As we move through the 1970s on Pac-12 Friday while looking at B1G basketball, it’s important to remember that the decade was dominated by the UCLA Bruins on the national level—but that does not mean the Midwest rivals of the Conference of Champions didn’t have some very good teams. In fact? Well, we don’t want to spoil it for you, but the B1G was pretty good, too.
Read on to see just how good the B1G was at basketball in the 1970s …
Honorable Mention: 1971 Ohio State Buckeyes (20-6)
The Buckeyes rolled through the B1G schedule with a 13-1 record, on their way to winning the league title. But Ohio State struggled against ranked teams all year, losing their first three games against ranked opponents before breaking through in late February with a victory over No. 12 Michigan. The Buckeyes definitely peaked with a victory in the regional semifinals of March Madness with a one-point win over No. 2 Marquette. Alas, No. 10 Ohio State couldn’t maintain the momentum, losing to No. 7 Western Kentucky in overtime.
10. 1974 Michigan Wolverines (22-5)
Finishing the season ranked No. 6, the Wolverines posted a 12-2 record in league play to tie for the B1G title. Michigan started the reason unranked, and after losing to UCLA by 20 points at the end of December, that seemed about right for the Wolverines. After that, Michigan went on a 13-2 streak right into the NCAA Tournament, where it beat No. 3 Notre Dame before losing to No. 7 Marquette in the regional finals.
9. 1970 Iowa Hawkeyes (20-5)
Finishing the B1G slate with a perfect 14-0 record propelled the Hawkeyes to a No. 7 finish in the SRS and a No. 7 ranking in the final poll. Iowa was just 3-4 when the conference season started in January, and then the Hawkeyes really took off. But the momentum was smacked down in an opening round loss in March Madness to No. 4 Jacksonville, a team that would go all the way to the title game against UCLA before losing. However, Iowa recovered to win the regional consolation game against No. 9 Notre Dame (when they still played those).
8. 1978 Michigan State Spartans (25-5)
This was the freshman season for Magic Johnson, and the Spartans took advantage. Combining a 15-1 start with a 15-3 conference record for the B1G title, Michigan State rolled into the NCAA Tournament with a 23-4 record and a No. 6 ranking. After beating two unranked teams to reach the regional final against No. 1 Kentucky, the Spartans ran out of gas, losing by three points. A No. 5 finish in the SRS and a No. 4 finish in the AP poll was nice for MSU, which started the season unranked.
7. 1973 Indiana Hoosiers (22-6)
Somehow, this group started the season unranked before making an impressive run to the Final Four, losing to eventual champion UCLA. The Hoosiers went 11-3 in conference play and entered the Big Dance ranked No. 6 in the country. In the regionals, though, Indiana knocked off No. 5 Marquette and No. 17 Kentucky to reach the national semifinals. After losing to the No. 1 Bruins, the Hoosiers won the third-place game over No. 4 Providence by 18 points to finish the season on a high note and No. 6 overall in the SRS, too.
6. 1977 Michigan Wolverines (26-4)
Probably the most unsung squad on this list, the Wolverines finished the regular season ranked No. 1—but failed to make the Final Four while ending up just 7th in the SRS. A 16-2 conference mark secured Michigan the B1G title, and the Wolverines won their first two games of the NCAA Tournament to reach the regional final. But there, Michigan shot just 40.5 percent from the floor and 57.1 percent from the free-throw line in a shocking 75-68 loss to No. 17 Charlotte of the Sun Belt Conference.
5. 1974 Indiana Hoosiers (23-5)
This was the last season where only one team from each conference was invited to the Big Dance, as the Hoosiers tied for the B1G title with a 12-2 record—but lost out on the NCAA bid to a sabermetrically inferior Michigan team (see above). Indiana ended up winning the NCIT instead, with three victories in a row, including the final one over No. 15 USC. Overall, the Hoosiers finished No. 7 in the SRS and No. 9 in the poll.
4. 1976 Michigan Wolverines (25-7)
The Wolverines finished second in the B1G with a 14-4 mark in conference play, but they made it all the way to the NCAA Championship Game nonetheless. Three of Michigan’s losses during the year came against No. 1 Indiana (see below), including the title game defeat. Finishing 4th in the SRS and 9th in the AP poll, however, weren’t bad consolation prizes for the Wolverines. The rough part was that after losing the first two games to the Hoosiers by six points and five points, respectively, the finale was a blowout, 18-point loss for Michigan.
3. 1979 Michigan State Spartans (26-6)
This is the first of two national champions on our list, and the championship game itself pitted Magic against Larry Bird in the famous matchup that put college basketball on the map, allegedly (as if it wasn’t there already?). MSU did finish just No. 3 in the AP poll at the end of the regular season before winning the title, although the SRS had the Spartans at No. 1 nonetheless. MSU beat four ranked teams consecutively on its way to the NCAA championship: No. 7 LSU, No. 4 Notre Dame, No. 14 Penn, and No. 1 Indiana State.
2. 1976 Indiana Hoosiers (32-0)
This is the last undefeated basketball team in men’s college history, and it only finishes second on our list for the decade. Shocker, really. The Hoosiers went wire-to-wire as the No. 1 team in the polls, and they finished No. 1 in the SRS as well. Indiana won each game by an average of 17.3 points, and the closest call came against Ohio State in conference play on the road (66-64), as the Hoosiers went 11-0 in games decided by single digits. This concluded a four-year stretch where Indiana went 108-12 but only won a single NCAA title.
1. 1975 Indiana Hoosiers (31-1)
Yes, this team was actually quite better, sabermetrically speaking, than the undefeated team the following year. Indiana went 29-0 during the regular season, holding down the No. 1 ranking in the polls from January 7 on. The Hoosiers then beat No. 17 UTEP and No. 13 Oregon State to reach the regional final against No. 5 Kentucky, where a painful two-point loss ended Indiana’s season just short of the Final Four. The Hoosiers still finished No. 1 overall in the SRS, but they ended up No. 3 in the last AP poll of the season.