Column: Big Ten comes close but fall short

The 2014 Final Four was close to becoming the Big Ten Tournament Part II. Instead, Michigan and Michigan State got bumped on Sunday and Wisconsin is left carrying the flag for the Big Ten Conference.

They were getting ready to rename the 2014 Final Four the Big Ten Tournament Part 2.

Wisconsin was in and many expected both Michigan State and Michigan to join the Badgers on Sunday on the biggest stage next week in Dallas for the Final Four.

But the state of Michigan went 0-2 Sunday in the Elite Eight and the Badgers will be the lone B1G team carrying the conference's flag this week.

It's really too bad. After all the Big Ten has been through this season and people on the outside wondering just how good the league really was, I think if the B1G had gotten three teams in the Final Four it certainly would have validated some things.

Instead, Big Ten fans are left to root for Wisconsin against the dreaded Blue Nation on Saturday in a national semifinal game.

I was at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis Sunday for Kentucky-Michigan, the kind of game that had to be difficult for Indiana fans to enjoy.

As a rule, Indiana fans aren't crazy about either Kentucky or Michigan. Both are rivals, especially on the hardwood.

Still, given the choice of rooting for Kentucky or Michigan, my guess is that 99.5 percent of IU fans would choose the Big Ten school. I just can't imagine a lot of IU fans pulling for Kentucky in a game like this one. And if you were in that building Sunday, where the Wildcats had a decided home court advantage, my guess is it would have had you rooting even more for the maize and blue.

But give Kentucky some credit. The Wildcats are playing their best basketball of the season at just right the time and the performance that Aaron Harrison put on down the stretch was more than a little worthy of a tip of the hat.

Harrison missed all three of his first half field goal attempts. In the second half though, he hit 4-of-5 3-point shots and finished with 12 points. His 3-pointer from the left wing with 2.3 seconds to play broke a 72-all tie and sent the Wildcats to the Final Four.

Whether you like Kentucky or not, you had to like the way the Wildcats played Sunday afternoon.

Ok, maybe you don't but I was still pretty impressed with the Wildcats' play.

I must admit I was all ready to write the column that said that there would be three teams in the Final Four that Indiana had played this season. Had Michigan won, IU would have had a 2-3 record this season against those three teams.

And what would that mean for the Hoosiers? Very little. As it turned out, IU played four teams that made it to the Elite Eight. But again, it doesn't mean anything when you can't hold your home court against teams like Northwestern, Penn State and Nebraska. If you're an IU fan, that's what you have to keep coming back to when you think about the 2013-14 season. Lots of missed opportunities.

So college basketball enters its final week with just one Big Ten team still in the Big Dance.

And a painful month of March has just about come to an end for Indiana basketball fans.

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