SAN ANTONIO – Can the Big Ten finally win the Big One?
Michigan is one win away from ending the Big Ten’s national championship drought. But Wolverines coach John Beilein doesn’t want his team to think about the pressure of trying to be the first from the league to cut down the nets at the Final Four since Michigan State in 2000.
“I’m not carrying that weight on our back,” said Beilein, who lost to Louisville in the title game in 2013.
The only major conference that’s gone longer without a national title is the Pac-12 (formerly Pac-10) with Arizona’s championship run in 1997.
Before this year, Wisconsin was the last Big Ten team to get to the NCAA final when it lost to Duke in 2015.
“It’s not always the best team, it’s the team that had a few breaks along the way,” Beilein said. “The Big Ten has had some tough breaks along the way between our Louisville game, Wisconsin game — could have gone either way. We could have had two more.”
There wasn’t much respect for the Big Ten this year, which had its fewest teams in the NCAA tournament since 2008.
That narrative can change Monday if the third-seeded Wolverines take down Villanova, a No. 1 seed.
“The Big Ten would love to win another one,” Beilein said. “But it’s not like any of us are saying, well, Big Ten is not very good. We haven’t won a national championship. The Big Ten is as strong as any league is out there. The breaks haven’t gone our way.”
More love for Fab Five?
Wolverines fans loved seeing ex-Michigan coach Steve Fisher and his former player Ray Jackson at the Final Four in San Antonio last week.
Beilein would like to see the university honor the Fab Five’s memory and get the team together at some point. He said Michigan has done what it can to embrace the Fab Five era that produced back-to-back Final Fours in 1992 and 1993 before NCAA violations had those seasons vacated.
“We love the Fab Five, and we continue to reach out to the Fab Five and that team,” he said. “That period is over with. We have a lot of things still going on in the future. We have more banners to raise. We have more jerseys to raise over time.”
Gopher is a winner
Gophers senior guard Nate Mason won the 3-on-3 national championship at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio on Sunday. Mason’s Big Ten team with Purdue’s Vincent Edwards, Indiana’s Robert Johnson and Ohio State’s Jae’Sean Tate split the $50,000 prize money.