INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – For the fifth straight day in the NCAA Tournament, Big Ten teams continue to embarrass themselves on a national stage.
Considered the best league in the nation coming in, the Big Ten placed a record nine teams in the field, and grabbed four of the eight top seeds. Big things were expected, but now seven teams are already knocked out after No. 2 seed Iowa lost 95-80 to Oregon on Monday afternoon.
Iowa was the latest disaster, looking like a team that didn't want to be there in the blowout loss to the No. 7-seeded Ducks, who were the last of the 68 teams to play in the event after their first-round game was ruled a no contest after VCU's COVID-19 issues.
Luka Garza was great for Iowa in his final college game, scoring 36 points for the Hawkeyes, but he got virtually no help. Three Iowa starters – Jordan Bohannon, C.J. Fredrick, and Connor McCaffery – were held scoreless. Fredrick and McCafferey, who have been battling injuries, didn't play at all in the second half.
Iowa finishes the season 22-9, and it was a tough way for Garza, the school's all-time leading scorer, to go out.
"It all hit me at once," Garza said, "looking up at the scoreboard and knowing I'll never wear this jersey again. This loss is going to haunt me forever."
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery gushed over Garza's final performance, and all that he's accomplished at Iowa.
"I have been truly blessed to have the opportunity to have Luka on our basketball team for the last four years,'' he said. "We may never see another one like him, with his production and his consistency. That's the legacy he'll leave and that's why Hawkeye Nation appreciates him for who he is.''
Iowa's defense was non-existent, with Oregon shooting 56 percent from the field and making 11 three-pointers. They had a double-digit lead in the first half and never looked back, scoring a whopping 56 points in the first half.
Iowa was the fourth Big Ten team with a high seed to lose early. No. 1 seed Illinois, No. 2 seed Ohio State and No. 4 seed Purdue were all knocked out already, too. Michigan State, Wisconsin and Rutgers are all out, too.
That leaves just Michigan and Maryland to defend the league's honor later on Friday.
What's even worse is that almost all of the Big Ten's seven losses have come as favorites. So far:
- MICHIGAN STATE: The Spartans (minus-3) blew a 14-point lead and then lost to UCLA in overtime on Thursday night in the 11-seed First Four game at Mackey Arena. It was their sixth straight loss at Mackey, a house of horrors for them.
- OHIO STATE: The No. 2-seeded Buckeyes lost at Mackey Arena to No. 15 Oral Roberts 75-72 despite being 16-point favorites. It was only the ninth time ever that a 15 seed beat a No. 2 in 141 tries. That's a 5.71 winning percentage.
- PURDUE: The No. 4 seeded Boilermakers were 6.5-point favorites over North Texas but lost 68-59 in overtime in a first-round exit.
- ILLINOIS: Despite being a 7-point favorite, No. 1 seed Illinois was completely outclassed by No. 8 seed Loyola-Chicago. Illini star Ayo Dosumnu scored only 9 points in the stunning loss.
- WISCONSIN: The Badgers were a 6.5-point underdog to No. 1 seed Baylor, but got run out of the gym early and lost 76-63.
- RUTGERS: The Scarlet Knights were 7.5-point underdogs, but covering meant nothing because they had this game won and kicked it away. They led 60-56 but inexplicably decided to run clock and never got off another good shot, with two rushed three-pointers and two turnovers. Houston scored the last seven points to win.
That's five losses as favorites, one no-cover and one blown opportunity. And that's seven ugly losses for sure.
McCaffery said the Iowa locker room was emotional afterward, which was no surprise. It happens when you're season ends, especially when it ends much sooner than you're planning.
"It was incredibly emotional, as it always is when your season comes to an end,'' McCaffery said. "I'm proud of their commitment to one another and their sacrifice to get here.
"There were a lot of people telling others how much they love each other. We had two seniors who rewrote the record book at Iowa. It's always emotional on that last day. You always feel a little bit empty when you're team loses and you're eliminated, but I tried to stress all the great things we accomplished this year, and I wanted them all to know how much I appreciated them, and how much I loved them.''