The Big Ten’s big drought
Graphics by Rahul Mukherjee
A Big Ten team hasn’t cut down the nets since 2000, when a young Tom Izzo led Mateen Cleaves and the Spartans to the title. Six times in this millennium, a Big Ten team has lost in the championship game. The Big Ten, it seems, can no longer win The Big One. Here’s a look at how Big Ten teams have fared in the NCAA tournaments of the 2000s:
How to read our graphs
Each graph below represents a single year of NCAA tournament play, dating back to 2000. Each graph has 14 slices, one for each Big Ten team. Segments in each slice represent how far a team advanced in the tournament. Faded-out slices indicate teams not yet in the Big Ten.
(Graph above does not represent any particlar year).
Michigan State entered as the No. 1 team and left as the No. 1 team, thanks to the stellar play of Mateen Cleaves and Morris Peterson. Wisconsin advanced to its first Final Four in 59 years as an 8 seed.
Michigan State made it back to the Final Four, but Duke would cut down the nets inside the Metrodome. Illinois was a 1 seed but lost in the regional final.
The Big Ten could cheat and take credit for Maryland’s 2002 title, but the Terps were in the ACC then. Mike Davis coached Indiana to the title game, losing to their eventual conference opponent.
2003 wasn’t a good year for the Big Ten, with Michigan State the only team doing damage. The Spartans lost in the regional final to Texas. Wisconsin pushed Kentucky the Sweet 16 before losing.
And if we thought 2003 was bad, this was worse. Only three teams made the tourney, and Illinois' 10-point loss to Duke in the Sweet 16 was the, uh, highlight.
A bounce-back year for the Big Ten, with both Michigan State and Illinois making the Final Four. The Illini, the top overall seed, lost in the title game to North Carolina, which had beat Wisconsin in the regional final.
The good news: six Big Ten teams made the tournament. The bad news: They all were eliminated in the first weekend. George Mason’s Final Four run started with an upset of Michigan State.
In a rematch of sorts of the BCS Championship Game, Florida beat Ohio State in the title game. (The Gators beat the Buckeyes for the football title in January.)
Another unmemorable tournament for the Big Ten. Wisconsin was the only team with a top-4 seed, and it was upset by Davidson in the Sweet 16. Some kid named Stephen Curry scored 33 points in that one.
Michigan State nearly won it all in their home state, but Roy Williams’ Tar Heels cut the nets in Detroit. Of the seven Big Ten teams, the Spartans were the only ones to win more than twice.
Three teams – Michigan State, Ohio State and Purdue – all made the Sweet 16, and the Spartans made the Final Four before losing to Butler.
Seven Big Ten teams made it, and 1 seed Ohio State and 4 seed Wisconsin both made it to the Sweet 16 before losing to Kentucky and Butler, respectively.
Ohio State was one of four teams from Ohio to make the Sweet 16, and the Buckeyes advanced to the Final Four before losing to Kansas by two points.
The banner has been stripped by the NCAA, but Rick Pitino and Louisville did beat Michigan for the title in 2013. Minnesota won once before losing, and Tubby Smith lost his job.
Wisconsin returned to the Final Four but lost by one to Kentucky. The Wildcats got their by ending Michigan's season in the regional final.
Tyus Jones beat the Badgers in the title game. Wisconsin got there by dispatching undefeated Kentucky. Michigan State came up one W short of joining them in the Final Four.
Maryland lost in the Sweet 16 for the second consecutive year, and that’s where Wisconsin and Indiana fell as well. Kris Jenkins’ memorable three won it for Villanova a week later.
Minnesota and Maryland lost in the first round, but five other Big Ten teams won at least one game. Michigan and Wisconsin lost tight games in the Sweet 16, while Purdue was blown out by Kansas.