Last week, amid the pre-tournament calm, we knew at least two things about the 2013 Big Ten:
1. It was the best conference in the country for the first four months of the season, and by a wide margin.
2. If it didn't live up to that billing in March, almost nobody would care.
A disappointing collective NCAA tournament performance may have been well understood by the people who follow this sport year-round, and folks like me would have spent time discussing exactly what it means to be successful in a college hoops season. We would have cited solid statistics.
We would have proclaimed how much of a crapshoot March Madness really is, how wild things can get, how you can't throw out an entire season based on one month (or even one weekend) of wacky single-elimination results. We would have reminded you that the same Florida Gulf Coast team that turned a whole country into Dunk Oceania lost to Lipscomb twice.
And none of it would have mattered! Most people just watch the tournament. What they see in March is what happened in college basketball that season, and there's no point in arguing otherwise, because they don't care enough to engage. See? Gonzaga was overrated. We knew it. End of discussion.
Which is precisely why we should all take a moment to thank the Big Ten for making it easy on us: By so thoroughly dominating the first weekend of the tournament -- it went 6-1 in the first round, finished the weekend with a best-ever 10 wins and sent its best four teams to the Sweet 16, more than any other conference -- the league rendered this entire discussion moot.
The question is: What happens now?
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