March Memories--Bottoming Out in the mid-90's


Chris Webber declared for the draft and Calbert Cheaney graduated, but Indiana and Michigan were still good teams. However, each was upstaged by the most exciting Purdue Boilermaker in the 50 years between Rick Mount and Carsen Edwards: Glenn "Big Dog" Robinson.

Robinson averaged 30 ppg and 10 rbg this season and won national POY honors. Purdue won @Michigan in the penultimate regular season game (avenging an earlier home loss to the Wolverines), allowing them to finish a game ahead of Michigan and outright champs. Indiana was a game behind Michigan in sole possession of 3rd. More on each of these team in a second.

The four other Big Ten teams to qualify all fell in the opening weekend. Illinois (8) lost its opener to Georgetown(9), Michigan State (7) lost in the second round to Duke (2) after beating Seton Hall (10), Minnesota (6) fell to Louisville (3) in the second round after beating Southern Illinois (11) in the first round, and Wisconsin (9), making its first tournament appearance since the 1940's (!) knocked off Cincinnati (8) in the first round before losing 109-96 (!!) to top-seeded Missouri in the second round (Michael Finley had 36 in a losing cause).

The Big Ten's top three finishers each made the Sweet 16, but none could make the Final Four. Indiana (5), having beaten Ohio (12) and Temple (4) was handed a huge break when Boston College (9) knocked off overall #1 North Carolina in the second round.

However, Indiana couldn't handle BC either, falling 77-68. BC was 10-16 from 3, and attempted 17 more FTs than Indiana. This was Indiana's last Sweet 16 appearance under Bobby Knight.

Michigan reached the Elite 8 sans Webber, thanks in part to their half of the bracket opening up (yet again). The 3-seed Wolverines held on for a 4 point OT win over Pepperdine (14), then defeated Texas (6) in the second round. In the Sweet 16, they met 10-seed Maryland (who had knocked off 2-seed UMass) and won by 7.

In the Elite 8, however, Arkansas (1), the eventual national champion, was waiting. The Razorbacks won by eight--76-68--but Michigan had the ball, down three, in the Final minute. I wasn't a fan of the Fab Five at the time, but I will always remember this game featuring a proud 30 pt, 13 reb performance from Juwan Howard. Arkansas entered the game 28-3 and had spent most of the year at #1, but they couldn't stop Howard. Still, they were very deep, and the better team overall.

Purdue's dream season ended in the Elite 8 in a 1 vs. 2 matchup vs. Duke. Purdue was the top seed, but Duke hounded Robinson into a 6-22 performance and the Boilers fell 69-60 (want to guess which team shot 26 FTs and which one shot 5?). To reach the Elite 8, Purdue registered wins vs. Central Florida (16), Alabama (9), and Kansas (4). The 83-78 win over the Jayhawks saw Robinson and Cuonzo Martin combine for 73 of Purdue's 83 points (including a combined 14-23 from 3), with 44 coming from Robinson.

It was a memorable performance:

Nationally, there weren't a ton of buzzer beaters in this tournament, but Arkansas's national title win over Duke was tied at 70 going into the last minute when this happened:


The Big Ten sucked. Six teams made the tournament. They went a collective 1-6. Congrats to conference champion Purdue (3) on beating 14-seed UW-Green Bay (coached by Dick Bennett) 49-48. That barely deserves mention. Nobody else deserves mention.

Let's move onto the most iconic moment from the '95 tournament.

Tyus Edney, everyone:

That was eventual nation champion UCLA surviving a second-round scare against 8-seed Missouri. UCLA also played in the game of the tournament, a 102-96 Elite 8 win over Ray Allen and UConn, but I couldn't find video of that.


Guess what? The Big Ten sucked. Again. Ever so slightly less. This time the conference mustered TWO wins, going 2-5. Iowa (6) rallied from 73-56 down to knock off George Washington (11) 81-79, but why are you falling behind an 11 seed by 17 in the first place? Anyway, Arizona thrashed them in the second round.

Purdue finished off perhaps the hollowest three-peat in history, by turning their 1-seed into a 73-71 win over 16-seed Western Carolina, then fell to 8-seed Georgia in the second round.

In all honesty this was as unsurprising as an 8 over 1 win could be. Purdue was one of the worst 1-seeds ever (at the time, there was widespread agreement that Kansas should've gotten the last 1-seed; they were the 2-seed in Purdue's region), and Georgia was grievously under-seeded (the SEC may not have been the best conference overall, but they were top-heavy as all four of their tournament teams made the Sweet 16, and two made the Final Four). Georgia was up 13 by halftime and coasted to the win.

Add it up, and in what is, BY FAR, the worst two-year stretch in modern Big Ten history, the conference went 3-11 in tournament play with the three wins coming against teams seeded 11, 14, and 16, and coming by a TOTAL of 5 points. Take a freakin' bow.

Overall, the '96 tournament was a bit anti-climactic. Kentucky had a historically great team and was the prohibitive favorite. They were pushed a bit in their Final Four matchup vs. UMass, but were never on the ropes.

I refuse to link to any Big Ten-related videos so these two great moments will have to do.

#1: Defending champions UCLA stunned by Princeton and Pete Carrill's methodical offense:

#2: Syracuse/Georgia in the Sweet 16. Perhaps the most frenetic closing 20 seconds you'll ever see (it's 78-78 when the video starts):