Maryland men’s basketball coach Mark Turgeon spoke about a variety of subjects after his team’s 63-60 home win against Michigan State on Saturday. He marveled at guard Melo Trimble’s game-winner and lauded freshman forward Justin Jackson’s performance. He appreciated the importance of ending with two consecutive wins.
But as he spoke about the Big Ten, Turgeon became frustrated. Throughout the season, the sixth-year coach has been adamant the league doesn’t receive enough national respect. He reiterated that Saturday after the Terps beat one of the league’s 11 unranked teams entering this weekend’s conference tournament.
“I’m tired of people talking about how our league’s not very good,” Turgeon said. “Our league got good fast. We’ve got a lot of young players, but Minnesota got better, Iowa got better, Michigan State got better, Michigan got better. Everybody got better down the stretch.”
Moments earlier, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo addressed the subject after a reporter asked if he felt the Spartans (18-13, 10-8 Big Ten) deserve to make the NCAA tournament.
“I’m going to blame everybody in this room. We have not done a good job at promoting the Big Ten,” Izzo said. “Nobody talks about our conference. That’s our fault, that’s your fault, that’s my fault.”
The tempered national hype perhaps stems from lacking a consensus title contender. The Pac-12 touts programs such as No. 3 UCLA, No. 5 Oregon and No. 7 Arizona. The ACC features traditional powers No. 6 North Carolina and No. 10 Louisville. The SEC has No. 8 Kentucky, the Big East has No. 2 Villanova, and the Big 12 has No. 1 Kansas and No. 9 Baylor.
The Big Ten ended the regular season with three teams — No. 13 Purdue, No. 24 Wisconsin and No. 25 Maryland — in the Associated Press Top 25. Wisconsin, the preseason No. 9 team and the conference-title favorite, spiraled during February, dropping five of its last seven games.
The Terps, who had dropped from the rankings after a three-game losing streak, returned after winning at Rutgers and at home against Michigan State last week.
Turgeon understands the conference may not have a championship favorite, so he’s instead praised its depth, which should be on display during Selection Sunday on March 12.
In his latest bracketology on ESPN, Joe Lunardi expects seven Big Ten teams to earn NCAA tournament berths. That’s tied with the Big East for the second-most from one conference, while the ACC leads with 10 projected bids.
In addition to Purdue, Wisconsin and Maryland, Lunardi expects Minnesota, Northwestern, Michigan State and Michigan to make the Field of 68. Iowa, which Turgeon said has been the Big Ten’s best team in recent outings, is one of Lunardi’s first four teams out. Illinois, which has won four of its last five, is also in that position.
“Our league is really good,” Turgeon said, “but some of them might not make the tournament.”
Turgeon again harped on the Big Ten’s strength during a conference call Monday morning. He knows the Terps will battle that steadiness and parity when they open the tournament in the quarterfinals Friday night.
“There are three or four teams that are just phenomenal right now,” Turgeon said. “They’ve just really made our league just an amazing league down the stretch.”