On April 3, the national championship trophy inside of the Breslin Center at Michigan State University will be old enough to drink. When that day arrives in three weeks, it will mark 21 years since the Spartans, led by Mateen Cleaves, won their last national title.
It also means it’s the last time any team from the Big Ten has won the NCAA Tournament. According to Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology predictions — as of Wednesday — Michigan and Illinois are on track to be No. 1 seeds when the tournament starts next week, with both teams featuring Wooden Award finalists. Illinois is led by sophomore center Kofi Cockburn and junior guard Ayo Dosunmu, while Michigan freshman center Hunter Dickinson, also on the list, leads the Wolverines.
Since 2000, the Big Ten has made 16 Final Four appearances and it looks like this:
2000: Michigan State & Wisconsin
2001: Michigan State
2005: Michigan State & Illinois
2007: Ohio State
2009: Michigan State
2010: Michigan State
2012: Ohio State
2015: Michigan State & Wisconsin
2019: Michigan State
The title game appearances go like this:
2002: Indiana lost to Maryland by 12.
2005: Illinois lost to North Carolina by 5.
2007: Ohio State lost to Florida by 9.
2009: Michigan State lost to North Carolina by 17.
2013: Michigan lost to Louisville by 6.
2015: Wisconsin lost to Duke by 5.
2018: Michigan lost to Villanova by 17.
To compare the Big Ten to other conferences during that span, the ACC has won eight titles, the Big East seven, the SEC three, and the Big 12 one. The PAC-12 hasn’t won one since 1997 (Arizona).
Despite the number of opportunities that Big Ten teams have had, this year feels like their best chance, as the teams they’ve lost to in the past – outside of Villanova – either won’t be in the tournament (Kentucky), are on the bubble (Duke & Louisville), will be a low seed (Florida & North Carolina), or are now a member of the Big Ten, as Maryland came over from the ACC in 2014.
Cross your fingers Big Ten fans, because this is your year…maybe.