The Big Ten hasn’t started the NCAA Championship that seems to almost assert itself as it has seemed throughout the regular season.
Ohio is already gone. So is Purdue. Michigan State couldn’t get out of the top four.
These three results have all been decided in overtime, but they still raise at least some doubts about the strength of the Big Ten, which led all conventions with nine bids in the NCAA Championship.
“We’ve had an amazing year this year as a conference,” Purdue coach Matt Pinter said Friday evening after the Boilermakers lost 78-69 to North Texas. “From one to 14, it was clearly the best conference. Obviously when you do that and you get the most teams in, and then you have some really close losses, people want to respond and say, ‘Well, maybe you didn’t quite have the year that you thought. No, we had an amazing year like the conference. You are one point away in three different matches from winning, and you are not winning. “
This definitely marked a disappointing start for the Big Ten as they chased their first national title since the 2000 Michigan State Championship. Maryland won the NCAA Championship in 2002 but was still a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference at the time.
The Big Ten’s nine calls were the most in league history and only two behind the Big East’s record number of 11 in 2011.
Michigan State’s exit was not particularly surprising. The Spartans had to rally late in the season only to earn a place in the top four, as they blew a two-figure lead in an 86-80 loss to UCLA.
But the losses incurred by Ohio and Bordeaux have been staggering.
Ranked second in the Southern District, Ohio fell 75-72 to Oral Roberts. Buckeyes had 17 more rebounds than Oral Roberts, but scored 5 of 23 from a range of 3 points and made 16 turns.
Oral Roberts became the ninth seed to win the first round match. It also featured the last 15-for-2 surprise team Big Ten, when Central Tennessee beat Michigan in 2016.
“I thought the atmosphere was really good,” said Ohio state coach Chris Holtman. “I thought we were really well prepared. I thought we had a lot of missed opportunities, a lot of turnarounds, and a lot of empty possessions when attacking.”
Purdue wiped out a nine-point deficit in the final eight minutes of regulation but allowed North Texas to score their first 11 points of extra time. Purdue was the number 4 seed in the south.
“OT was just a killer,” said Purdue goalkeeper Jaden Ivy, who scored 26 points.
It wasn’t all bad news for the Big Ten.
Illinois, Big Ten Tournament champion and number one in the Midwest, scored a 78-49 victory over Drexel.
Wisconsin and Rutgers also advanced by defeating the top-ranked teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference, a league that had a regular lackluster season and was 1-4 so far in the tournament. Wisconsin defeated North Carolina 85-62. Rutgers beat Clemson 60-56 in his first NCAA Championship victory since 1983.
After his Badger team won their third time in their last nine matches, Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said the Big Ten’s demands helped prepare his team for the championship.
“It was clear that Dorina was exceptional and it was very difficult to move forward, precisely the timetable that we witnessed,” said Gard. “The timeline maker should not like me or love us. But it came back and tested when we got off the Big Ten stretch, and fortunately he got back up to that, preparing to take steps forward at the end of a year.”
Three more Big Ten teams play on Saturday when they face the Iowa Grand Canyon, and Michigan meet the Texas South and Maryland matches with UConn. Michigan is ranked No. 1 in the east, while Iowa is ranked second in the west.
History suggests it’s too early to write off the Big Ten’s chances of ending the tournament drought after such a tough start.
When Big East won 11 NCAA shows in 2011, only two of his teams made it to Sweet 16. But one of those teams was UConn, who won the national title.