Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, March 30, 2015
Four college hoops teams are left standing-and two of them are from the Big Ten: Wisconsin and Michigan State.
The fact the No. 1-seeded Badgers are headed to Indianapolis for the Final Four isn?t a shock. But to see the No. 7 Spartans at the party is a bit of a surprise.
Regardless, the presence of two Big Ten teams got me thinking of the other seven times the conference has had two Final Four squads. No other conference has done it as often, with the ACC second with five such occasions.
2005 Final Four, St. Louis: Illinois and Michigan State
Illinois was the top-seeded team in the tourney, arriving in St. Louis for the Final Four with a 36-1 record, the lone loss coming at Ohio State by one point in the Big Ten regular-season finale. Bruce Weber?s team was led by Deron Williams, Luther Head, Dee Brown and James Augustine, among others. The Illini downed No. 16 Fairleigh Dickson, No. 9 Nevada, No. 12 UW-Milwaukee and No. 3 Arizona to reach St. Louis. There, the Fighting Illini met No. 4 Louisville in the national semifinals, beating the Cardinals 72-57. That set up a clash with No. 1 North Carolina for the championship, which the Tar Heels won 75-70.
Michigan State came to the Gateway City with a 26-6 mark and a No. 5 seed led by Maurice Ager, Alan Anderson, Paul Davis and Shannon Brown. This was Tom Izzo?s fourth trip to the Final Four, having won it all in 2000. The Spartans beat No. 12 Old Dominion, No. 13 Vermont, No. 1 Duke and No. 2 Kentucky to reach the Final Four, falling to No. 1 North Carolina on Saturday, 87-71, in the national semifinals.
2000 Final Four, Indianapolis: Michigan State and Wisconsin
Led by Morris Peterson, Charlie Bell, Andre Hutson, A.J. Granger and Mateen Cleaves, Michigan State was in the Final Four for the second season in a row. This edition of the Spartans was a No. 1 seed in the Midwest-and No. 1 overall–beating No. 16 Valparaiso, No. 8 Utah, No. 4 Syracuse and No. 2 Iowa State to reach the RCA Dome. Waiting for Michigan State was Wisconsin, a surprise team as the No. 8 seed in the West, marking the last time teams from the Big Ten played each other in the Final Four. The Spartans won that game, 53-41, before downing No. 5 Florida, 89-76, in the national title game. This is the last time the Big Ten won a national championship, as Cleaves was the Most Outstanding Player.
Dick Bennett guided his Badgers to the program?s first Final Four since winning it all in 1941, beating No. 9 Fresno State, No. 1 Arizona, No. 4 LSU and No. 6 Purdue to reach the Final Four with a 22-13 record.
1999 Final Four, St. Petersburg, Fla.: Michigan State and Ohio State
Michigan State was a No. 1 seed in the Midwest, bringing a 33-4 mark to the Final Four in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. The Spartans beat No. 16 Mount St. Mary?s, No. 9 Ole Miss, No. 13 Oklahoma and No. 3 Kentucky to reach the summit of the sport. MSU was propelled by Mo Peterson, Mateen Cleaves, Jason Klein, Andre Hutson and Charlie Bell. This was MSU?s first Final Four since the 1979 national title season. Alas, the Spartans fell a game short of playing for the title, losing 68-62 to No. 1 Duke-the top seed in the tourney-in the national semifinals.
Coached by Jim O?Brien with stars like Michael Redd, Scoonie Penn, Jason Singleton and Ken Johnson, Ohio State was a No. 4 seed in the South. The Buckeyes beat No. 13 Murray State, No. 12 Detroit Mercy, No. 1 Auburn and No. 3 St. John?s to reach the Final Four for the first time since 1968. OSU lost to No. 1 UConn, 64-58, in the national semifinals. UConn would go on to beat Duke for the crown.
