The last seven years were fun, but all good things must come to an end. Such was the case with the Big Ten’s title hold on the annual Big Ten/ACC challenge.
Or should I say ACC/Big Ten challenge after the B1G was beat down 9-5 in the 2016 version of this event?
There were doubts about the Big Ten’s strength heading in to the 2016-17 season. The first few weeks of the season had begun to expose those cracks in the conference’s overall strength. However, the challenge proved that even the supposed elite of the Big Ten have plenty of flaws.
Of the five Big Ten wins, only Indiana and Wisconsin took down ranked ACC opponents. Both teams took home impressive double-digit wins at home.
However, alleged contenders in the Big Ten looked rather foolish the rest of the way. Michigan State, for all of its talk of an amazing freshman class, has wilted under the pressure of big games and crazy travel.
That was on full display as they simply couldn’t hang with No. 5 Duke in a 78-69 loss that was much worse than the final score indicated. Tom Izzo’s crew gave up 18 turnovers, created just nine of their own and committed 20 fouls.
That’s how you lose a game in which you shot better from the field (49.1 to 45.5 percent), from three point range (31.3 to 26.9 percent) and out-rebounded your opponent (39-33).
Ohio State was also supposed to be buoyed by a great recruiting class and some returning talent. Instead, the Buckeyes found a way to lose a game in which it led for over 35 minutes and had as large a lead as 16 points (32-16) with 3:41 to play in the first half.
The OSU lead was 12 at the half, but an 11-0 run by Virginia to start the first half whittled that double-digit lead down to just one point. OSU only let the lead slip away once before the final few minutes, and that happened on a London Perrantes jumper which gave UVa an one-point lead that was quickly erased by a C.J. Jackson triple on the very next possession.
Yet, despite an ability to keep a lead, Ohio State eventually submitted and gave up another lead with just 1:59 to play. It was a lead the Cavaliers weren’t giving up and the Buckeyes’ cold shooting killed them down the stretch.
There’s no doubt that Ohio State can learn a lot from a loss like this, and perhaps its a catalyst for the season turn itself around, but it could equally go the other way.
What it did show is that the Buckeyes aren’t ready for prime time just yet and likely will be caught by games like these in the future too.
Iowa, who graduated a ton of talent looked perhaps the worst of all the Big Ten teams, if it weren’t for Maryland’s fail against Pitt at home. Iowa was blown away 92-78 by Notre Dame on the road and is the only team in the conference with a losing record as a result.
However, Maryland were blown out 73-59 at home by Pitt in a matchup of alleged equals. It shouldn’t be all that surprising, as the Terps’ schedule has been light on real competition and even the Power 5 teams they have faced haven’t been great in 2016-17 either. One point wins over Georgetown and Kansas State aren’t exactly things to hang your hat on.
Let’s just say this season’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge was an epic fail for the Big Ten.
While what happens in November can be forgotten in March, an event like the ACC/Big Ten Challenge won’t soon be forgotten in the narrative of conference superiority. For now, the Big Ten has a lot of work to do to rebuild its reputation.
Can it be done? Given we’re heading out of the tournament season and in to finals weeks and thusly weaker opponents, not much can be done for the Big Ten’s reputation. It will likely have to earn most of it back in the NCAA tournament, and that will be an interesting endeavor this season.
Michigan continues Big Ten’s unlucky streak in NCAA tourney title game
Michigan’s hot-hand ran in to a three-point machine known as the Villanova Wildcats and the results meant another loss from a Big Ten team in the national championship game.
Michigan came in to Monday night’s NCAA tournament national championship game as the hottest team in America. It had won 13-straight games and dominated the vast majority of the time.
However, 13 proved to be an unlucky number for the Wolverines as they ran in to the buzzsaw known as the Villanova Wildcats and were downed 79-62 in front of a packed Alamodome crowd.
Just how dominate were the Wildcats? Their 17-point margin of victory was the largest for a national title game since Duke beat the very same Wolverines program by 20 points in 1992.
More than anything in this game Michigan ran straight in to the buzzsaw named Donte DiVincenzo. The Villanova reserve guard had himself a game of a lifetime, pouring in 31 points on 10 of 15 shooting from the field. That included him going 5 of 7 from beyond the arc and 6 of 10 from the free throw line.
Fellow Wildcats guard Mikal Bridges added 19 points and Villanova hit 10 three-pointers as a team in the win.
