2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament

NCAA Tournament 2012 Results: Big 10's Performance Proves Conference Is Elite

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 18: Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans yells from the bench during the first half against the St. Louis Billikens during the third round of the 2012 NCAA Men's basketball tournament at Nationwide Arena on March 18, 2012 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images
Brian MaziqueCorrespondent IIIMarch 18, 2012

No one can criticize the Big Ten conference so far in the NCAA tournament. They have been the strongest conference in the country; they hold an 8-1 record with Purdue and Michigan State still competing on Saturday.

Oftentimes, people forget about the Big Ten and focus on the Big East and ACC in college hoops. This year, the Big Ten is making a huge mark.

Neither Michigan State nor Purdue have an easy game on their hands. The Spartans are battling a tough St. Louis Billikens' team, while the Boilermakers have drawn No. 2 seed, Kansas.

Most expect the Big Ten to split these two games, but even if they drop both, 8-3 into the Sweet 16 would be huge.

Worse case scenario, they will have three teams alive after the first week of the tournament. The margins of victory have been impressive as well. Big Ten teams have won by an average of over 10 points in the eight victories. They have lost only the Michigan Wolverines, who were upended by a strong Ohio Bobcats team.

The Bobcats' prowess still speaks to the quality of programs in Big Ten country, even though Ohio isn't a part of the conference.

I feel strongly that the Spartans will take care of St. Louis and that will mean that 25 percent of the Sweet 16 will come from the Big Ten. Only the Big East has a chance to match that total.

Purdue knocked off St. Mary's but won't likely have enough for the ultra-talented Kansas Jayhawks and Player of the Year candidate, Thomas Robinson.

Still, the success is a testament to the solid coaching at schools like Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin. Thad Matta, Tom Izzo and Bo Ryan all have winning percentages over 70 percent for their career and each coach preaches defense.

None of their teams surrender over 61 points per game. When tournament time comes around, that defensive intensity is huge.

The Big Ten schools play a physical, and sometimes unattractive brand of basketball, but its a winning style. Expect the conference to send one or more teams to the Final Four.

The obvious choices are Michigan State and Ohio State.

But let's not forget about Indiana, who have Kentucky lined up next. Remember, the Hoosiers hung Kentucky's first loss on them in December, so they have already proved they can play with the nation's best.

No matter what happens from here, the Big Ten has had a solid showing in the NCAA tournament.

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