NEW YORK — With four teams in the Top 10, the Big Ten is widely considered the premier league in college basketball this season.
But don’t try telling that to Charles Barkley.
“They keep telling me the Big Ten is the best conference, I think they’re a little overrated because they don’t have a bunch of great players,” Barkley said Monday at the Turner Sports/CBS Sports media breakfast in New York.
The Big Ten Tournament tips off Thursday in Chicago, and the top five seeds there — No. 1 Indiana, No. 2 Ohio State, No. 3 Michigan State, No. 4 Wisconsin and No. 5 Michigan — all have the potential for deep runs in the NCAA Tournament, with Indiana considered among the favorites to cut down the nets in Atlanta.
Still, no Big Ten team has won the national championship since Michigan State in 2000. Since then, the ACC has won five NCAA titles, the SEC three, the Big East three and the Big 12 one.
Barkley made similar comments about the Big East two years ago, when a record 11 teams from the league made the NCAA Tournament.
Only two — Marquette and UConn — made the Sweet 16, and the Kemba Walker-led Huskies went on to cut down the nets after winning five games in five days in the Big East Tournament.
“I said a few years ago I thought the Big East was overrated, then they all started losing,” Barkley said.
“The reason I said they were overrated [was] because they had a bunch of good teams but no great teams. They only had one great player and that was Kemba Walker.
“You have to have a great player to advance in this tournament. When I look at the Big Ten, they got some good teams, a couple of teams got really good players but those teams on the back end, they don’t have great players.
“Indiana’s got terrific players, Michigan got terrific players but these other teams in the Big Ten, they got some good solid players, but they don’t have a great player.
“I think in this tournament some of those other teams, those mid-majors you call them, they got players just as good as those back-end Big Ten teams so if [the Big Ten teams] lose I won’t be surprised.”