Big Ten football got beat up for being over-rated when it flopped in the bowls. And now Big Ten basketball is getting beat up (by anybody who bothers to care) for under-achieving in the regular season.

With good reason.

The league has four teams ranked in this week’s AP media poll: No. 10 Wisconsin, No. 17 Maryland, No. 23 Purdue and No. 25 Northwestern. This is the Wildcats’ first appearance in the Top 25 since 2009-10.

This quartet still doesn’t compare with the league’s five pre-season ranked teams, including four in the top 15: No. 9 Wisconsin, No. 11 Indiana, No. 12 Michigan State, No. 15 Purdue, No. 25 Maryland. And Ohio State and Michigan received votes.

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I don’t mean to diminish Top 25 rankings. They are a nice acknowledgement of good work. And it’s a big deal that Northwestern(!) has cracked the rankings. Just ask Chris Collins’ agent.

But Bruce Weber once told me—and most other coaches likely would tell you the same thing—that the most tangible appeal of the Top 25 is that it gets your highlights shown on ESPN. And that is a nice thing for recruiting. And alumni.

No question, the Big Ten is plodding through an undistinguished regular season. It was fourth, behind the Big 12, the ACC and the Big East, in an ESPN conference ranking.

If you want to go harsher than “undistinguished’’—like mediocre, boring or [insert your gloomy word here]—I won’t argue.

If you want to make a joke like, “The Big Ten is so bad this year that Northwestern is kicking butt,’’ have your fun.

But the real point I’d like to make is this: I won’t be surprised if the Big Ten atones in the NCAA tournament. The rest of this article is available to subscribers only – to become a subscriber click here.