The Big Ten is bad. It shouldn’t be that simple, but at this point it’s hard to argue otherwise.
The Big Ten has three to four teams that look destined for the NCAA Tournament and 10 teams dealing with different variations of mediocrity. One can at least argue that there is a unique entertainment value to watching the futility of Iowa and Illinois. Yet, that’s the best semblance of value that you can find in this conference.
The lack of talent in the Big Ten is a blatant issue that shouldn’t come as a surprise, and also shouldn’t last too long.
Recruiting isn’t everything in college basketball. A program doesn’t need to field a roster of only four-star and five-star prospects to be competitive on the national stage. This is the beauty of great coaching and player development. Unfortunately for the Big Ten, this season the conference doesn’t have the talent or the player development.
This futility shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. According to 247Sports, this past year in recruiting was the weakest for the Big Ten in a long time.
Last year, the only Big Ten team with a top-25 recruiting class was Ohio State. They had the 23rd best class in the nation.
Along with having only one mere top-25 class, Michigan State was the only team to bring in a five-star prospect. Jaren Jackson was the only elite talent to enter the league this season and the last time that ever happened came in 2013 when Indiana recruited the Big Ten’s only 5-star at the time, Noah Vonleh.
It could be a fluke in the system, or it could be a symbol or a greater issue. An issue of branding.
If the Big Ten wants to compete with the rest of college basketball, then there is no better conference to compare yourself to than the ACC. For years now, the ACC has been labeled as arguably the best conference in college basketball. It seemingly all comes down to having some of the biggest recruiting brands in the nation.
According to 247Sports, in 2015, the Big Ten brought in three five-star recruits and 24 four-stars. In 2016, the Big Ten had two five-stars, and 15 four-stars. In 2017, Jaren Jackson and Tom Izzo saved the Big Ten from a big fat goose egg.
Through the entirety of those three years, the Big Ten has never had more than three top-25 classes. In comparison, in the past three years, the ACC has never had less than five.
For the ACC, it all comes down to brands. In the top-25, it will always have Duke and North Carolina. Throw in Louisville, prior to NCAA sanctions, Syracuse, Florida State, Notre Dame and even Miami. Right there you have a conference that has learned how to sell itself to the average 17-year-old.
In comparison, currently the Big Ten really only has the brand of Michigan State. One can argue the value of Michigan and Ohio State. However, neither can compete with the commercial successes of basketball schools in the ACC right now.
So, it begs the question, how badly does the Big Ten need programs such as Indiana to find prominence?
Recent history with Indiana doesn’t get you too far in this conversation. With Indiana’s previous history as a blue-blood, Archie Miller has the potential to leverage the Indiana brand in a recruiting sense to the to the same level of Michigan State. The potential is there and it has already been seen.
After the blatant failure of last year’s recruiting circuit, it appears as if there is a new level of urgency in the Big Ten. It’s a level of urgency, that needs to be acknowledged now and maintained in the future.
With National Signing Day still a few weeks away, the Big Ten has already brought in its best class in years. With six teams in the top-25 and 26 four-star athletes, this is the first time in the past decade where the Big Ten is actually competing with success of the ACC.
This upcoming class not only competes with level of the ACC, but it’s also still growing.
According to 247Sports, the fifth best player in the nation, Romeo Langford, is still considering Indiana. The 21st best player in the nation, Moses Brown, is still considering Maryland. The 65th best player in the country, Tyger Campbell, is still considering Purdue. Lastly, the 118th best player, Tevian Jones, is still considering Illinois.
Recruiting isn’t everything, and it never will be everything. With that said, your program and even your conference will always prefer to have more talent than its competitors.
This season, recruiting has to at least serve as a portion of the blame for the weakness of the Big Ten as a conference. It also has to serve as a reason for optimism moving forward.