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The Last Time Every Big Ten Men’s Basketball Team took Down #1

In honor of Purdue v. Arizona, a look back at previous upsets of #1

Purdue v Northwestern Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Tomorrow your favorite Big Ten team, the Purdue Boilermakers, plays the #1 Arizona Wildcats in Indianapolis. On Peacock.

Playing #1 is special. Those games take on a different atmosphere. The players and fans have more energy. Coaches pull out all the stops. Players that can only score 5 points against Detroit Mercy drop 30+ and play out of their minds.

It’s a difficult task to knock down #1. These teams are ranked 1st in the country for a reason. Saturday, Purdue will look to take down #1 for the first time in a long time. With that in mind, I figured I would be interesting to look at the last instance every Big Ten team took down AP #1. Feel free to double check my work and tell me what I got wrong.

Northwestern Wildcats - December 1, 2023

92-88 over Purdue Boilermakers in OT - Welsh-Ryan Arena
Purdue v Northwestern
Boilermaker killer
Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Two weeks ago, Northwestern kicked off conference season by beating the Boilermakers in overtime. Despite 35 points from Boilermaker center Zach Edey and foul trouble for Northwestern’s entire front court, the Wildcats were able to pull off the upset. Boo Buie, Ryan Langborg, and Ty Berry had great games and 10 of 20 shooting from three didn’t hurt either. Depressingly, this marks the second consecutive season that Northwestern has knocked off #1 and gotten to rush the court. Does this mean good things for Northwestern? The results of other teams below suggest maybe, but maybe not.

Indiana Hoosiers - February 4, 2023

79-74 over Purdue Boilermakers - Assembly Hall
COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 04 Purdue at Indiana Photo by Brian Spurlock/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This article may have been a terrible idea. Behind the unstoppable play of Jalen Hood-Schifino and heroics of Trayce Jackson-Davis, the Hoosiers beat their rival Purdue last season. The Hoosiers knocked down mid range twos all day and forced Purdue into 16 turnovers to pull off the upset. The Hoosiers ended the season with a Round of 32 loss. Purdue lost in the 1st Round. No, I don’t want to talk about it.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights - January 2, 2023

65-64 over Purdue Boilermakers - Mackey Arena
Rutgers v Purdue Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Maybe it isn’t that difficult to beat #1? Purdue had fought back from a 10 point deficit at the half to take a two point lead on a three pointer with 30 seconds to go. Fortunately for the Scarlet Knights, Cam Spencer made a three pointer of his own with 14 seconds to go and Rutgers held on to secure their second consecutive victory over a #1 ranked Purdue. Yes, I definitely don’t like this article anymore. Rutgers would fail to make the NCAA tournament due to their awful non-conference schedule.

Ohio State Buckeyes - November 30, 2021

71-66 over Duke Blue Devils - Value City Arena
COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NOV 30 Duke at Ohio State Photo by Jason Mowry/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Big Ten-ACC challenge wasn’t a complete waste. It had moments like this. The Buckeyes came back from 13 down at the half and smothered Duke in the second half in front of a energetic home crowd. EJ Liddell put Ohio State in front with one minute remaining and the Buckeyes held Coach K’s final team scoreless for the final 4:29 of the game. The Buckeyes went on to lose as a 7 seed in the Round of 32 to Villanova. Coach K went out in the best possible way for neutral fans tired of watching ESPN worshipping him all season: losing to rival North Carolina in the Final 4.

Michigan State Spartans - March 31, 2019

68-67 over Duke Blue Devils - Capital One Arena
NCAA East Regional
February IZZO April
Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

We don’t call the month between February and April Izzo for nothing. Cassius Winston and Xavier Tillman led the Spartans to take down Zion Williamson and Coach K. ESPN was devastated after spending all season giving updates on Zion. Kenny Goins made a three pointer to take a two point lead with 39 seconds left. Despite the refs gifting Duke two free throws with six seconds remaining, RJ Barrett went just one of one from the line and Sparty was back in the Final Four. Michigan State went on to lose to Texas Tech.

Wisconsin Badgers - March 18, 2017

65-62 over Villanova Wildcats - KeyBank Center
Wisconsin v Villanova Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Wisconsin could have been at the top of this list, but they lost to Arizona last Saturday. Instead, we go back to their win over #1 ranked Villanova in the Round of 32 of the 2017 tournament. The Wildcats won the 2016 and 2018 tournaments, so the Badgers win was quite impressive. Nigel Hayes scored 17 points in the biggest win of Greg Gard’s career to date. The Badgers went on to lose in overtime of the Sweet 16.

Iowa Hawkeyes - December 29, 2015

83-70 over Michigan State Spartans - Carver-Hawkeye Arena
NCAA BASKETBALL: DEC 29 Michigan State at Iowa
Peter Jok
Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Iowa has lost their last two games against #1. However, while Fran McCaffery may never have won the Big Ten regular season or made a Sweet 16, he has beaten #1. Peter Jok had 23 points and Michigan State shot just 4 of 21 from behind the arc as Iowa ran them out of the building in the first half. Iowa went on to make the NCAA tournament as a 7 seed before falling to eventual national champion Villanova in the Round of 32. Michigan State fell to 15 seeded Middle Tennessee in their first round game.

