The Big Ten’s National Title Problem

Last year was another disappointing season for Big Ten basketball. Yet another year has passed without a Big Ten team bringing home a championship – the last season it happened was in 2000 when a Tom Izzo led Michigan State beat Florida 89-76. The last time a Big Ten team reached the National Championship was in 2018 when Villanova cruised to a 79-62 win over Michigan. In fact, a Big Ten team has been on the losing end of the title game 7 times since they last won a championship.

Some people have conspired that the Big Ten should blame their late conference tournament for their tournament struggles. It’s a somewhat valid point, but it can’t be solely at fault for the Big Ten’s struggles. If that were the case, the conference would face no issues past the first weekend – but since Big Ten teams have reached the Championship Game since they last won it in 2000, their late conference tournament can’t be the sole reason for their struggles.

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo and Michigan coach Juwan Howard watch in the second half of their college basketball game at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, on Sunday, January 5, 2020. Michigan State won the game, 87-69. (Mike Mulholland |

Others will say that it’s because the B1G is just weaker than other conferences. To disprove this, we can look at the Big Ten-ACC challenge to prove that it’s not just a skill issue on the Big Ten’s part. The ACC has only won the challenge 2 times since 2009, and during that span they’ve taken home five National Championships. Believe it or not, in four out of the five seasons that ACC teams brought home a title, the B1G won the Big Ten-ACC challenge. It’s not the best indicator of conference success, but it suffices to prove that the B1G isn’t weaker than other Power conferences.

In the end, the title drought comes down to luck. The Big Ten is 0/7 in National Championship games since 2000. The odds of that are vanishingly low. The only caveat is that the conference has not come closer than 5 points in such games – it’s incredibly improbable that they have made it that far without coming close. Fans are still going to see some great basketball from the Big Ten in the coming years.

A Big Ten team bringing home a National Championship probably won’t happen this year because of the major losses that Big Ten programs faced over the offseason, but it is likely it to happen sooner rather than later. Still, it isn’t out of the question that we’ll see Michigan, Indiana or Illinois cut down the nets in April.


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