No conference seemed deeper with talent than Big Ten Basketball last year. But before moving onto next season, some pressing questions still require resolve.
College basketball’s abrupt ending seemed far more tragic for Big Ten Basketball fans than most others, as the COVID-19 pandemic brought an unsatisfying ending to arguably the conference’s greatest season ever. With a staggering six teams finishing out the year apart from the AP Top 25 poll, our projections saw 10 teams earning tournament bids, while some chatter about the Big Ten even surpassing Big East’s 2011 record and fielding 12 teams ensued this year as well.
With each team finishing with a 14-6 record, the Big Ten regular-season title saw itself split three different ways for the second straight year as Michigan State, Maryland, and Wisconsin all earned a piece of the crown. But the conference found its true strength outside their three champions, formulating an assembly of teams that although beyond what one might call NCAA’s top tier, absolutely overwhelmed the second and third tiers below it.
Teams like Iowa, Illinois, Penn State, Rutgers, Michigan, and Indiana all earned 20 or more total wins this season, even combining to form a respectable 27-28 record against ranked teams, certainly proving their ability to play competitively against anyone. But where the Big Ten excelled, other conferences such as the the Big East, Big 12, and ACC failed, as they saw zero teams outside their top-5 programs earn 20 wins like these Big Ten squads had, nor did they play nearly as well against the nation’s overall most talented teams.
But even as an exceptionally “middle heavy” conference, the Big Ten’s “big three” still proved themselves as worthy champions too, going 4-1 against their nearest competitors, the Big East’s, three championship teams.
But now due to circumstances unfair yet simultaneously unavoidable, each Big Ten program must retire last year’s hopes dreams while adjusting their focus towards next year’s. But as each program begins looking ahead to the future, the fashion in which some unresolved scenarios play out will serve as large components factoring into a team’s potential success or downfall for next year.