Big Ten gets record 9 teams in NCAA tournament field
Published 1:09 am Monday, March 15, 2021
The Associated Press
The Big Ten again has more teams in the NCAA Tournament than any other conference, including a pair of No. 1 seeds and two No. 2s among its record nine teams in the Big Dance.
That is one more than the eight Big Ten teams that made it to the last NCAA Tournament played two years ago, when the conference doubled the number of teams it had in the 2018 tournament.
Now that this regular season and all of the postseason conference tournaments have been completed, college basketball has gotten a step further than it did last March, when the NCAA Tournament was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic days before Selection Sunday and no 68-team field was set.
The ACC and Big 12 both got seven teams into this year’s tournament and the SEC got six. The Pac-12 has five teams advancing and the Big East four.
For the second NCAA tourney in a row, 11 conferences sent multiple teams. Before 2019, that hadn’t happened since 2015.
There were automatic qualifiers from 31 conferences, down one from the usual 32 after the Ivy League opted out of the season. That meant an additional at-large berth.
Big Ten teams Michigan and Illinois (23-6) are No. 1 seeds, while Iowa and Ohio State are No. 2 seeds, with those four teams all in different regions. The Illini beat Ohio State in overtime to win the Big Ten Tournament championship, and were still cutting down the nets in Indianapolis — where the Final Four will also be played — when their spot in the field was being revealed for tourney to be played exclusively in Indiana.
Illinois wasn’t even one of the eight Big Ten teams that made the NCAAs two years ago, when the Illini were 12-21 in what was coach Brad Underwood’s second season. Now they are on a top line for their first NCAA appearance since 2012-13.
Rutgers, in its seventh Big Ten season, made the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 30 years. That drought included the school’s 18 seasons as a Big East member. Rutgers was in the Atlantic 10 in 1991 when it last made the tournament.
Only the West Region, with Iowa as the 2 seed, has a single Big Ten team. The South and East regions each have three, including No. 11 seed Michigan State playing in a First Four game to advance in the East, where Michigan is the top seed.
South Region No. 1 seed Baylor leads the seven teams from the Big 12. That conference has three No. 3 seeds: West Virginia (Midwest), Kansas (West) and conference tournament champion Texas (East). Its other NCAA teams are Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Texas Tech. The Red Raiders made it to the last NCAA championship game, losing to Virginia in overtime two years ago.
Undefeated Gonzaga, the overall No. 1 seed, is from the West Coast Conference, which also sent BYU as an at-large selection.
The ACC has at lest seven NCAA teams for the fourth tournament in a row, led by No. 4 seeds Florida State and Virginia. The other ACC teams are Clemson, North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Syracuse.