We have reached the 1990s for B1G basketball here on Pac-12 Friday, and it was a rough decade for the conference formerly known as the Western Conference. A few schools landed themselves in NCAA hot water, meaning there were a lot of “adjusted” records after wins were vacated due to official sanctions. We debated whether or not to rank the “cheating” teams, and we decided to do so—with special notations (see below).
No NCAA champions on this list, but there are still a lot of great teams to revisit nonetheless!
Honorable Mention: 1990 Michigan State Spartans (28-6)
This group famously was ousted via officiating error in the Sweet 16 against Georgia Tech, but the Spartans finished No. 3 in the Associated Press poll nonetheless after winning their final 10 regular-season games in a row to claim the B1G title with a 15-3 conference mark. In fact, the officiating blunder was so bad, “This game, more than any other, led college basketball to adopt the reforms you see today, with tenths of seconds on the game clock and the red light to aid officials in making endgame shot calls.”
10. 1998 Michigan State Spartans (22-8)
This was the squad that launched the Spartans onto the national scene under Tom Izzo. Starting with this team, MSU has not missed the NCAA Tournament since. The No. 16 Spartans tied for the B1G title with a 13-3 conference mark and reached the Sweet 16 after beating No. 8 Princeton in the second round. Alas, MSU lost to No. 1 North Carolina at that point to end the season with the 12th-toughest SOS in the nation, beginning another trend under Izzo of playing notoriously difficult schedules.
9. 1991 Ohio State Buckeyes (27-4)
With a 15-3 record, the Buckeyes won the B1G, and then they advanced to the Sweet 16 as the No. 5 team in the nation. Ohio State started out by winning its first 17 games, before standing at 25-1 with two road games left in conference play. The Buckeyes, having already clinched the league title, lost both those games to drop from No. 2 in the polls. That may not have been the best strategy, as Ohio State then went down hard to No. 20 St. John’s in the Sweet 16, played in Detroit in front of many local fans rooting against the Buckeyes.
8. 1994 Purdue Boilermakers (29-5)
Finishing No. 3 in the AP poll and No. 6 in the SRS wasn’t enough for this squad, as it fell just short of the Final Four. Fueled by a 14-0 start, the Boilermakers won the B1G with a 14-4 conference record, and then Purdue beat No. 13 Kansas in the Sweet 16 to reach the Elite 8 and a losing matchup against No. 6 Duke. Overall, the Boilermakers played the 12th-hardest schedule in the nation, but few Purdue fans will remember that fact after missing out on the Final Four berth the team felt it was destined to achieve.
7. 1993 Michigan Wolverines (31-5)
Officially, this team’s record was 0-4 after all penalties and sanctions were imposed for improper payments to players in a major booster scandal. Unofficially, the No. 3-ranked Wolverines finished second in the B1G with a 15-3 record, and then Michigan made it all the way to the NCAA title game after beating No. 2 Kentucky in an overtime Final Four classic. The Wolverines’ luck really ran out against No. 4 North Carolina in championship matchup when Chris Webber—the primary reason for the NCAA sanctions—famously called that time out.
6. 1999 Michigan State Spartans (33-5)
This was the first of Izzo’s 8 Final Four appearances—the most in the country between 1999 and 2019—as the Spartans finished ranked No. 2 in the country after playing the sixth-toughest schedule in the nation. After losing the B1G opener, MSU won its next 22 straight matchups to win the conference title with a 15-1 mark, win the B1G Tournament, and reach the Final Four. There, a rivalry was born between No. 1-ranked Duke and the Spartans. The Blue Devils prevailed, but they were so drained, they lost the title game two days later.
5. 1991 Indiana Hoosiers (29-5)
The conference’s only true “blue-blood” program makes its first appearance on this list with a squad that won the B1G with a 15-3 league record and finished No. 3 in the AP poll. The Hoosiers were never ranked outside the Top 10 all season, and they finished No. 7 in the SRS. However, the season always may be remembered as a disappointment to Indiana for its 18-point blowout loss in the Sweet 16 to No. 12 Kansas—another one of the nation’s true blue-blood programs.
4. 1997 Minnesota Golden Gophers (31-4)
Officially, the team had to forfeit its NCAA participation due to the use of ineligible players on the basis of academic fraud. However, unofficially, Minnesota reached the Final Four after posting a 16-2 record in conference play to win the B1G. Finishing with a No. 3 AP ranking—as well as No. 3 in the SRS—the Golden Gophers featured five future NBA players. The big wins over No. 14 Clemson in the Sweet 16 and No. 7 UCLA in the Elite 8 were special, but the loss to No. 5 Kentucky in the Final Four might still sting a bit, in truth.
3. 1992 Ohio State Buckeyes (26-6)
Finishing No. 3 in the poll and No. 4 in the SRS don’t do this squad justice after winning the B1G with a 15-3 conference mark. The Buckeyes played the 12th-toughest schedule in the country and won 11 of their last 13 regular-season games to enter the NCAA Tournament on a roll. Ohio State beat No. 18 North Carolina in the Sweet 16 and then faced No. 15 Michigan in the Elite 8, a team the Buckeyes had beaten twice already by double digits. Alas, a 75-71 overtime loss to the Fab Five freshmen left a bitter taste in Ohio State’s mouth.
2. 1993 Indiana Hoosiers (31-4)
This team won the B1G with a 17-1 record, beating the Wolverines (see above) twice and only losing to Ohio State in overtime on the road. The Hoosiers finished the season ranked No. 1 in the AP poll and No. 4 in the SRS. Their other three losses all came to Top 10-ranked teams: Kansas (twice) and Kentucky. After beating No. 15 Louisville in the Sweet 16, Indiana faced No. 9 Kansas in the Elite 8. A five-point loss to the Jayhawks earlier in the season wasn’t enough instruction, as Kansas won by six points this time to end the Hoosiers’ season.
1. 1992 Indiana Hoosiers (27-7)
This team didn’t win the B1G; it finished second to the Buckeyes (see above) with a 14-4 conference mark. But it finished No. 1 in the SRS and No. 5 in the AP poll on its way to the Final Four. Remember this season when we rank the best individual years in B1G hoops history; the conference was loaded. Regardless, in the NCAAs, the Hoosiers beat No. 25 LSU, No. 20 Florida State, and No. 4 UCLA to reach the national semifinals. There, a three-point loss to No. 1 Duke ended Indiana’s season, but the Hooisers’ 2nd-ranked SOS was stellar.