As fans of 13 teams try to process treating Michigan as the Big Ten’s only hope (or rooting for their demise), a moment’s sober reflection reminds us that it’s been nearly 21 years since Michigan State hoisted the last NCAA championship trophy won by a B1G school. This represents a conference-wide failing (or cause for joy that every other school has failed as much as ours has at grabbing the ultimate prize this millennium). No matter if you roll with conference pride, or only care about your school, let’s seek out a little catharsis.
And what’s more cathartic than a countdown of suckitude? We can make fun of schools that have barely had an impact in March, AND those that have had plenty of success in the Big Dance, only to come up short time and again.
The rankings will proceed according to number of NCAA tournament wins since the last B1G title (i.e., starting with the 2000-2001 season). However, since I am an old man and want to yell at clouds, I will also include fictionalized quotes from a “get off my lawn” colleague who will remind you of how much better things were (including B1G hoops) in the good ‘ol days. [e.g., Did you know the that in the first 15 years after John Wooden retired and the remorseless Sam Gilbert-financed machine that was UCLA lost steam, the Big Ten won the NCAA title 5 different times? And have only grabbed one title in the 30 years after that? For shame.]
Part 1 will start with the truly deprived of success:
14. Nebraska Cornhuskers: 0 wins since 2000
That Nebraska has never won an NCAA tournament game is well known, so to focus solely on post-2000 ineptitude is really insufficient. The 0-7 all-time record has all come since 1985 and featured four consecutive first round exits from ‘91-’94. Seriously, what is Nebraska’s greatest achievement in their basketball history?
- Earning a 3-seed in 1991 (whereupon they lost to 14-seed Xavier)?
- Winning the Big Eight tournament in 1994 (and then losing to 11-seed Penn in the first round)?
- The NIT title in 1996?
- Husker alum Tyronn Lue coaching the Cavaliers to an NBA title in 2016?
- The other moment everybody remembers about Tyronn Lue?
Thinking out loud here: Is Eric Piatkowski (‘91-’94) the only major conference player in history to sport an 0-4 NCCA Tournament record? I mean, plenty of mid-majors have probably made 4 straight appearances as 13/14 seeds and got sent home in the first round each year, but it’s pretty impressive for a power conference team to be good enough to make the tournament four straight years, but to lose their first game each time.
Get Off My Lawn: Back in the 80s, the Big Eight conference was really damn fun. Nobody gave a shit about defense, and hero ball ruled. Check this out: only 74 players have ever scored 2,500 points in their college career. https://www.sports-reference.com/cbb/leaders/pts-player-career.html
Most of them weren’t in major conference, and only two played in the B1G: Calbert Cheaney and Shawn Respert. But in ‘84-’85 FOUR of people on the list were in the Big Eight at the same time. Wayman Tisdale only played 3 years (and, unlike Maravich, his dad wasn’t his coach) and he still scored almost 2,700 points. Everybody knows about Manning. But Grayer and Chievous were fun as hell to watch, too.
What? Oh. We’re talking about Nebraska? Yeah, they used to be in the Big Eight. They were usually better than Colorado, I guess.
Greatest Nebraska accomplishment?
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Big Eight tournament champs 1994, baby!
Only 12 teams get a 3-seed of higher. Don’t knock it.
t-12. Northwestern Wildcats: 1 win since 2000
You’re Northwestern, so you’re not going to throw back the 2017 victory over Vanderbilt to notch an NCAA tournament win in, to date, your only NCAA appearance. Do I HAVE to point out that Vandy had 15 regular season losses that year? Or that Vandy’s BEST season since 2017 was a 12-20 campaign? No. But it sure beats pointing out that, from 1970-present, Northwestern has exactly three seasons with fewer than 10 conference losses, doesn’t it? Or that Northwestern has never had an NBA first-round draft pick. I mean, Rex Walters booked it out of Evanston for Kansas after his sophomore year, so you could claim that, I guess (did you know Joe Burrow started off at Ohio State?).
That’s all I have. The shine from 2017 is long gone. Is it even fun to beat up on NW any more?
Get Off My Lawn: People forget, but Northwestern was well on their way to notching their first tournament bid back in 1999. Evan Eschmeyer was a senior and headed to his third straight first-team all-B1G season. Dude could ball. Averaged a double-double as a junior and senior. Got to the line a ton, and senior year hit 76% from the line. Imagine Ethan Happ, but some FT touch. With his game, he really should’ve been a Badger. Then again, in 1999 NW was coached by Kevin O’Neill (who also had a stint at Marquette, making MNW the Kevin O’Neill of college sports fandom) and NW played an even slower tempo that year than the Dick Bennett-helmed Badgers.
Where was I...oh yeah, NW should’ve made the tournament that year. Which would’ve been really impressive because the B1G was loaded in 1999. Seven teams got bids, conference won 13 games in the NCAA tournament and both MSU and OSU made the Final Four.
All the same, there’s NW, sitting at 14-6/6-4 with really good wins @Minnesota and vs. Purdue already banked. Alas, it was typical Northwestern all along. They dropped their last six regular season games, and a gut-punch of a 61-59 loss to Sparty in the B1G quarters left them at 15-13/6-10. No bid for the Wildcats. The only parting gift was a first round NIT matchup with DePaul at the legendary Rosemont Horizon. DePaul won. In 1999-2000, Northwestern went 5-25/0-16. Meaning Kevin O’Neill finished his time at NW on a 6-33 stretch with wins over Penn State, Chicago State, Nicholls State, Jacksonville, Western Carolina, and Rice. Woof.
You get a little too far out over your skis in the post-Covid world, so desperate for socializing that you agree to take in a Northwestern hoops game. Realizing your error, what is the most appropriate piece of pleasure reading to bring along?
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Misery, by Stephen King
The 120 Days of Sodom, by the Marquis de Sade
1040 and 1040-SR Instructions for Tax Year 2020, by the IRS
Printed out copy of the "Our History" section of the Medill School of Journalism webpage
t-12. Rutgers Scarlet Knights: 1 win since 2000
Yes, we know. You’re on the opposite trajectory of Northwestern. That win was this year, you almost beat a Final Four team, and you were likely even better last year. Great job!
So...you blow a 9 point lead with less than 5 minutes to play (KenPom win probability: 89.3%), you finish the regular season tied with a profoundly disappointing Wisconsin team, and you lose to Nebraska by 21 (!!!) in the month of March, and this is your BEST season in 40 years or so? I get it, you’re a football school right?
Get Off My Lawn: Prior to this year, Rutgers’s last NCAA appearance was in 1991, and they acquitted themselves fine, losing 79-76 to Arizona State (coached by former Michigan Wolverines head man Bill Frieder) in an 8/9 game. Let’s pour a little out for the old Atlantic 10 conference, and its 1991 version in particular. Rutgers won the regular season crown with a 14-4 record despite starting off 1-2. Penn State won the conference tournament, then pulled a 13/4 upset over UCLA (playing the game in Syracuse helped, I’m sure). And Temple made the Elite Eight, losing a close 75-72 showdown with UNC, as Mark Macon closed out his fabled career.
What "classic" CBB arena is actually the biggest dump?
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The Palestra (Penn)
Williams Arena (Minnesota)
The "RAC" (Rutgers)
Wait, the RAC was built in the 70s?!?!?! Give me a break.