Is Big Ten now top conference?

Mark Turgeon and a talented young lineup will try to make a splash in their Big Ten rookie campaign. Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports

You can make a case that the Big Ten has been more prestigious than successful in college basketball over the past 15 years. It is well known, for example, that the league hasn't won a national title since Michigan State's championship in 1999-2000. In the years since Mateen Cleaves and Morris Peterson cut down the nets, Big Ten teams have recorded an 0-5 record in the national title game. By stark contrast, the American Athletic Conference has been in existence for just one season and it already has a national championship on its résumé, courtesy of Kevin Ollie's Connecticut Huskies.

And yet there's no doubting the Big Ten's cachet. Indeed, the very fact that the national championship drought is so often flung in the league's face can itself be seen as a grudging compliment. Certainly no one ever bothers to remark that the Pac-12 hasn't won a national title since 1997 (back when the league was the Pac-10).

Now this prestigious league that can't quite close the deal in April has added two new members in the form of Maryland and Rutgers. When speaking of a conference that already has Northwestern, one hesitates to impugn the basketball performance of any new member. But I'll admit that when I saw the Scarlet Knights branded as "the Ringo Starr of the Big Ten" my first thought was that this was patently unfair -- to Ringo.