EAST LANSING, Mich. — The Big Ten has a nation-high four teams still in the NCAA tournament, bolstering its season-long boast that its conference is the best in college basketball.
The Big Ten has combined to win 10 games so far, its best showing through the round of 32 — ever.
And, it could get even better.
An All-Big Ten Final Four is possible because top-seeded Indiana, second-seeded Ohio State, third-seeded Michigan State and fourth-seeded Michigan will compete this week in different regions.
“The fact that there are four teams advancing shows that this conference prepares you for any type of team or game,” Hoosiers coach Tom Crean wrote in a text message Monday morning while preparing to play fourth-seeded Syracuse in the East Regional semifinals. “You develop possession by possession appreciation.”
Indiana played grind-it-out, low-scoring games during the Big Ten — going 0-3 when held to fewer than 60 points — and had to rally late in some other games to win. The experiences paid off when the Hoosiers, who won the Big Ten regular season title, needed to close with a 10-0 run to beat ninth-seeded Temple 58-52 and get to the regional semifinals for the second straight year.
Being in closely contested games also seemed to help the Big Ten tournament champion Buckeyes, who advanced to a school-record fourth consecutive round of 16 by making enough stops and shots to outlast 10th-seeded Iowa State 78-75.
“Playing 21 straight Big Ten games with the caliber of players, teams and coaches that we have in the conference does prepare you for anything,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “You face so many different styles from how teams defend ball screens to how they run their offenses.
“I’m happy as heck for the conference, but we’re just trying to figure out how to get past Arizona.”