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Big Ten Tourney brings 'Marginal Madness'

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For more sports commentary, follow Reggie Hayes via Twitter at www.twitter.com/reggiehayes1.

The top two seeds tend to walk away with hardware

Wednesday, March 13, 2013 - 5:44 am

The Big Ten Tournament is a plate of potato skins or a bowl of nachos. It's a March Madness appetizer only.

Yes, it's March. Yes, there might be a buzzer-beater or two. No, the Big Ten Tournament isn't true March Madness. It's simply for money, show and, um, money.

Whoever wins it, whether Indiana, Michigan State, Michigan or Ohio State, would be in the tournament regardless. IU has a No. 1 NCAA Tournament seed locked up, short of losing to the Illinois-Minnesota winner. So maybe IU vs. Illinois/Minnesota brings marginal suspense.

Does anyone else think “March Marginal Suspense” lacks a certain ring to it?

If you want a conference tournament with true Madness, check out the Summit League or the Southern Conference. Win and you're in. Lose and you clean out your locker. Those smaller-school conference tournaments bring do-or-die consequences to seasons.

What does the Big Ten tourney bring? Postseason exhibition play.

I didn't agree often with Bob Knight's attitude during his tenure as IU coach, but he was right in his apathy toward the Big Ten tourney.

What's the point of winning the 18-game Big Ten regular season if the tourney winner earns the automatic NCAA bid? You know that emotion that bubbled over at the end of the Indiana-Michigan game Sunday? That was real. That was lasting. That required a Tom Crean apology for being a sour winner.

Say Indiana wins the Big Ten tourney. That celebration will be tame by comparison and it's relevant for about 20 minutes before the NCAA brackets are revealed.

It's true the Big Ten tourney offers a second chance for a team like Purdue, which sits 15-16 and gets in the NCAA tourney only with a tourney championship. How many people think Purdue can win four games in four days with the last three likely being Ohio State, Michigan State and Indiana? I doubt we can find five people in West Lafayette who believe that.

In 15 years of the Big Ten tourney, the No. 1 or No. 2 seed has won it 12 times. The others were No. 3 Purdue in 2009, No. 4 Michigan in 1998 and No. 6 Iowa in 2001.

I suppose there's marginal suspense in whether Indiana can finally win the Big Ten tourney for the first time. Again, it's March Marginal Suspense, baby!

The fact of the matter is that the Big Ten – and the other big boys of the SEC, ACC and Big 12 – use their postseason tourneys to bring in some extra dough, get some more face time on national TV and bring in some extra dough.

I can think of one memorable Big Ten tourney moment – the 2002 game where Iowa's Luke Recker hit the buzzer-beater to knock out his former school, Indiana.

OK, I also remember when Illinois reached the title game as an 11th seed in 1999, but, alas, the Illini were crushed by Michigan State by 17 points in that finale.

Usually, I've forgotten the Big Ten title game the second it ends. Where's my bracket?

The Big Ten tourney title game is played right before the NCAA draw, which undoubtedly helps its television ratings. But the irrelevant nature of the title game is reflected in how often the NCAA has already decided on seeds and tourney locations for the teams battling for the alleged championship.

I would not be surprised to see two or even three Big Ten teams in the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament. That would be some real madness. Just thinking about that whets my appetite.

Against my better judgment, I'll still probably go with Big Ten potato skins this weekend.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Reggie Hayes at rhayes@news-sentinel.com.