Why Ohio State Needs To Win For The B1G This WeekendPosted by Deepak Jayanti on March 30th, 2012
Big Ten hoops received well deserved hype throughout the college basketball season. At one point in early February, there were about eight to nine teams competing for spot in the NCAA Tournament. The conference was oozing with depth and several experts agreed. But none of it means much without postseason success. Last year, the Big East entered the NCAA Tournament with a ton of hype but several teams got beat in the earlier rounds. The eloquent Charles Barkley renamed the conference, “the itty-bitty east” after their performance. But the conference revived itself as Connecticut went onto the win the title. Big Ten sent four teams to the Sweet 16 this year and thanks to Ohio State, there is representation in New Orleans over the weekend. The journey doesn’t end here though – Ohio State needs to succeed over the weekend and hopefully bring home a title. Why is it so important? The following are four reasons why the Big Ten conference needs Ohio State to put up a good show over the weekend in order to maintain its image as one of the basketball powerhouses.
- 12 long years. Tom Izzo’s Flintstones won the national title in the Spring of 2000, that’s 12 seasons ago. America has voted three times for a President since the last time a B1G team won it all. That is not a healthy statistic for the conference. There have been four teams that have been to the title game since then – Indiana (2002), Illinois (2005), Ohio State (2007), and Michigan State (2009). The 2005 Illinois team could have gone down as one of the greatest teams in college basketball history but without a championship, they barely make it to the honorable mention on most of the lists that mention historically great teams. Over the last decade, Big Ten’s biggest rival, the ACC has won the title multiple times – Duke (twice), UNC (twice), and Maryland (once beating Indiana in 2002). The Big Ten markets itself as having the best basketball coaching minds in the country. The conference advertises its depth and statistics back it up. These positive aspects need to translate to a championship and it needs to happen as soon as possible. Otherwise, Big Ten basketball will just be good, not great.
- Big Ten Basketball is more competitive nationally than Big Ten Football. Every bowl season, the Big Ten is lined up against the mighty SEC and they get dominated more often than not. The B1G football hasn’t won a BCS title over the last ten years. The SEC has the stranglehold over national championships in football over the past five seasons thanks to LSU, Alabama, Florida, and Auburn. But basketball is different because there has been more parity up at the top. Most football fans, especially from the SEC, laugh at the notion of a national champion from the Big Ten but there is still hope in basketball. During the regular season, teams such as Michigan State and Ohio State compete well against the non-conference opponents. The Big Ten won the Big Ten – ACC challenge two years in a row. There are usually 3-4 teams ranked in the top 20 from the Big Ten throughout the regular season. Some of the best young basketball minds reside in the B1G. The longer the title drought continues, the more a large part of the country may write off the B1G as just a deep conference but without a dominant team. Big Ten basketball can’t afford to be known as the second- or third-best basketball conference permanently as it has become in football.
- Ohio State recruits the best talent in the conference per the rankings every season. Tom Izzo and Bo Ryan don’t always go after top talent because they run a specific system for which they try to find a best fit. Thad Matta on the other hand is one of the best recruiters in the game and brings in top talent every season. During his time in Columbus, Ohio State has ranked in the top 20 according Scout.com almost perennially. Other powerhouses such as UNC, Duke, and Kansas are a staple within the recruiting rankings. The Big Ten’s best recruiting coach should be able to convert all of the top talent to a national championship. Now that doesn’t mean there is less pressure on Izzo, Ryan, or Painter to win one. It just means that the casual fan might begin to question if the Big Ten can ever recruit enough talent to win it all and compete with the top programs of the country such as Kentucky. Matta has already proved to be a great coach, indicated by two Final Four appearances within six seasons. But the next step is to win it all and continue to make Ohio State Basketball a household name in March. Tom Crean is a great recruiter as well, but he is just beginning to put it together after a rough three seasons, therefore Indiana basketball is a couple of years away from contending for championships. Talking about the Hoosiers …
- Big Ten’s “blue-blood” program is still on a hiatus. During the 1980s and for most of the 1990s, Indiana basketball was the face of the B1G at the national stage. Even though, the Hoosiers’ postseason success faded in the late ‘90s, the mystique of Indiana and Bobby Knight still kept Hoosier basketball as the main representative of B1G amongst the national media. But after Knight left, followed by Mike Davis and the Kelvin Sampson mess, Indiana has done little over the last 7-8 seasons. But Tom Izzo’s Spartans filled the gap very well during Indiana’s absence with multiple Final Four appearances. Ohio State has been up and coming while Indiana re-groups under Tom Crean. The conference needs Indiana to be good in basketball to maintain its image beyond the Midwest and this is analogous to Michigan Football during the fall. As Indiana gears up under Crean, Ohio State has been complementing Michigan State in March, but all three programs needs to be clicking at the same time in order for the conference to get the royal treatment by the national media. No offense to Bo Ryan, John Beilein, or Matt Painter, but their postseason success has been limited and their programs are not considered to be part of the top 15 nationally. Ohio State probably is although they may not be viewed as a true upper echelon program along the lines of a Kentucky or Kansas, but after two Final Fours and maybe a title, they will certainly get into that picture.
One might argue that nobody cares about conference representation in the grand scheme of college hoops. Every school is on its own but it still matters if the conference produces national titles and Final Fours. It helps with recruiting and obviously has a ton of monetary implications. But even more important than the monetary implications is just the sheer pride that the Big Ten fans hold for their brand of basketball. The brand of basketball will continue to have value as long as it succeeds during the postseason on a consistent basis.