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March 23, 2013

Big Ten thrives in the tournament

Follow Noon | Givler | Axelrod | Birmingham



DAYTON, Ohio - Sorry, Charlie. No matter what Charles Barkley may want you to believe, the Big Ten Conference is having a tremendous tournament run, sitting at 8-1 with two teams already in the Sweet Sixteen and four waiting for their chance to advance to the next weekend with Ohio State, Indiana, Illinois and Minnesota all still set to play.

The conference was at the top of the conference RPI rating all season long and got seven teams in the Big Dance and only saw No. 5 seeded Wisconsin fall to the upset bug against Ole Miss on Friday.

"I think the (Big Ten season) really did prepare us well," Sam Thompson said. "The Big Ten conference was an unbelievable conference this year in basketball. It was the best basketball conference in the country, and when you're playing against the top talent in the country night in and night out on a weekly basis, it really prepares you for what you're going to see in the post season."

The league had five teams finish in the top-18 of the final AP rankings and four teams were in the top-10. It was not all that uncommon for the Big Ten to match up top-5 teams in conference games and hold down the top spot in one or both of the polls.

"I think the Big Ten is doing great right now," LaQuinton Ross said. "I think the Big Ten has a legitimate chance to make a run in the tournament."

The Big Ten champion had four league losses and was a likely free throw away from seeing a four-way tie with five losses for the regular season champion. There were no lay-ups in the Big Ten in 2012-13 and the Ohio State players feel that they are now battle-tested after having to go through such a rigorous slate.

"Obviously we have played a lot of great teams and I think our league has done a great job of having some success and hopefully it can continue," Aaron Craft said.

Does Thad Matta and his team pull for the other Big Ten teams when they are not on a collision course to play?

"I want the Big Ten to do as well as it possibly can, but I say that from a standpoint of I know the other coaches from the Big Ten, they're worried about one thing and one thing only, and that's advancing," Matta said.

But conference pride is something that runs deep. The SEC has created one of the most powerful dynasties in college football and keeping a lock on the crystal football… the Buckeyes would like to see if they can help start something on the basketball side of things for the Big Ten.

"I always thought that our conference was a great conference and it is really showing the way that everyone is playing now," Shannon Scott said.

And with both Ohio State and Indiana favored in their games, it appears that the oddsmakers feel that once the dust settles that 25-percent of the Sweet Sixteen field could be from the Big Ten and if a ball bounces the right way for either the Illini or Gophers that the Big Ten could set a record for teams making it to the second weekend for the league.



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