, not a compliment. Purdue forward Caleb Swanigan was outstanding, but the league lacked the level of elite individual play it’s so often enjoyed in the years past.

The NCAA tournament’s field of 68 was unveiled Sunday, and it made something clear: the selection committee felt just as lousy about the Big Ten as you did.

The Big Ten put seven teams in the field, tied for second-most behind the ACC’s nine. It had enough decent teams, and the committee was so disdainful of good mid-majors that its overall count of bids looks fine. But the committee didn’t like the Big Ten at all, and it made as much clear by how it slotted the seven teams that made the field.

A few Big Ten schools got really good deals.

Minnesota is a No. 5 seed, judged as a top-20 team after not ranking higher than 24th in any AP Poll all season — and even that was in January, briefly. Maryland is a No. 6, despite having zero (0) impressive wins and bowing out in its first game in the conference tournament. Those teams are delighted.

Purdue is a No. 4 in the Midwest region, which seems right for the outright regular season Big Ten champion. It’s also a favorable geographic placement. The Boilers can’t fairly gripe about how they landed.

The rest of the Big Ten was judged for what it was: not good.

  • Wisconsin finished in second place, made the tournament final, and got a No. 8. seed.
  • Michigan finished tied for fifth, won the tournament, and got a No. 7.
  • Northwestern finished tied for fifth, made the semifinal, and got a No. 8.
  • Michigan State lost in the quarterfinals and got a No. 9.

These aren’t that inappropriate, or anything. You can look at the tournament’s full seed list, and there’s not much to yell about.

Michigan as a No. 7, behind Minnesota — which had one more league win, split the series with Michigan, and didn’t win the tournament — seems odd to me. But it’s not the worst thing ever.

The Big Ten could die off in this tournament quickly.

The bottom four Big Ten seeds to make the field are all stuck in subregional pods with No. 1 or 2 seeds. If more than one survives the opening weekend, it’ll be a shock. And if any Big Ten team other than Purdue makes the Final Four, that will, too.

There are good programs in the Big Ten. But not enough of them were good this season, and the committee has set up the league for a rough March.