A hot topic in all sports is “which conference/division is the best”. For Big Ten basketball, this was something they felt they could claim for a couple years back from 2019-2021. However, after some recent flameouts in the NCAA tournament, most people have moved on from that take, and moved on to something different — that the Big Ten is stinky.
But not Tom Izzo. Izzo still insists the Big Ten is the best conference in basketball, reminding the media after the Spartans lost in the tournament. So we ask, is he crazy or a genius? It is a fine line.
Tom Izzo thinks the B1G 10 is the best conference in the country Agree or Disagree ? pic.twitter.com/qi3FuDeh01— College Basketball Report (@CBKReport) March 24, 2023
Last week, we talked about head coaching jobs and which former Ohio State hooper is next up to be a head coach in college hoops. Connor chose current Memphis Grizzlies assistant coach Scoonie Penn and Justin chose current Illinois State assistant coach Andrew Dakich.
Realistically, both will likely become head coaches in their career but the audience agreed with Justin that Dakich will do it first. As Justin said, he’s on that Greg Paulus track.
After 97 weeks of somehow doing this every week, Justin holds a four point lead over Connor. Both have left “Other” in the dust.
After 97 weeks:
(There have been four ties)
Without further ado, let’s get into today’s question.
Today’s Question: Is Tom Izzo nuts for calling the Big Ten the best conference in college basketball?
Despite being a Big Ten homer through and through, the “our league doesn’t win in March because we’re all so tough and wear each other down,” narrative has grown old and stale, for me.
It’s been two decades since a Big Ten team won a national championship, and although it’s an incredibly fluky win-or-go-home tournament, that means something. If you expand it out a bit, it’s also been four years since the Big Ten had a Final Four team, too.
The NCAA Tournament success (or lack thereof) can be attributed to the randomness and flukiness of a do-or-die style tournament, but the Big Ten’s signature strategy of basing teams around big men may also be detrimental to the conference in March. As college basketball evolves, fewer and fewer teams are basing their offense around one traditional center. More often you’ll see teams starting a “small ball” lineup, utilizing a center who is 6-foot-10 or shorter and is able to stretch the floor. The guards are often taller and able to score at all three levels.
But the Big Ten still had several teams last season (Michigan, Purdue, Rutgers, Indiana technically) whose offensive game plan revolved around getting priority touches to their center below the basket. Many teams are moving past this, and are showing that you do not need a 7-foot center to win championships. Heck, Purdue had one of the most dominant big men in college basketball history last season, and they lost to a 16-seed!
Even if we’re not talking about the NCAA Tournament, the Big 12 has surpassed the Big Ten as the top dog in college basketball, and it’s not particularly close. The Big 12 was the highest rated and most efficient conference (collectively) last season, and had seven teams in the KenPom top-30. Comparatively, the Big Ten had four.
The Big 12’s two worst teams, Texas Tech and Oklahoma, were still being mentioned as potential “bubble teams” as late as February. Whereas the Big Ten’s bottom teams — Ohio State, Nebraska, and Minnesota — were more or less out of the picture by January. The Big 12 just doesn’t have a bottom right now, but the Big Ten clearly did last season.
Is the B1G a dumpster baby conference? No, it’s probably the second-best conference in basketball right now. But there’s another conference that is clearly ahead of them. Izzo is just doing his job stumping for his conference, but he’s very wrong.
Justin: Maybe, maybe not
I am going to be honest because that is who I am. I am not entirely positive if even I believe this, but I will argue it anyway because I think I do believe it. I think.
Here is the thing. I definitely do not think the Big Ten was the best conference this season. I do think the conference was better top to bottom than people think (Ohio State finished 13th and was ranked at one point this season), but the Big 12 was undeniably better on top and deeper than any other conference. So in that regard, yes he is wrong,
However, here is what I will say. I do think the Big Ten is the best conference in general. And I think that is what Tom Izzo means more than it is the best conference right at this moment.
He says, “I would like to see some other teams come into the conference and play the teams and the places that we play,” which can be said about any year. The venues stay the same year in and year out.
He also mentions that he believes a reason for the conference struggling in March is that the conference beats up on each other all season, and that affects teams from the Big Ten when it comes to seeding in the big dance. I do think he has a point there because seeding is so important, and when a team is constantly a six, seven or eight seed, it is really hard to have that much success in March — Purdue not withstanding.
In conclusion, I do think he has a point and I do think that the conference has been way better than the NCAA Tournament results may show. I say maybe to what Tom Izzo said because while they may have struggled last season as a conference, I think the Big Ten will bounce back strong and become a juggernaut again soon.
Probably not next season though.
Is Tom Izzo nuts for calling the Big Ten the best conference in college basketball?
This poll is closed
Justin: Maybe, maybe not