The Big Ten is the best basketball league in the country for a reason. No other conference can match the stability of that league's coaches. That was on display Saturday night once and for all when No. 1 Michigan and No. 3 Indiana took the national spotlight.
The Big Ten had three of the country's top 11 teams in last week's Associated Press Top 25 poll, including No. 11 Ohio State. But Michigan State (No. 13), Minnesota (No. 23) and Wisconsin, unranked but with 45 votes in the poll, good for 28th, are all likely headed to the NCAA tournament, too.
And with good reason. Tom Izzo has led Michigan State to six Final Fours in 17 seasons, including the 2000 national title. Tom Crean has rebuilt Indiana in five short seasons. The Hoosiers were ranked No. 1 earlier in the season and should ascend to that spot again. They reached the Sweet 16 last season for the first time since 2002. And remember -- Crean has a Final Four on his resume, too, with Marquette in 2003.
The others with Final Four resumes? In nine years at Ohio State, Thad Matta had led his team to the NCAA title game (2007) and last year reached the Final Four again. He also has a pair of Sweet 16 appearances in 2010 and 2011. And lest we forget Tubby Smith, who has Minnesota (15-5) ranked -- even if the Gophers have faltered lately. Smith, in his sixth season, is trying to get his team to the tournament for the first time since 2010. But he, too, has a national title to his name with Kentucky in 1998. He went to the Sweet 16 six times and the Elite Eight four times there.
Wisconsin's Bo Ryan has never missed the tournament in 11 years at Wisconsin and has made five Sweet 16s, including the last two, and was in the Elite Eight in 2005. John Beilein is in his sixth year at Michigan and ready for a third consecutive tournament appearance. He has a young roster that already has reached No. ?1 -- even if it won't stay there this week after the 81-73 loss to Indiana.
- Brian McNally