Big Ten Basketball Under Pressure to Live Up to Season Long Hype Come Tournament Time & Tom Izzo Agrees!
The Big Ten has enjoyed the praise that comes with being in basketball what the SEC is in football. They are the dominant national conference. With that comes scrutiny. Could the SEC keep that title if they only won the national championship in football every 13 years? I think not.
The Big Ten has four of the top nine teams in the nation and five in the top 25. If you look at the respect and the notoriety they own in, but the conference hasn’t won a national title since MSU did it in 2000. How long can they retain that respect as college basketball’s elite conference without that elusive national title banner?
Is the pressure on Big Ten schools? Tom Izzo thinks it is. How big is that pressure?
“No, not in my 16 years of getting there. I can’t remember that there was more pressure on an entire conference. But I don’t put as much pressure on that, just like the ACC tournament and the reason I don’t is cause I still think this tournament coming up is all about matchups. Some teams you match up well with some teams you don’t. I don’t think it necessarily mandates … we do in society, we’ve kind of been on the upper hand of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, but right away that got flipped. When it was the ACC, Dick flipped it one way but when it was us, it got flipped the other way. Now we have to win a national championship to surpass them and they got a great league, we got a great league, but I think it’s been so built up all year that there’s a little more pressure, but I think deservedly built up.”
Izzo went on to pontificate that, “I think the proof is in the pudding. The league is the best and top to bottom there’s no question. So hopefully we can all do our part. It got to be in the Big Ten Challenge you never pulled for your rivals, you never did this, you never did that. All of a sudden everyone’s pulling for everyone because we’re catching so much … let’s hope we have a Final Four with four Big Ten teams.”
He also knows that critics and skeptics are never pleased. “They’ll probably still find a reason why we’re not as good, but I think that would be great and there is gonna be some pressure but there are exciting parts to it. Somewhere along the line we really don’t think about this. Michigan has been in the top five 90 percent of the year, top seven almost all of it. Indiana has been in the top five the entire year. Ohio State spent half the year in it, we spent half the year in the top 10. Yet I think we always think because we’ve lost some games, we the league, that there’s other conferences that are all the sudden better or catching us.”
Izzo hit the nail on the head when he took the conversation outside the Big Ten. “When it was Duke and Carolina and the rest of the teams weren’t very good, they didn’t lose three-four games. Partially because they’re real good, partially because the conferences I think weren’t as good.”
Izzo’s long resume brings some facts that others may not remember, but he does. “I remember when we won it one year when we were 15-1 we played against one other ranked team in our league and played only a couple other ranked teams because of our non-conference. Now we played 11 in the top 10 at one time. It’s just so different it’s hard to put perspective on it. I do know that we are not going to be afraid of anybody because we’ve played everybody.”
So how does Izzo look at the top25? “When you look at the rankings right now, I don’t know where Miami is. We haven’t played Duke, and we haven’t played Gonzaga. Other than that it seems like we’ve played some people that have played just about everybody that’s in there. I think the pressure on us is we’re as good as a lot of teams, but so is Michigan, so is Indiana, so is Duke. A lot of good teams out there and I don’t think there’s any great teams.”
Button your chin strap. In the Spartan Nation March means it is time for the mad scientist known as Izzo to do his thing. The question is if the rest of the Big Ten can follow his lead. He has consistently done his job better than any of the rest.