Minnesota Golden Gophers - February 26, 2013

77-73 over Indiana Hoosiers - The House of Horrors Barn
NCAA Basketball: Indiana at Minnesota Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports

The coaching legend Tubby Smith helped the Gophers eke out a victory over the Hoosiers behind a 21 point, 12 rebound performance by Trevor Mbakwe. That was Mbakwe’s season high in scoring. The Gophers bullied Indiana on the boards and pulled out the victory largely due to their 23 offensive rebounds. Minnesota would go on to lose as an 11 seed in the Round of 32 to Florida. Indiana didn’t prepare for Syracuse to play a zone and fell in the Sweet 16.

Illinois Fighting Illini - February 7, 2013

74-72 over Indiana Hoosiers - Assembly Hall (Illinois version)
NCAA Basketball: Indiana at Illinois
Probably should have guarded him
Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports

No, the Illini exhibition win over #1 Kansas this October doesn’t count. Instead we have to go back over a decade to John Groce’s signature Illini victory which came over Tom Crean’s Hoosiers. This was actually the most recent game by Illinois vs. #1. The Illini weren’t great that year, but despite Indiana shooting 52.9% from three and outrebounding the Illini, Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson were able to lead their team to victory. Tied with 0.9 seconds on the clock, the Illini ran a baseline out of bounds play to get a wide-open layup look for Tyler Griffey and secure the victory. Illinois somehow made the tournament as a 7 seed despite a 8-10 conference record and fell in the Round of 32 to Miami Florida.

Maryland Terrapins - January 19, 2008

82-80 over North Carolina Tarheels - Dean Smith Center
NCAA Basketball: Maryland at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

It was a simpler time. Maryland was still in the ACC. The Big Ten logo was still the greatest logo ever. The Terrapin’s Bambale Osby scored with 21 seconds remaining to grab the lead and hand UNC the loss on their home floor. Unfortunately for fans of the turtles, the S.S. Ugly Flag ran aground in February sending Maryland to the NIT. UNC meanwhile went all the way to the Final Four before getting stomped by Kansas.

Purdue Boilermakers - November 25, 2000

72-69 over Arizona Wildcats - Conseco Fieldhouse (Indianapolis)
Arizona v Purdue X Gardner

Well, that’s interesting. That last time Purdue played #1 Arizona, they beat them. In Indianapolis. Where they play the current #1 Arizona tomorrow. Do with this information what you will.

Brett Buscher blocked Lamont Frazier’s drive with 7 seconds remaining leading to a breakaway layup by Willie Deane to extend the lead to three. Arizona missed their shot at the buzzer to tie. That Purdue team headed towards the NIT, while Arizona lost in the national championship game to Duke.

Michigan Wolverines - December 13, 1997

81-73 over Duke Blue Devils - Crisler Arena
Robert Traylor
Duke is Duke...

How did Beilein never take down #1? It’s been 26 years since Michigan last took down #1, although they’ve had more than their share of chances since then. Back during my elementary school days, Michigan overcame a 17 point deficit against Duke to hand the Blue Devils their first loss of the season. The Wolverines had fired head coach Steve Fisher a month before the season and he made his first appearance at Crisler since the firing for this game. Robert Traylor scored 24 points and Louis Bullock added 23 of his own. The Wolverines would make the 1998 tournament as a 3 seed and lose in the Round of 32 to UCLA. Of course the official record books have their record as 0-8 (0-5). Duke made the Elite 8 before losing to national champion Kentucky.

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Nebraska Cornhuskers - December 12, 1964

74-73 over Michigan Wolverines - Nebraska Coliseum
John Wooden Holding a Basketball
Look, I couldn’t find any photos of the 1964-65 Nebraska basketball team. Enjoy John Wooden holding the brand of basketball we should be using in the NCAA tournament.

During the 1989-90 season, Nebraska played #1 four times. They lost all four. Now, it’s completely possible I missed a victory over AP #1 for Nebraska. There were a lot of seasons I looked through and I make mistakes. Nebraska does have at least one though. Fred Hare scored the game winning basket by tossing the basketball over his head with 9 seconds to go in a move that previewed his future Harlem Globetrotter stint. Nebraska did not beat Michigan again until 2018. Nebraska finished 9-15. Michigan only lost three more games that season, won the Big Ten, and made it to the national championship game when they lost to John Wooden’s UCLA.

Penn State Nittany Lions - NEVER

Penn State University vs Temple University

Well, I wasn’t expecting that. The AP poll has been running since the 1948–49 season. During that time, the Nittany Lions are 0-for. They have had a few close calls over the years. Penn State led #1 Purdue last season 37-31 at the half and fell at #1 Temple in 1988 by a score of 49-50.