IU women’s basketball Coach Teri Moren has raved all season how deep she believes the Big Ten is this year.
The Associated Press rankings support Moren's statement, as five teams sit within the top 25, including No. 25 IU.
“The league is really good,” Moren said after Sunday’s win against Michigan State. “It’s up and down. I don’t think it’s a one-man race, for sure. I think it’s going to be wide open.”
But depth does not necessarily mean greatness.
Last season, the conference saw six teams advance to the NCAA Tournament. However, none made it past the second round. And of the six teams, only Ohio State was ranked as a three-seed or higher.
The attention then turns to how Big Ten teams will be respected nationally, especially come tournament time.
Previous poor results in the NCAA Tournament from Big Ten teams could leave them on the outside looking in. It could also result in lower than anticipated seeding.
The latest ESPN Bracketology projects six Big Ten teams getting in. Maryland and Iowa, both seeded No. 4, are the highest-ranked of the six squads.
But in the section discussing teams on the bubble, no Big Ten teams are projected to be among the last four teams in the field or the first eight teams out of the field.
Last week, Maryland was the highest ranked Big Ten team at No. 4 in the AP poll, but a loss to Rutgers saw them drop five spots to No. 9.
“This team was unranked, but the roster was full of talent,” Maryland Coach Brenda Frese said after the game per a Maryland Athletics release. “It is exciting because this is what you want the conference to be. You want great games that are going to make you better."
For the entertainment value, it is obviously better to have a conference that matches up well. Nobody enjoys watching blowouts.
But depth may not be the word for the conference. “Equally-spread” or “top-heavy” is more apt.
This season is far from championship-or-bust for IU. Being ranked in the top 25 for the fifth time in program history after losing two of the program’s most valuable players, Amanda Cahill and Tyra Buss, is an accomplishment in itself.
Yet with how the Big Ten is being viewed nationally, it raises the question that if the Big Ten struggles in the NCAA Tournament again fans could see even less respect toward conference teams on the bubble in 2020.
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