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Column

Big Ten vs. Big 12

Living in Iowa, we don't have professional teams to choose from. Any of us can pick whatever professional teams we want.

When it comes to this state, it's all about Iowa and Iowa State and even the Big Ten and Big 12.

In college basketball this season, the Big Ten is the best conference in the country. And it's not even debateable.

When I think of best, I think of deepest usually. The Big Ten maybe doesn't have an elite team who can make a run at the national championship, but the league will get 10-11 teams in the NCAA Tournament.

The Big 12 could have the national champion in Kansas or Baylor. But only five teams are in line to make the dance right now.

The NCAA created its own system to help pick the 68 NCAA tournament teams. And the NET rankings is what we all should be looking at when it comes to where our favorite teams sit.

There is no way the NCAA tournament selection committee doesn't factor in its own system when choosing the teams.

And according to the NET, the Big Ten has 11 teams ranked 46 or better. In comparison, the Big 12 has five teams inside the top 40.

Kansas and Baylor are 1 and 5 in the NET. The Jayhawks and Bears are legitimate title contenders. And West Virginia (21) and Texas Tech (23) are good enough to win games in the tournament. But who else in the Big 12 do you trust?

The Big Ten's highest ranked team is Michigan State at 7. But Maryland (15), Ohio State (16), Michigan (24), Penn State (26), Iowa (29) and Wisconsin (30) are all in the top 30 of the NET rankings.

Rutgers (34) and Illinois (36) are locks for the tournament, too. Purdue is 36th in the NET and by all metrics, the Boilermakers are in the mix for an at-large berth, too. Even Minnesota (46) and Indiana (54) are in decent positions.

If you watch the games inside the Big Ten and don't think it's the deepest league in the country, then you likely won't ever be able to be convinced.

Winning on the road has been extremely difficult this season for everyone. The only bad teams in the league are Nebraska and Northwestern. Half of the road wins in the league have come against those two programs.

Maryland, Michigan, Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin are all good enough to win multiple games in the tournament. It could come down to which teams are the healthiest.

Iowa fans think this season could be the year the Hawkeyes reach the Sweet 16. It hasn't happened since Tom Davis was running the show in Iowa City.

The Hawkeyes have a lot of what it takes. Luka Garza is an All-American, Joe Wieskamp is struggling right now but has the capability of scoring 25 on any night and the Hawkeyes have way more fight than any team under Fran McCaffery.

Connor McCaffery leads the nation in assist to turnover ratio, CJ Fredrick is an elite shooter and the role players have figured out how to impact the team in a positive way.

The Hawkeyes have flaws. Most teams outside the top five do. The depth could catch up to Iowa, but it has fought in mostly every game this season.

The Hawks will be in every game. And if they can get to a five seed, I think it sets up well to make the deepest run the program has seen in 25 years. Iowa also has seven wins over ranked opponents this season, which ranks No. 1 in the country.

Fans of the Big Ten and Big 12 should have a fun March Madness. The national title could very well come from those two leagues. And it's realistic that more than five schools could be playing in the Sweet 16.

One of my favorite times of the year is getting closer. And it's a wide-open field, which should make it even more fun.

Contact Troy Hyde at thyde@newtondailynews.com

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