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People need to stop giving the Big Ten a hard time about its title drought

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But really.

NCAA Basketball: Final Four-Semifinals-Michigan State vs Texas Tech Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

“No one ever asks the question about the Big Ten and ACC being neck and neck over the last 20 years. Instead, after MSU fell short against Texas Tech, Tom Izzo was asked about the Big Ten falling short. As if when Duke wins the national title it has anything to do with Georgia Tech.”

-Graham Couch, Lansing State Journal

With Michigan State’s loss in the Final Four Saturday, the Big Ten struck out once again on its quest for a national title in basketball. The title drought is now 19 years running, the last championship coming from another Tom Izzo-coached Michigan State squad in 2000. The conference could count Maryland’s title in 2002 on a technicality, but few, including most Big Ten fans, would buy that as a win for the league. Further, that title doesn’t kick the can much further down the road.

Nonetheless, a title drought doesn’t necessarily indicate a lack of power from a conference perspective. The Big Ten sent eight teams to the NCAA Tournament this year, more than any other conference, and seven of those teams advanced to the second round. Related, seven of 32 teams from a single conference happens to tie a tournament record. The ACC and SEC, which each put seven teams in the dance, both went 5-2 in the opening round.

Essentially, it is clear that, from top to bottom, the Big Ten seems to be better than the average conference. What is unproven is whether the top teams are in fact among the best teams nationally, and the title drought doesn’t address that question either given the current tournament format. Teams have to win six games to win a title (or seven should a play-in team ever make the championship), and must defeat a mix of scrappy small-conference champions and second-(third, fourth, fifth) place teams from power conferences. In later rounds, champions face off. That’s why Virginia is in the final and Duke is not: Duke had to play Michigan State.

Comparing apples to apples, though, the Big Ten conference champion beat the ACC champ head-to-head. Just throwing that out there. And if we’re going to harp on being “overrated,” does it bother anyone else that, despite earning three one-seeds, the ACC had just one team in the Final Four?

“All I know is when I recruit somebody, I always talk about the positives...I never bring up any other places I was at.”

-Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, via Patrick Murphy, 247Sports.com

Going to work for a rival is always just a little bit awkward. It becomes even moreso, however, when that rival is Ohio State and you are coming from Michigan, but that is the situation that first-year co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison finds himself in today.

For many top recruits, who have been courted by multiple teams over several years, seeing a coach switch schools might be something of a head scratcher. Many of these recruits, including top defensive linemen, may have been pursued by both Ohio State and Michigan -- meaning, in some cases, Mattison has played a role with both schools in recruiting the same players. While Mattison has acknowledged that some players might not be used to it and ask about the change, he says he sticks to the positives, and tries to avoid discussing previous roles.

Though those prior roles might stay under the radar in recruiting, Mattison’s extensive experience in many positions, including as defensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens, will likely prove invaluable to head coach Ryan Day in the latter’s first season at the helm. With 43 years under his belt with multiple programs, Mattison brings a treasure trove of knowledge for Day in his first head coaching role.

Mattison came to Ohio State after a career which spanned three decades at Michigan over two separate stints. Most recently, Mattison coached the Wolverines’ defensive line under Jim Harbaugh -- a role he took after sitting as defensive coordinator under Brady Hoke. Mattison’s impact with the Wolverines has been impressive, considering Michigan finished the season with the nation’s second-ranked total defense -- and that was accounting for the 567 yards (and 62 points) Ohio State dropped at the end of the regular season.

Perhaps that’s why he’s already started wearing scarlet and referring to his former team as “the team up north.”

“You know how the journey began, so to see him do that is very encouraging.”

-Vernon Shazier, father of Ryan Shazier, via Jeremy Fowler, ESPN

It’s been 17 months since one of the scariest moments in recent memory in all of football. On a Monday night game in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier, formerly of Ohio State, went in for a tackle on Bengals receiver Josh Malone. Then his legs went completely still. After many tense minutes, he was carted off the field, and fans feared what they would find out about the young man’s future.

But it was the terror of those moments that made the subsequent months so inspiring. Shazier went from releasing videos from his hospital bed to waving to fans from the box at a Steelers game to receiving an emotional standing ovation at a Penguins game, when Shazier himself was able to stand in front of the crowd.

The recovery since then has been no less encouraging. Assisted by his fiance, Shazier walked to the podium and announced the Steelers’ first-round pick at last year’s NFL Draft. Later, he ran with his son and completed deadlifts on camera. Both Shazier and his family have continued to engage with supporters by releasing these progress videos to demonstrate his recovery and share success in meeting milestones. Most recently, Shazier completed a three-foot box jump -- something Shazier has been actively working toward during his recovery.

The 15th-overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, Shazier, a two-time Pro-Bowler, has spent his entire career in Pittsburgh. While Shazier missed all of last season, the Steelers have supported him the entire way throughout his recovery. The organization has kept the linebacker on the physically unable to perform list, ensuring he remains on the roster. In March, Pittsburgh tolled Shazier’s contract into the 2019 season. With his status, Shazier will continue to be paid and receive medical insurance, and can count the 2019 season toward his NFL pension.

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