The Wolverines simply couldn’t execute its own gameplan for most of the night, going just 3 of 23 from beyond the arc and had an awful time of it in the second half especially.
Michigan had nearly as many made field goals as they did turnovers in the second half. As a result, Villanova was able to stretch a nine-point halftime lead in to a 20-point or more advantage for large parts of the second half.
Mo Wagner and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman tried to keep the Wolverines in the game, going for 16 and 23 points respectively, but most of their damage was done in the first half.
With the loss, Michigan has now twice lost in the national championship game in the past decade. The loss also means the Big Ten continues an 18-year drought without a national title from any team in the conference.
Michigan State’s title win in 2000 still stands as the last time a B1G team cut down the nets as a national title winner.
It is also the seventh loss from a Big Ten conference team since the MSU win back in 2000. The Big Ten has seen a plethora of teams extend this drought too, as Illinois, Indiana, Michigan (twice), Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin have all failed to bring home the national title in that time span.
Let’s just say the pain of losing on college basketball’s biggest stage isn’t a new feeling for teams from the Big Ten and even Michigan’s hot run to the title game wasn’t enough to stop the hottest shooting team in the whole tournament.
Blame the FAA, not Michigan Wolverines or Big Ten for uniform shortage
The hottest of takes across the sports world on Thursday morning were all about the Big Ten screwing the Michigan Wolverines. I mean, how could they possibly be asked to play a real-life game on short travel and practice jerseys?
The hot takes went something like this from Michael Spath, who hosts a morning radio show on WTKA in Ann Arbor.
Watching the team come our in practice uniforms how is the @bigten not ashamed of itself???— Michael Spath (@MichaelSpathITH) March 9, 2017
The Wolverines were forced in to playing with their practice uniforms thanks to the plane skidding off the runway the night before and the luggage not available to the team. Yet, somehow it is the Big Ten’s fault for everything here.
Even if you want to place blame on not having official uniforms to play in, the blame doesn’t rest with the conference office. It rests in the fact that FAA has rules and the rules don’t allow the release of anything in the plane until the investigation is complete.
That means all the jerseys and equipment packed away in the cargo hold of the plane is at the FAA’s investigative mercy at this point. It also means Nike didn’t have the time to get new game uniforms to the Wolverines in time for today.
It simply wasn’t going to happen. Maybe by tomorrow…but the rest isn’t realistic.
Sure, the Big Ten could’ve maybe given the Wolverines a few extra hours and switched around the playing times of the two games in the first session. But, would that have really changed much of anything?
What is really being said by some of the critics is that the Big Ten conference officials don’t give a crap about its players. They just won’t likely come out and say it.
It’s an absurd argument, so perhaps it is best left unsaid though. No conference in this country have gone as far as the Big Ten has in protecting players, listening to the student-athletes and advocating for necessary changes to the game for its players.
What exactly was the Big Ten supposed to do?
Hold up the entire tournament until Nike could fulfill a whole new order of jerseys in less than a day? Make sure that fans and players of all other teams were inconvenienced in the name of so-called “fairness” towards Michigan?
If so, that would’ve meant letting the Wolverines play the last game of the day, flip the two sessions of basketball around and make sure that ticketing became chaos. Oh, and if Michigan were to win against Illinois in the final game of Thursday night?
Yep, it would still have to play the opening game of the quarterfinals.
Talk about unfair.
The reality is, the FAA is the one to blame in this jersey “scandal.” Accidents happen in life, and sometimes there’s not a good answer to fix said accident from affecting the rest of life.
No one is going to change the FAA’s rules, and they certainly aren’t going to bend them just so a basketball team can look pretty playing in a game the next day.
Not the Big Ten. Not the Michigan athletic equipment room. Not Nike.
The best part of all of it? None of it really mattered to the players though. All Michigan did was come out firing on all cylinders and fire off an 11-2 run to start the game and end the first half up 40-29.
So much for the jerseys mattering, so much for the “lack of sleep” mattering or the horror of having to play in practice jerseys mattering either.
2017 talking10 Big Ten Men’s Basketball Awards Special
The Big Ten may have its awards, but what is the point of watching endless hours of Big Ten basketball without putting our two cents in, right?
Welcome to the 2017 taking10 Big Ten Men’s Basketball Awards special. Our hope is to educate you on the names that dominated our conversations and the hardwood across the Big Ten this season.
So, sit back and enjoy our special for your viewing pleasure.