Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Big Ten deserves all the hype it can get


It's not often that I take issue with a particular piece written by someone else (usually it's their work as a whole, like with Jim Souhan), however Ken Davis' assessment of the Big Ten conference raised my dander a little bit. He asserts that the Big Ten doesn't deserve the hype, nor do they deserve 7 bids to the Big Dance. His primary argument is that it is because the conference is poor offensively.
Of course, anyone who has watched the Big Ten this year knows this is an unfair assessment. The conference is just an exceptionally strong defensive group, that has demonstrated the ability to run with higher scoring teams (Purdue versus Oklahoma) and make high flying teams grind it out at their level (Michigan versus UCLA). That they are scoring so few points against one another despite being able to compete outside of the conference shouldn't be a condemnation of their ability, but praise of a deep conference.
Davis also cites the teams record versus the Big East (arguably the best in the land this year) and a near .500 record against another supposedly superior conference, the ACC as reasons why the Big Ten shouldn't be getting bids. He does not cite records against the Big 12, SEC, or Pac 10, the other 3 power conferences, all of which are definitely off this year. This is an argument not necessarily that the Big 10 is good, but rather the conference deserves the 7 or 8 bids. Three of the 6 power conferences are week, and the mid-majors don't have multiple teams deserving bids this year. [UPDATE: The Big Ten went 2-1 vs the SEC, 5-2 against the Big 12 and 1-1 against the Pac 10]
Take a look at Minnesota and Michigan, two middle of the pack teams in the Big 10. They had two losses combined in the non-conference schedule. Minnesota went undefeated, including wins against Louisville and Virginia. Michigan's losses were at Maryland and in a neutral site against Duke. They also netted wins against the Blue Devils and against UCLA.
The Big Ten isn't a flashy conference that doesn't look good until you look at what they've done. Not many people, including Mr. Davis, take the time to do this. To get their attention, the conference needs all the hype it can get.

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