Commish: Big Ten has nothing to defend

Updated: April 6, 2009, 2:20 AM ET
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

DETROIT -- Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany isn't sure why his league was criticized this season for playing what many analysts described as lousy basketball.

But with Michigan State playing North Carolina for the national championship at Ford Field on Monday night, and Penn State having already won the NIT, Delany said his conference represented itself well during the postseason.

"We were a very young league," Delany said Sunday. "I don't think we ever said we were the best. We said we deserved seven or eight teams [in the NCAA tournament]. We were what we were and it was what it was. We beat the champion of the Pac-10, the champion of the Big 12 and the champion of the Big East. I don't think we have to explain or defend."

Seven Big Ten teams went 9-6 in NCAA tournament games, with five of those victories coming from the Spartans. Purdue was the only other Big Ten team to advance past the second round; the Boilermakers lost to No. 1 seed Connecticut 72-60 in the Sweet 16.

No. 12 seed Wisconsin upset No. 5 seed Florida State 61-59 in overtime in the first round, and No. 10 seed Michigan upset No. 7 seed Clemson 62-59 in the first round.

No. 5 seed Illinois, No. 8 seed Ohio State and No. 10 seed Minnesota each lost in their first-round games.

Because Big Ten games were routinely producing scores in the 50s and 60s during the regular season, the Big Ten was criticized for not being very good. Michigan State was the only team ranked in the top 10 of the national polls and traditional power Indiana struggled through one of the worst seasons in school history.

But Delany said the league was unfairly criticized.

"We had a great November and December," Delany said. "We beat more top-50 programs than anyone else. There was nothing to be ashamed about."

Delany said the Big Ten criticism is the result of media bias more than anything else. He said major media outlets favor teams from the ACC and Big East, because that's where the largest media companies are located.

"I think media companies aren't located on the West Coast," Delany said. "They're not located in the Plains. They're located on the East Coast. There is on Broadway and off Broadway. There is familiarity with the coaches and players, and it's where [the media] went to school. [But] I think their acumen and insight isn't backed up [by the results].

"There is sort of a consistency in the coverage. I don't think it's the beat writers. I think it's electronic media. I think it's mostly CBS and ESPN."

Delany said his league is also unfairly criticized because its football teams have lost in two of the last three BCS national championship games.

"I don't think you have to defend playing for a national championship, whether it's the BCS or the NCAA tournament," Delany said.

Mark Schlabach covers college basketball and college football for ESPN.com.

Mark Schlabach | email

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