Amid all the upsets, tough games and ever-changing standings, the Big Ten has been lauded as the best conference in college basketball -- top to bottom -- all season.
On Selection Sunday, the league was rewarded and given a chance to prove its strength on the highest stage. Five Big Ten teams were selected as No. 4 seeds or higher -- including a No. 1 seed, with Big Ten tournament champion Michigan State -- and another, Purdue, got in with a No. 10 seed.
"I mean, there's great appreciation with what we have to deal with day in and day out," said Indiana coach Tom Crean, whose Hoosiers received a No. 4 seed Sunday. "On any given night, a team can win. There's star power, there's veterans, there's great coaching and there's role players, there's everything. ... And at the end of the day, it makes up an incredible conference."
Closely following Michigan State's top bid is conference tournament runner-up Ohio State, which landed at 2. Michigan -- which, along with the Spartans and the Buckeyes earned a slice of the three-way regular-season conference title -- joined Indiana and Wisconsin as No. 4 seeds in the tournament.
The Big Ten often has sent a bevy of teams to the tournament in recent years, but overall success hasn't typically followed. In 2009, Michigan State made it to the championship game, but only one other of the seven league teams (Purdue) made it past the second round. Last season, seven teams again made it, but only two reached the Sweet 16. Once there, favored squads from Ohio State and Wisconsin were bounced in the region semifinals.
Michigan State's NCAA championship in 2000 is the only one for the Big Ten in the past 22 years. Can the conference as a whole redeem itself this year?
"I expect [the Big Ten] to do pretty well, but it will be interesting to see," said Jerry Palm, who follows brackets closely for CBSSports.com. "I think the NCAA tournament is kind of like bowl games. It's a really bad way to judge leagues and teams because it's so much about matchups. ... But that's what we have. And because it's the postseason, there's a lot more emphasis placed on it. And so, yeah, the perception is hurt if you don't do well."