In order to fully gauge the strength of the Big Ten this season, you first have to establish some criteria. What makes a conference great? The teams at the top, or the teams at the bottom? Overall depth? Non-conference performance? Teams ranked in the Top 25 throughout the year, or teams that make the NCAA Tournament? Advancement in the Big Dance? Or as much as a Final Four or NCAA Title? Everybody has a different scale, so let’s consider the Big Ten on all of these.
- The Top: Indiana and Michigan both spent time ranked No. 1 in the country, and the Hoosiers earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. At one point in the year — Week 15, as a matter of fact — the AP had No. 1 Indiana, No. 4 Michigan, No. 8 Michigan State and No. 13 Ohio State represented from the league. That is a pretty good concentration at the top. And all four stayed there, with Michigan receiving the lowest NCAA Tournament seed (No. 4) of the group, but still advanced to the national championship game.
- The Bottom: It looked like Penn State would be historically bad (keep in mind the Nittany Lions lost their best player, Tim Frazier, early in the season) before salvaging their season with a remarkable upset of Michigan and another win against Northwestern. But, as you’ll see in the following Overall Depth section, every team in the conference had some wins to hang its hat on. The conference was still 64-1 overall against teams ranked #201 or lower by TeamRankings.com and 65-11 against teams ranked #101-#200. The only conference with fewer losses (zero) against teams ranked #201 or worse was the Mountain West (38-0), which played far fewer games as well.