It's never a good sign when one team has more players drafted in the first round than your entire conference combined. Sure, Kentucky put on a legendary draft night performance Thursday, but still: That's not good.
Such is the case for the Pac-10 and the Big Ten. Both conferences had but one player selected in the first round of Thursday night's draft -- Evan Turner from Ohio State represented the Big Ten, while Washington's Quincy Pondexter got the Pac-10 on the board. And ... that was pretty much it.
The indignity soon spread to the second round. The Big Ten didn't have another player drafted. Surprisingly enough, the Pac-10 did: With the No. 39 overall pick, the New York Knicks selected Stanford forward Landry Fields, shocking most draft observers -- Fields wasn't even listed in Chad Ford's top 100 -- and eliciting a storm of boos from the local fans at Radio City Music Hall. Fields' surprise selection saved the Pac-10 from sharing the Big Ten's shame, but 2-for-60 isn't all that much more impressive than 1-for-60, is it?
Compared to other major conferences, it looks even worse. Buoyed by Kentucky, the SEC had seven players selected Thursday night. The ACC had nine. The Big East sent 11 prospects to the NBA ranks and the Big 12 added 10. Heck, Conference USA, which sent two teams to the NCAA tournament (one of which was 19-16 Houston, which snuck into the tournament thanks to a C-USA tourney victory) had three players drafted. Sure, the Pac-10 was bad last year, but the Big Ten was arguably better than all but two of these conferences in 2009-10. So what gives?
More likely than not, it's a combination of several factors: Bad luck, coincidence and style of play. The Big Ten isn't, and never has been, a place for overwhelming athletes to take over. Instead, it typically relies on defense, rebounding and a grind-it-out style that favors the kinds of players built for college hoops but not particularly exciting to NBA scouts. Consider Wisconsin. The Badgers were one of the conference's best teams in 2009-10, and no one would have ever expected a Bo Ryan's team to invade the draft. It's a different style; sometimes it works differently.
In other words, maybe it's a little disconcerting that the Pac-10 and Big Ten seem to have at least momentarily fallen behind the NBA talent pace. But it isn't a major cause for concern. The Big Ten is still a good conference, NBA talent or no, and these things tend to even themselves out. (Or, you know, they don't, and that's when you freak out.) Anyway, wait and see.