Why It Is So Hard To Watch Big 10 Basketball

Watching Big Ten basketball is tough. I’m not saying all the teams are bad. I think Michigan State is pretty darn good. It’s just that the games are boring. Really boring. Thursday night the sporting world got a great example of that: Minnesota 59, Illinois 36. The score was 22-16 at the half.

How could anybody enjoy watching a team score 36 points? Illinois’ leading scorer for the game scored nine points. Nine! For everyone’s information, there are 40 minutes in a college basketball game – the Illini didn’t even crack a point a minute, let alone a basket a minute. Illinois shot 29.4% from the floor, Minnesota shot a sort-of respectable 40.8%.

Here’s the thing, Illinois only turned the ball over nine times. It’s not like they were sloppy up-and-down the floor. They just couldn’t make baskets. This isn’t just a team problem – its a conference problem. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a conference where every team in it is molded in exactly the same fashion. All 11 Big Ten teams – yea, it makes no sense – play the same way. Each team plays a slowed-down half-court game. Most off of them play man-to-man defense. Michigan plays a 1-3-1 zone under coach Jeff Beilein, which he made popular at West Virginia. And Northwestern plays a whole bunch of defenses, but let’s face it, they are awful. (Fact: Northwestern is the only school from a major conference to never make an NCAA Tournament appearance. Never.) In conference games only, just one team is scoring more than 70 points per game, Michigan State at 70.9.

You just would think somebody would come in there with some variety. And I would figure it would come from the perennial doormats like Northwestern and Penn State. You figure some new coach would come in and say, “We are going to full-court press and jack up 3-pointers all day. We can’t be any worse.”

There is some intrigue when a Big Ten school plays somebody else – a clash of styles. I enjoy watching the ACC/Big Ten challenge each year. It’s just that when it breaks down into league play, I tend to fall asleep.

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