The Big Ten may still hang their hats on being a football conference, but the reality is they’re also making a pretty strong case for being the best basketball conference as well. For the second straight year, two players from the Big Ten ended up being drafted in the NBA lottery, and five overall in the first round for the first time since 1990.
Michigan’s Nik Stauskas went to Sacramento with the 8th pick, Indiana’s Noah Vonleh went 9th to Charlotte, Michigan State’s Adreian Payne was picked at 15 by Atlanta, Gary Harris of Michigan State was off the board at 19 to Chicago and then traded to Denver, and Michigan’s Mitch McGary went to Oklahoma City with the 21st pick. Talk about depth.
Back in 1990, the last time they could lay claim to such a stat, Kendall Gill of Illinois went 5th, Minnesota Gophers Willie Burton went 9th, Rumeal Robinson of Michigan landed at 10th, Loy Vaught of Michigan went 13th, and Terry Mills of Michigan fell just out of the lottery at 16th.
Last year the Big Ten came close when Michigan’s Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. went 9th and 24th respectively, while Indiana’s Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller went 2nd and 4th in the draft. Outside of 2007 when Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr. landed in the top ten, that was the highest rated draft for the B1G conference. If you count the Maryland Terrapins center Alex Len, then they would have technically matched this year’s total of five first rounders.
Still, no other conference outside of the Pac-12 can lay claim to those numbers, and that’s quite the accomplishment for the B1G. They’ve been quietly getting better year-after-year, and while the ACC is the trendy pick for the best conference, you could easily argue in favor of the Big Ten.