The Big Ten set a record before the 2021 NCAA men’s basketball tournament even started. 

The conference is the first to put a total of four teams on the first two seed lines in tournament history. Illinois, the Big Ten tournament champion, and Michigan, the regular-season champion, are No. 1 seeds. Big Ten tournament runner-up Ohio State and Iowa are No. 2 seeds. 

The conference produced the SN Player of the Year in Iowa’s Luka Garza and Coach of the Year in Juwan Howard. The Big Ten also led all conferences with nine bids. This was the best conference in the country in the regular season. 

Will that notion of “iron sharpening iron” pay off for a conference that has enjoyed tourney success but hasn’t won a national championship since 2000?  

A few statistical trends work in the Big Ten’s favor.  

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How many Big Ten teams made the NCAA Tournament?

Nine Big Ten teams made the 2021 NCAA Tournament, a new record high for the conference. A Big Ten team is also one of the top two seeds in every region: No. 1 Illinois (Midwest), No. 1 Michigan (East), No. 2 Ohio State (South) and No. 2 Iowa (West).

No other conference has more than seven teams in the field of 68. The ACC and Big 12 have seven teams apiece, the SEC has six, the Pac-12 has five and the Big East has four. 

2Ohio StateSouth
11Michigan StateEast

Will most bids lead to more success for Big Ten?  

The Big Ten has the most bids this season, and the conference might have set a record had the 2020 NCAA tournament not been canceled by COVID-19. The Big Ten led all conferences with eight bids in 2019, and Michigan State made the Final Four. 

Since 1985, the conference with the most tournament bids produced the national champion just 10 times in 35 tournaments.  

Since 2010, however, the Big East and ACC have dominated when it come to producing the most bids, and it led to national championships in both conferences. UConn (2011) and Louisville (2013) won national championships after playing in the Big East, and North Carolina (2017) won out of the ACC. 

Most tournament bids since 2010 

2010Big East8West Virginia
2011Big East11UConn*
2012Big East9Louisville
2013Big East8Louisville*, Syracuse
2014Big 127
2015Big Ten/Big 127Wisconsin
2016ACC/Big 12/Pac-12/Big Ten7North Carolina, Syracuse, Oklahoma
2017ACC9North Carolina*
2019Big Ten8Michigan State

*Denotes national champion  

Will the Big Ten take advantage if it has the most teams?

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How many No. 1s and No. 2s does the Big Ten have?  

The Big Ten has never had more than two teams seeded at either No. 1 or No. 2 in the same tournament in the expanded bracket era. 

The Big Ten set the record with four teams on the No. 1 and No. 2 seed lines this year. That’s a testament to the strength of the national-championship caliber teams within the conference. The conference has had at least two teams on the top-two seeding lines in 12 tournaments. 

A conference has put three teams on those two lines eight times in NCAA tournament history. The ACC has done it four times, including the last three tournaments from 2017-19. A team from that conference won the national title three times in those four seasons. 

Conferences with three teams as No. 1 or No. 2 seeds

2003Big 123Kansas (Runner Up), Texas (Final Four), Oklahoma (Elite Eight)
2005ACC3North Carolina (Champion), Duke (Sweet 16), Wake Forest (2nd round)
2009Big East3UConn (Final Four), Louisville (Elite Eight), Pitt (Elite Eight)
2010Big East3West Virginia (Final Four), Syracuse (Sweet 16), Villanova (2nd round)
2017ACC3North Carolina (Champion), Duke (2nd round), Louisville (2nd round)
2018ACC3Duke (Elite Eight), North Carolina (2nd round), Virginia (1st round)
2019ACC3Virginia (Champion), Duke (Elite Eight), North Carolina (Sweet 16)

The Big Ten should have that opportunity in 2021 given at least three teams should be seeded either No. 1 or No. 2. 

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How do Big Ten No. 1 and No. 2 seeds fare? 

The good news is that Big Ten teams seeded either No. 1 or No. 2 have enjoyed a high-success rate in the Big Dance. 

Of the 41 teams that were seeded either No. 1 or No. 2, a total of 15 reached the Final Four. That is a 36.6 success rate. That’s the second-highest rate among major conferences.  

Big Ten411536.6
Big 12401127.5
Other conf.31825.8
Big East481122.9

Knowing those numbers, it’s a good bet at least one – and maybe two – Big Ten teams can make a Final Four run in 2021.  

Will that lead to the long-awaited national championship?  

Big Ten national championship seasons 

The Big Ten has won three national championships in the expanded bracket era, and some of the earmarks from those three seasons are similar to 2020-21. 

Indiana won the national title as a No. 1 seed in 1987; the last national championship under Bob Knight. The Big Ten tied with the Big East with six tournament bids that season, and Iowa reached the Elite Eight as a No. 2 seed. 

Michigan won the 1989 NCAA tournament as a No. 3 seed. The conference had five tournament bids, and Indiana and Illinois were both No. 1 seeds. The Hoosiers were eliminated in the Sweet 16, and the Wolverines beat the Illini in the Final Four. 

Michigan State won the tournament as a No. 1 seed in 2000. The Big Ten tied with the Big 12 and SEC with the most tournament bids with six, and the Spartans took advantage with a championship run. 

This year, the Big Ten should produce at least seven tournament bids, and could set a record by becoming the first conference to put four teams on the No. 1 and No. 2 lines. The iron has never been hotter in the conference. 

Will one of those teams finally strike with a national title run? 

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