1992 Final Four, Minneapolis: Indiana and Michigan
This was the nation?s introduction to Michigan?s ?Fab Five.? And, it was spectacular for Steve Fisher?s squad. Freshmen Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson helped the Wolverines earn a No. 6 seed in the Southeast. Michigan arrived at the Final Four with a 24-8 mark, beating No. 11 Temple, No. 14 East Tennessee State, No. 2 Oklahoma State and No. 1 Ohio State. The Wolverines then topped No. 4 Cincinnati in the national semifinals before losing to No. 1 Duke, 71-51, in the title game in the Metrodome. It was the Blue Devils? second national title in a row.
Indiana had a talented team led by Calbert Cheaney, Greg Graham, Damon Bailey and Alan Henderson. The Hoosiers got to the Final Four with a 27-6 record as a No. 2 seed in the West, beating No. 15 Eastern Illinois, No. 7 LSU, No. 3 Florida State and No. 1 UCLA along the way. Indiana fell to No. 1 Duke in the national semifinals.
1989 Final Four, Seattle: Illinois and Michigan
Michigan was loaded with the likes of Glen Rice, Rumeal Robinson, Loy Vaught, Terry Mills and Sean Higgins. And the big storyline was Steve Fisher taking over as ?interim? head coach after Bill Frieder was fired by A.D. Bo Schembechler after Frieder announced he would be taking the Arizona State job following the season. Fisher coached this team all the way to the national championship, beating No. 14 Xavier, No. 11 South Alabama, No. 2 North Carolina and No. 5 Virginia prior to arriving in the Kingdome for the Final Four as the No. 3 seed in the Southeast.
The Wolverines took a 28-7 mark into a game vs. No. 1 seed Illinois in the national semifinals, seizing an 83-81 decision vs. Lou Henson?s famed ?Flyin? Illini? squad paced by Nick Anderson, Kenny Battle, Lowell Hamilton, Kendall Gill, Marcus Liberty and Stephen Bardo. Illinois was 31-4 when it got to the Final Four, beating No. 16 McNeese State, No. 9 Ball State, No. 4 Louisville and No. 2 Syracuse.
Michigan went on to beat No. 3 Seton Hall, 80-79, to win the national championship.
1980 Final Four, Indianapolis: Purdue and Iowa
Purdue was led by Lee Rose, who guided the Boilermakers to a No. 6 seed in the Mideast and arrived in Market Square Arena for the Final Four with a 22-9 record in what then was a 48-team tourney. Purdue was led by Joe Barry Carroll, Keith Edmonson, Drake Morris and Arnette Hallman. The Boilers beat No. 11 LaSalle, No. 3 St. John?s, No. 2 Indiana and No. 4 Duke before falling to No. 8 UCLA in the national semifinals, 67-62.
Lute Olson?s Iowa club was a No. 5 seed in the East, led by Kenny Arnold, Steve Krafcisin, Kevin Boyle, Vince Brookins and Ronnie Lester. The Hawkeyes brought a 22-9 record to the Final Four after topping No. 12 VCU, No. 4 N.C. State, No. 1 Syracuse and No. 3 Georgetown before losing to No. 2 Louisville in the national semifinals, 80-72. The Cardinals? ?Doctors of Dunk? would go on to beat UCLA for the title.
Ironically, this was the last time a third-place consolation game was played, as Purdue beat Iowa, 75-58, in what is considered the first tourney of the modern era.
1976 Final Four, Philadelphia: Indiana and Michigan
Indiana made history, capping a perfect season by beating Michigan. This is the last time two Big Ten teams met for the national championship. It?s also the last time a team has gone unbeaten.
Bob Knight?s Hoosiers came to the Final Four in the Spectrum with a 30-0 mark, beating St. John?s, Alabama and Marquette in what then was a 32-team tourney in which schools weren?t seeded. IU beat UCLA in the national semifinals and then topped Michigan, 86-68, in the title tilt. This iconic Hoosiers team was led by Scott May, Kent Benson, Tom Abernathy, Bobby Wilkerson and Quinn Buckner. Benson was named Most Outstanding Player.
Johnny Orr?s Michigan club brought a 24-6 record to the Final Four, beating Wichita State, Notre Dame and Missouri. In the Final Four, the Wolverines-led by Rickey Green, Phil Hubbard, John Robinson, Wayman Britt and Steve Grote–topped unbeaten Rutgers before falling to Indiana.
|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.|