No conference appeared more well-positioned to make its mark on the 2021 NCAA Tournament. Instead, the conference's lack of success in Indianapolis has become a punchline.
Of the conference-record nine Big Ten teams that made the field of 68 teams, only one – Michigan – will be playing in the second weekend of the tournament.
Michigan State failed to make it out of the First Four. Ohio State and Purdue both lost to double-digit seeds in the first round. Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Maryland and Rutgers all lost in the second round.
|1||MICHIGAN||WILL PLAY #4 FLORIDA STATE IN SWEET 16|
|1||ILLINOIS||LOST TO #8 LOYOLA, 71-58, IN SECOND ROUND|
|2||IOWA||LOST TO #7 OREGON, 95-80, IN SECOND ROUND|
|2||OHIO STATE||LOST TO #15 ORAL ROBERTS, 75-72, IN FIRST ROUND|
|4||PURDUE||LOST TO #13 NORTH TEXAS, 78-69, IN FIRST ROUND|
|9||WISCONSIN||LOST TO #1 BAYLOR, 76-63, IN SECOND ROUND|
|10||MARYLAND||LOST TO #2 ALABAMA, 96-77, IN SECOND ROUND|
|10||RUTGERS||LOST TO #2 HOUSTON, 63-60, IN SECOND ROUND|
|11||MICHIGAN STATE||LOST TO #11 UCLA, 86-80, IN FIRST FOUR|
As the No. 1 seed in the East region, Michigan remains a strong contender to make the Final Four, though it will need to beat No. 4 seed Florida State and win an Elite Eight game against one of two teams that's already knocked out a Big Ten team – No. 2 Alabama or No. 11 UCLA – to make that happen.
It's a massive disappointment for the conference to have no other teams in the Sweet 16, though, considering that five of its nine tournament qualifiers were on the top four seed lines. Illinois, Iowa, Ohio State and Purdue all lost to teams at least five seeds lower than theirs, meeting the NCAA's official criteria for an upset.
Oregon's win over Iowa marked the 12th upset of the tournament, with upset defined as a win by a team seeded five spots lower than their opponent. The most through the round of 32 was 10 (done 8 times) before 2021. The record for the entire tournament is 13 (1985, 2014).— David Worlock (@DavidWorlock) March 22, 2021
For a conference that was considered to be the best in the country this year and was expected to make a major mark on March Madness, the early exits of nearly all of its teams call into question whether the Big Ten was actually vastly overrated.
Despite entering the NCAA Tournament with more bids than any other conference, the Big Ten is tied with the Big 12 (which had seven bids) for the least participants in the Sweet 16 among major leagues. The Pac-12 leads the way with four teams in the Sweet 16 while the ACC, SEC and Big East each have two.