head coach Bo Ryan holds the net following
Wisconsin's 85-78 win over Arizona in a college
basketball regional final, to advance to the Final
Four, in the NCAA Tournament, Saturday, March 28,
2015, in Los Angeles.
— After Michigan State clinched a spot in the Final Four
last weekend, Wisconsin's Sam Dekker wrote something on
Twitter that packed as much of a punch as one of his
Big Ten had a down year right?" Dekker asked.
had that perception, it certainly isn't the case with two
teams in the Final Four — which is being in
Badgers play unbeaten Kentucky in one semifinal on
Saturday night, with the Spartans facing Duke in the
Ten squads are underdogs going into their respective
coach Bo Ryan congratulated his friend and Michigan State
counterpart Tom Izzo over the phone after the Spartans'
beat Louisville on Sunday.
we're proud of that, and then you move on, then you
play," Ryan said. "I'm proud of this
forward Sam Dekker, right, celebrates with teammates
after beating Arizona 85-78 in a college basketball
regional final in the NCAA Tournament, Saturday,
March 28, 2015, in Los Angeles. Wisconsin will play
in the Final Four in Indianapolis.
Jim Delany sounded like a proud father when talking about
the Big Ten's success. He is realistic, too. He knows that
Big Ten teams weren't quite successful in nonconference
play in November and December, although the league won
this year's challenge series with the Atlantic Coast
higher-profile Big Ten teams fell in the series, including
Wisconsin's loss to Duke in Madison.
regular-season title belonged to the Badgers. There was a
logjam through the middle of the 14-team league, with
clubs beating up on each other.
end, only Maryland at No. 12 and Michigan State at No. 23
joined No. 3 Wisconsin in the AP Top 25 at the end of the
poll at the end of the 2013-14 regular season had four Big
Ten teams ranked, including three in the top 12. At one
point in 2013-14, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan State
were all in the top five.
State coach Tom Izzo celebrates with his team after
the East Regional final against Louisville in the
NCAA men's college basketball tournament Sunday,
March 29, 2015, in Syracuse, N.Y. Michigan State won
previous season, four league teams finished in the top 10.
funny. The last year, or last two years, we had four teams
in the top 10 or 12. We moved teams to the Final Four, we
were regarded as the strongest conference in those
years," Delany said Tuesday in a phone interview.
year, we didn't have as much success in November and
December," he added. "When I size up our league,
I really didn't think we were quite as good as we had
been. I didn't agree with the fact that we weren't pretty
good — but I didn't think we were as good as we had
turns out, they were even better when the tournament
was the league's sole representative in the Final Four
last season. Now the Badgers have company in Michigan
we'd like to have an all-Big Ten final. That would be
awesome for both of us," Izzo said on Tuesday. He has
been gushing about the league's success all week.
did say all year, I tried to stick up for our league. Last
year we were the best two, three, four teams, so that
makes your conference better," Izzo said on Monday.
I think the conferences should be ranked on how teams 12,
11, 10 and 9 are. The depth of a conference makes it
different because there (are) no nights off."
been a banner year so far for the league beyond men's
and Rutgers joined the conference this season as the
league expanded. The Terps surprised the league in
basketball after finishing 28-7 overall and 14-4 in
conference play, two games behind Wisconsin.
women's tournament, Maryland has advanced to its second
straight Final Four.
State won the first college football playoff in January.
The Big Ten also had a good showing in other high-profile
games on New Year's Day when Michigan State beat Baylor
and Wisconsin defeated Auburn.
No. 1 in APR in football, basketball and women's
basketball," said Delany, referring to the conference
ranks in Academic Progress Rates.
had a great January bowl season and national championship
season. Taken together, I think everybody is feeling good
and feeling prideful."
notes that the Big Ten regularly sends teams to the Final
Four. The last time Michigan State and Wisconsin both
advanced to the Final Four in the same year was 2000, also
also the last time a Big Ten team won the men's NCAA title
when Izzo and the Spartans defeated Florida.
don't think the Big Ten was down. Just a different kind of
balance this year," Dekker said Tuesday. "But
it's big for ... the Big Ten to have two teams in the
Final Four, and I think it will give us some