Whiff? The Big Ten is in danger of missing the Final Four completely after dominating the season

Kyle Ringo
The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

It's up to you Michigan.

The overall strength of the Big Ten Conference has been one of the major story lines of this college basketball season, but after Ohio State lost in the West Region final Saturday night to upstart Wichita State, the Big Ten is in danger of being shut out of the Final Four.

So much for all the hubbub earlier this week about a possible All-Big Ten Final Four.

Michigan is the last Big Ten team remaining from seven that played in the Round of 64 and four that advanced to the Sweet 16. The Wolverines, a team many believed was ripe to be upset early entering the tournament, must beat Florida on Sunday to capture the South Region and advance to their first Final Four since those Fab Five guys made history in the early 1990s.

[Related: Band of castoffs has Wichita State in the Final Four]

If the Wolverines come up short -- they are the underdog -- as fellow Big Ten Sweet 16 teams Ohio State, Indiana and Michigan State did, some will be tempted to label the conference as overrated.

That might be too harsh. The fact that four teams advanced to the second weekend of the tournament is testament to how difficult the schedule was night in and night out throughout the Big Ten regular season. But there is no denying that missing the Final Four altogether would be a massive failure for the conference.

Meanwhile, the Big East sent eight teams to the tournament and could have two in the Final Four if Louisville beats Duke on Sunday. Syracuse became the first team to advance to the Final Four on Saturday when it beat fellow Big East foe Marquette in the Elite Eight.

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Disappointment is nothing new in the Big Ten. The conference has won just one national title on the hardwood since Michigan won in 1989. That came in 2000 when Michigan State won it all.

Ohio State, the No. 2 seed in the West, struggled offensively throughout the first half and the early stages of the second half before staging a rally against the Shockers. But the Buckeyes just couldn't get over the hump and back to even after falling behind by 20 points.

Ohio State was trying to reach the Final Four for the second consecutive season. The Big Ten has sent eight teams to the Final Four since Michigan State won the title 13 years ago. Four of those teams lost in the national title game.

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