A head-scratching phenomenon

I just can't figure this one out. With B1G teams all bowed out of the NCAA-T, it sums up a grossly disappointing 3-year stretch:

  • 2021: 9 teams in, 1 team made E8 (5 teams seeded 4 or better, 4 teams seeded 2 or better)
  • 2022: 9 teams in, 2 teams made S16 (3 teams seeded 4 or better, 0 teams seeded 2 or better)
  • 2023: 8 teams in, 1 team made S16 (2 teams seeded 4 or better, 1 team seeded 2 or better)

So if seeds hold, we should expect to see 10 teams making S16, and 5 teams making E8. Instead, we only see 3 teams making S16, and 1 team making E8.

The reason Big Ten got so many bids is because, like Purdue, they did very well in the non-conf season. All the predictive models (Kenpom, Barttorvik, etc.) rank them highly. So the natural question is, how come Big Ten teams can win in Nov/Dec but not in March?

The obvious (and lazy) answer is guards. Big Ten don't have guards. But is it? IU has a future pro in JHS, Illinois has Shannon, Maryland has Young, NW has Buie and Audige, MSU has Hoggard and Walker, PSU has Pickett and Lundy.

Last year, Purdue had Ivey and Wisky has Johnny Davis (and an uber experienced (and dirty) Brad Davison), aO$U had another pro in Branham, MSU had Hoggard/Walker plus another future pro in Max Christie, and Illinois had Curbelo, Frazier, and Plummer.

In 2021, Illinois had future pro Ayo Dosunmu, aO$U had another future pro in Duane Washington, Purdue had Ivey, MSU had Aaron Henry ... and yet, the team that almost made it to F4 was Michigan, whose starting backcourt was Eli Brooks and Mike Smith, and its best players were Franz Wagner and Hunter Dickinson (Isaiah Livers didn't play in the Tournament). So the guard theory don't seem to hold up.

And even if it is a guard thing, then what changes between Nov and March? Why can Big Ten have stellar records in the non-conf, against those same teams that have talented guards? Purdue beat UNC (Caleb Love and RJ Davis) and Nova (Gillespie and Moore) in Nov, so we've shown that we can beat talented guards, no?

Another theory is officiating. B1G officials swallow the whistles, right? In that case, B1G teams should have an offensive advantage come Tournament time when officials should be calling fouls?

So I can't come up with a reasonable explanation. I mean, people keep blaming it on Matt Painter, but this actually applies to all Big Ten teams. Twenty-six (26!!!) teams and only one E8 and three S16s to show for. Why? Is it the 20-game conference season wearing down teams? Expose too much of their weaknesses? But wouldn't it apply to B12 too?

I just can't figure this one out. Anyone has better explanation?

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