Today, Pac-12 Friday reaches the end of its exploration of the best B1G basketball teams from every decade in modern college history, and it’s been a fun ride. We are including the aborted 2020 season in this bunch, too, because we can. The B1G again failed to win an NCAA title, but the schools below still represented the conference very well on the national stage—coming close a few times to winning it all.
Read on and enjoy our final entry for this miniseries!
Finishing 15th in both the Associated Press poll and the SRS, the Boilermakers reached the Sweet 16 before losing to No. 3 Kansas. Purdue won the B1G with a 14-4 conference mark, and it finished 5-3 against ranked teams during the year. As for the Buckeyes, they finished No. 7 in the poll and No. 9 in the SRS while reaching the Elite 8 after a second-place finish in the conference (13-3). Ohio State won the B1G Tournament and beat No. 21 Arizona in the Sweet 16 before dropping a disappointing matchup against unranked Wichita State in the regional finals.
10. 2012 Michigan State Spartans (29-8)
Sparty was ranked 5th at the end of the season and poised for another Final Four run, backed up by a No. 5 finish in the SRS. MSU won both the B1G regular-season crown (13-5) and the conference tourney to be a big March Madness favorite. But the Spartans struggled in the second round against unranked St. Louis, managing just a four-point win before being blown out in the Sweet 16 by No. 17 Louisville. Michigan State posted just an 8-6 record against ranked teams during the year.
9. 2020 Michigan State Spartans (22-9)
As we wrote last spring, MSU was the prohibitive national title favorite despite the high loss total. Ranked 9th at the end of the season and finishing No. 4 in the SRS, the Spartans were on a roll heading into the aborted postseason. MSU won its last five games to claim a share of the B1G title (its third straight), beating No. 18 Iowa, No. 9 Maryland, No. 20 Penn State, and No. 19 Ohio State consecutively by an average of almost 10 points per win. The Spartans finished 7-4 against ranked teams.
8. 2018 Michigan State Spartans (30-5)
Yes, we promise there are other schools on this list, but Sparta is what it is. Finishing No. 5 in the AP poll and No. 4 in the SRS, MSU won the first of three-consecutive B1G titles with a 16-2 record in league play, but an ugly loss to rival Michigan in the B1G tourney may have foreshadowed a March Madness meltdown. The Spartans barely beat unranked Bucknell in the first round, 82-78, and then unranked Syracuse bounced MSU, 55-53, in the second round to end the season quite prematurely.
7. 2016 Michigan State Spartans (29-6)
No, we didn’t lie above. Promise. But Tom Izzo is just that good. This group finished No. 2 in the AP poll and No. 4 in the SRS. After finishing second in the B1G with a 13-5 conference record—yes, MSU went 13-0 in out-of-conference play to start the season, reaching No. 1 in the poll for several weeks—the Spartans rolled through the B1G tourney with wins over No. 18 Maryland and No. 13 Purdue. Overall, MSU went 5-2 against ranked teams on the year, but facing unranked Middle Tennessee State in the first round of March Madness, the Spartans watched lamely as MTSU shot 58 percent from downtown in an ugly loss.
6. 2018 Purdue Boilermakers (30-7)
Finishing second in the B1G behind MSU with a 15-3 mark, the Boilermakers actually rated out higher in the SRS than the Spartans—despite a No. 11 finish in the polls. Purdue reached the Sweet 16 before losing to No. 14 Texas Tech by double digits. But the Boilermakers put together an amazing 19-game win streak between the last week of November and the first week of the February to peak at No. 3 in the AP poll. We always say reaching the Sweet 16 is the best a team can expect or hope for in college basketball, because after that, it’s a crapshoot. So Purdue had nothing to be ashamed of with its loss to the Red Raiders.
5. 2012 Ohio State Buckeyes (31-8)
Tying the Spartans for the B1G title, these Buckeyes rated out as the No. 2 team in the SRS and the No. 7 team in the poll at the end of the season. After losing the B1G tourney final to MSU by 4 points, Ohio State got hot in the NCAA Tournament, knocking off No. 2 Syracuse in the Elite 8 before losing to No. 6 Kansas in the Final Four to see the season end painfully. It was the second loss of the season to the Jayhawks, as the Buckeyes reached No. 3 in the polls for several weeks during the year.
4. 2015 Wisconsin Badgers (36-4)
While the B1G had other teams reach the Final Four and not even make this list (including 2013 Michigan and 2018 Michigan, for example, as well as 2010 MSU and 2015 MSU), this team reached the national finals. The Badgers ended up No. 3 in the poll and No. 3 in the SRS, and after beating fellow Final Four team Michigan State in the B1G tourney finals—outscoring the Spartans 11-0 in the extra frame, no less—Wisconsin beat No. 15 UNC in the Sweet 16, No. 5 Arizona in the Elite 8, and No. 1 Kentucky in the Final Four to reach the title game. Alas, No. 4 Duke triumphed in the end by 5 points.
3. 2013 Indiana Hoosiers (29-7)
Maybe the biggest surprise on this list, the Hoosiers finished No. 1 in the SRS and No. 4 in the AP poll. Indiana spent 9 weeks atop the poll, too, and then it had to watch fifth-place B1G finisher Michigan reach the national title game instead. That’s March Madness for you: The Hoosiers scraped by unranked Temple by just 6 points in the second round to reach the Sweet 16, and then they lost by double digits to No. 16 Syracuse to fall well short of expectations. Indiana finished 7-3 against ranked teams on the year. Averaging 78.6 points per game, the Hoosiers managed just 108 points total in their final two matchups. Ouch!
2. 2019 Michigan State Spartans (32-7)
Finishing with the same record as the 2000 national champs wasn’t good enough for this MSU team, sadly. The Spartans won the B1G with a 16-4 conference record and then won the B1G Tournament as well with a third win of the season over rival Michigan. MSU finished No. 5 in the poll and No. 4 in the SRS, and the Spartans beat No. 12 LSU in the Sweet 16 and No. 1 Duke in the Elite 8 to reach yet another Final Four. But MSU went cold there against No. 9 Texas Tech, scoring 26 points below its season average in a crushing national semifinal loss.
1. 2011 Ohio State Buckeyes (34-3)
The Buckeyes finished atop both the AP poll and the SRS in a stunningly great season that ended way too early. Ohio State started the season 24-0 on its way to winning the B1G with a 16-2 record. Both league losses came on the road to ranked teams, but the Buckeyes went unchallenged by any ranked teams in the B1G tourney, and they may have gotten soft right before the NCAAs. As a result, facing No. 11 Kentucky in the Sweet 16 may have exposed this softness, for Ohio State dropped a 2-point decision to the Wildcats to see an amazing season come to a premature end.