For the first time ever, the Big Ten will have nine teams in the NCAA Tournament.
That’s one more than the Big Ten had in the most recent NCAA Tournament that was played in 2019, when eight of the conference’s 14 teams were included in the 68-team field. It’s just the fifth time a conference has ever had nine teams selected to the NCAA Tournament.
No other conference has more than seven teams in this year’s NCAA Tournament field. The ACC and Big 12 both have seven, while the SEC has six, the Pac-12 has five and the Big East has four.
The Big Ten has one of the top two seeds in all four regions of the tournament. Illinois is the No. 1 seed in the Midwest region, while Michigan is the No. 1 seed in the East region. Ohio State is the No. 2 seed in the South region, while Iowa is the No. 2 seed in the West region.
Ohio State is one of three Big Ten teams in the South region, along with No. 4 seed Purdue and No. 9 seed Wisconsin. That sets up the possibility Wisconsin and Purdue could meet in the Sweet 16 or that one of those two teams could meet Ohio State in the Elite Eight, though either of those scenarios would require No. 1 seed Baylor being upset along the way.
The East region also includes three Big Ten teams, though Michigan State still has to play its way into the first round of the tournament. As one of the last four at-large teams selected, Michigan State will play UCLA in the First Four on Thursday (9:57 p.m., TBS); if the Spartans beat the Bruins, they’ll play 6 seed BYU on Saturday as an 11 seed.
Maryland is the No. 10 seed in the East region, while Rutgers is the No. 10 seed in the Midwest region. Iowa is the only Big Ten team in the South region.
|1||ILLINOIS||MIDWEST||1:15 p.m. FRIDAY vs. #16 DREXEL, TBS|
|1||MICHIGAN||EAST||3 p.m. SATURDAY vs. #16 MOUNT ST. MARY'S/TEXAS SOUTHERN, CBS|
|2||OHIO STATE||SOUTH||3 p.m. FRIDAY vs. #15 ORAL ROBERTS, CBS|
|2||IOWA||WEST||6:25 p.m. SATURDAY vs. #15 GRAND CANYON, TBS|
|4||PURDUE||SOUTH||7:25 p.m. FRIDAY vs. #13 NORTH TEXAS, TNT|
|9||WISCONSIN||SOUTH||7:10 p.m. FRIDAY vs. #8 NORTH CAROLINA, CBS|
|10||MARYLAND||EAST||7:10 p.m. SATURDAY vs. #7 UCONN, CBS|
|10||RUTGERS||MIDWEST||9:20 p.m. FRIDAY vs. #7 CLEMSON, TBS|
|11||MICHIGAN STATE||EAST||9:57 p.m. THURSDAY vs. #11 UCLA, TBS (FIRST FOUR)|
It’s not out of the question that any one of those teams could make a run. KenPom rates six of them as top-13 teams nationally – Michigan (2nd), Illinois (3rd), Iowa (5th), Ohio State (7th), Wisconsin (10th) and Purdue (13th) – while Maryland is rated 31st and Rutgers 34th. Michigan State is rated 56th, but the Spartans showed they could still be dangerous during the final two weeks of the regular season, in which they beat Illinois, Ohio State and Michigan.
The only Big Ten teams that didn’t make this year’s tournament are the five conference teams that finished the season with losing records: Indiana, Penn State, Northwestern, Minnesota and Nebraska.
With so many teams in the tournament, and specifically with four of the tournament’s top seven overall seeds, anything less than multiple Big Ten teams in the Final Four could be viewed as a disappointment for the conference. That’s much easier said than done, but with at least one conference team that should be a contender in each region, expectations will be high.
The Big Ten teams should also have a bit of a home-court advantage, too, since the tournament will be played entirely within the state of Indiana. The Elite Eight and Final Four games will all be played at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, a venue all the Big Ten teams are already familiar with after playing this past week’s conference tournament there, and the Midwest location should lead to most Big Ten teams having favorable crowds at their games.
A Big Ten team hasn’t won the national championship since Michigan State won it all in 2000 (Maryland was in the ACC when it won in 2002), but the conference comes into this year’s tournament well-positioned for multiple of its teams to potentially make a run at it.
The large number of teams selected for the Big Dance validates the notion that the Big Ten was the best conference in college basketball during the regular season, but ultimately, the conference’s 2020-21 season will be judged by how its teams perform over the next three weeks.