Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, March 24, 2015
Just reaching the Final Four is a big accomplishment, given the rigors, perils and cruelty of the one-and-done NCAA tourney format. It's unforgiving. One bad night … and you're gone.
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The path to the Final Four is littered with many great teams that failed to reach the summit of the sport. The Big Ten has taken its body shots over the years, seeing some terrific teams unceremoniously dumped before the Final Four.
The Big Ten still has two Final Four hopefuls alive: No. 1 Wisconsin and No. 7 Michigan State. If the Badgers don?t make it to Indianapolis for the Final Four, it will be a bit of surprise-and a disappointment.
Here are my 12 best Big Ten teams of the last 25 years, in chronological order, not to reach the Final Four.
1989-90 Michigan State: 28-6 overall; 15-3 Big Ten.
This was Jud Heathcote?s last great team, earning a No. 1 seed in the Southeast behind the play of Steve Smith, Kirk Manns and Ken Redfield. After nearly losing to No. 16 Murray State (75-71) in the NCAA opener, MSU beat No. 9 UC-Santa Barbara before falling by a point to No. 4 Georgia Tech in the Sweet 16. The Yellow Jackets went on to the Final Four.
1990-91 Ohio State: 27-4 overall; 15-3 Big Ten.
Coached by Randy Ayers, this was a terrific team led by Jim Jackson. The Buckeyes ranked No. 2 in the AP poll when the NCAA tourney started and were the No. 1 seed in the Midwest, poised for a deep run. OSU opened with wins vs. No. 16 Towson State and No. 8 Georgia Tech. But Ohio State was whipped, 91-74, by No. 4 St. John?s and the late Malik Sealy.
1991-92 Ohio State: 26-6 overall; 15-3 Big Ten
Led by Jim Jackson, Chris Jent, Mark Baker and Lawrence Funderburke, the Buckeyes were a No. 1 seed once again–this time in the Southeast. OSU beat No. 16 Mississippi Valley State; No. 9 UConn; No. 4 North Carolina before falling to-of all schools–No. 6 Michigan and the Fab Five in the regional final. The Buckeyes ranked in the AP Top 10 all season.
1992-93 Indiana: 31-4 overall; 17-1 Big Ten
This was one of Bob Knight?s best assemblages of talent. But, it came up short. Indiana ascended to No. 1 in the AP poll during the season. The Hoosiers? only Big Ten loss was at Ohio State, 81-77 in overtime. IU was the No. 1 NCAA seed in the Midwest, knocking off No. 16 Wright State; No. 9 Xavier; No. 4 Louisville. The only thing between the Hoosiers and a trip to the Final Four were Roy Williams and No. 2 Kansas in the regional final. The Jayhawks won, 83-77, the second time that season KU knocked off IU. It was a tough pill to swallow for an uber-talented Indiana team led by Calbert Cheaney, Alan Henderson, who suffered a knee injury late in the season, Greg Graham, Matt Nover and Damon Bailey.
1993-94 Purdue: 29-5 overall; 14-4 Big Ten
In 25 years prowling the Mackey Arena sidelines, Gene Keady had no team better than this one. The Boilermakers had the national player of the year in Glenn Robinson, who led the nation in scoring and had an able sidekick in Cuonzo Martin. Purdue was the No. 1 seed in the Southeast, topping No. 16 Central Florida and No. 9 Alabama, and then dumping No. 4 Kansas in the Sweet 16. Only No. 2 Duke and Grant Hill stood between Purdue and the Final Four. Alas, the Blue Devils won, 69-60. This was one of three No. 1-seeded teams Keady would have-and they all flamed out before the Final Four: 1988, 1994, 1996.
1995-96 Purdue: 26-6 overall; 15-3 Big Ten
This team truly epitomized the notion: the sum is greater than its parts. The roster included the likes of Brad Miller, Chad Austin and Roy Hairston. Gene Keady coached his eyeballs out with a team that-honestly-was one of the biggest overachievers in the Big Ten in the last quarter century. Keady coached the Boilermakers to a third consecutive outright Big Ten crown and a No. 1 seed in the West. But Purdue struggled in the Big Dance from the opening bell, coming within a whisker of losing to No. 16 Western Carolina (73-71) before getting the boot in the second round by No. 8 Georgia.
2000-01 Illinois: 27-8 overall (13-3 Big Ten)
Bill Self led this team to the Big Ten title and a No. 1 seed in the Midwest. Led by Frankie Williams, Brian Cook, Marcus Griffin and Cory Bradford, the Fighting Illini beat No. 16 Northwestern State; No. 9 Charlotte; No. 4 Kansas before falling in the regional final to No. 2 Arizona.
2006-07 Wisconsin: 30-6 overall; 13-3 Big Ten
This was Bo Ryan?s first terrific Badger team, claiming a No. 2 NCAA seed and reaching No. 1 in the AP poll in February with stars Alando Tucker, Kammron Taylor and Brian Butch. But Wisconsin didn?t even reach the Sweet 16, beating No. 15 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and then losing to No. 7 UNLV, coached by Lon Kruger. It was more of the same in 2007-08, when a 31-5 Wisconsin team (16-2 Big Ten) earned a No. 3 NCAA seed and lost in the Sweet 16 to No. 10 Davidson.
2010-11 Ohio State: 34-3; 16-2 Big Ten
This Thad Matta team glistened with talent, including the likes of Jared Sullinger, William Buford, Jon Diebler, David Lighty and heralded freshmen Aaron Craft and Deshaun Thomas. Ohio State was No. 1 in the AP poll for several weeks and earned a No. 1 NCAA seed in the East. The Buckeyes took care of No. 16 Texas-San Antonio and No. 8 George Mason before falling to No. 4 Kentucky in the Sweet 16.
2011-12 Michigan State: 29-8 overall; 13-5 Big Ten
Tom Izzo led his team to a No. 1 seed in the West, where the Spartans toppled No. 16 Long Island University and No. 9 Saint Louis. But Michigan State flamed out in the Sweet 16 vs. No. 4 Louisville with a roster highlighted by Draymond Green and Keith Appling.
2012-13 Indiana: 29-7 overall; 14-4 Big Ten
Tom Crean?s crew was loaded with talent, including Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo, Jordan Hulls, Christian Watford and Yogi Ferrell, and it was ranked No. 1 during the season en route to earning the top seed in the East. The Hoosiers beat No. 16 James Madison and No. 9 Temple before succumbing to No. 4 Syracuse in the Sweet 16. The program hasn't been the same since.
2013-14 Michigan: 28-9 overall; 15-3 Big Ten
John Beilein was coming off a trip to the national title game the year before. Now, as a No. 2 seed in the Midwest, the Big Ten champ Wolverines looked primed for more with the likes of Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III, Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton leading the way. Michigan beat No. 15 Wofford; No. 7 Texas; No. 11 Tennessee before losing to No. 8 Kentucky in the regional final.
|About Tom Dienhart||BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.|
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