Throughout the 2013-14 season, the Big 12 was consistently mentioned as the nation’s best conference. Starting with the newcomers at Kansas, followed by Oklahoma State’s returning core, the impact of transfers for Iowa State, and rounding out with the surprising play of Kansas State, Oklahoma, and West Virginia, succeeding in the Big 12 was a difficult task.
The NCAA tournament is the greatest equalizer in the sport, and through the initial five days, the tournament proved that we should have all been espousing and praising the Big Ten, rather than the Big 12, this season. Following Sunday’s Elite 8 games, there could potentially be three Big Ten teams in the field, the first time a trio from one conference has made the Final Four since 1985. Meanwhile, the Big 12 has no representatives left in the field. Despite leading Division I in RPI, strength of schedule, non-conference RPI and strength of schedule, no Big 12 remains among the eight finalists. Adding to the statistical fire is the Big 12 led the nation in non-conference winning percentage (.797, which was .461 in the NCAAs), and Big 12 teams defeated 40 AP top 25 in 2013-14 (6-7, though, in the past five days; h/t Patrick Vint).
Despite the run of the three Big Ten teams to April’s first weekend, it seems like the Big Ten was undervalued and underappreciated during the regular season, a strange proposition considering what the conference returned and hype should have been sky high. But the midwest-based conference has the chance to do something no other league has accomplished in nearly 30 years, a remarkable feat since the trio spent conference play knocking each other about league play.