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Big Ten Commish rips media over basketball coverage


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DETROIT -- Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany criticized major network college basketball analysts for disparaging his league this season. That wouldn't be as newsworthy if the networks weren't Big Ten TV partners.

"I don't think it's the beat writers," Delany told a small group of reporters during the off day Sunday at the Final Four. "I think it's mostly electronic media and I think it's mostly CBS and ESPN.

"Their acumen and their insight are not backed up by the performance of the teams over time."

Delany refused to name names, but said the analysts are so East Coast-oriented that they miss great basketball being played elsewhere. CBS and ESPN analysts weren't the only ones to disparage the Big Ten this season. The league's defensive style was largely unappealing and culminated in Penn State's 38-33 win over Illinois on Feb. 18.

Michigan State's run to the championship game might change that perception. Monday's game is a rematch of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge game on Dec. 3 between North Carolina and Michigan State. The Big Ten has never won the challenge since it was instituted in 1999. Michigan State, however, is the only Big Ten program that has a winning record against the ACC in the series.

The Big Ten's RPI ranged anywhere from second to fourth, and the league put seven teams in the tournament this season. Those teams are 9-6 in the bracket, with five of the victories coming from Michigan State.

Illinois, Ohio State and Minnesota lost their first-round games. Michigan, playing in its first tournament in 11 years, made it to the second round.

The Big Ten is second behind the ACC in all-time tournament winning percentage and leads all conferences with 44 Final Fours. Michigan State is in its fifth Final Four since 1999 under Tom Izzo.

The Big Ten has had two teams in the Final Four as recently as 1999, 2000 and 2005. Since '99 it has had at least one team in the Final Four in seven of 11 years.

"I'm not suggesting we had a better year than the Big East," Delany said. "We haven't won the championship as much as we've liked but we've played for it. "It's not 50 writers, it's not 50 broadcasters. It's a half a dozen people."

Delany said he knows he will hear back from his television partners. But the veteran commissioner is not shy about speaking his mind.

"I would attribute it to [analysts] being more comfortable and more familiar with [other teams]," Delany said. "We beat more top-50 teams than anybody else. We had a great strength of schedule. We didn't have a lot of teams in the top 10 ... I would read: Well, maybe Michigan State can only win this game if it is in the 60s. That's not accurate. Michigan State is a fabulous basketball team."

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Big Ten is old school in many ways including style of play which is not very easy on the eyes, which is why I can see the argument both ways, to ESPN the Big Ten is not sexy enough with several great teams we are ugly with several teams that are good which does not translate to good ratings for TV.

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