Examining Past B1G Success in the Big Dance with An Eye on 2017 March Madness

By Chris Lauderback on February 16, 2017 at 11:05 am
The B1G Conference doesn't seem poised for big time success in this year's Big Dance.

It's no secret Ohio State is an insignificant team this season as part of a four-year decline and while that reality is capturing more headlines in Columbus, the collective B1G conference is also having a down year.

Though many cling to the factoid the league hasn't won an NCAA tournament title since Tom Izzo's Michigan State program did so way back in 2000, it shouldn't be overlooked the B1G tallied six different national runner-ups since then including Indiana in 2002, Illinois in 2005, Ohio State in 2007, the Spartans in 2009, Michigan in 2013 and Wisconsin in 2015. 

Being first-loser isn't something to cling to but at the same time it does speak to the B1G being a typically elite basketball conference. 

This year however, things aren't looking good as the B1G currently features only three teams in the AP Top 25 with all of them outside the top-10. The Badgers lead the pack at No. 11 with Purdue (16) and Maryland (23) in the mix. 

There's still roughly a month of regular season and conference tournament action to plow through and while Joe Lunardi's latest bracketology shows the B1G with seven teams, the seed projections don't lend much hope to having a successful Dance run. 

Purdue leads the way as a projected No. 4 seed with Wisconsin (5), Maryland (6), Northwestern (7) and Minnesota (8) all listed as being the better seed in their opening round tilt. Michigan State shows on the 10-line and Michigan rounds out the conference's field with an 11-seed. 

With the parity experienced in today's college basketball (that's Swahili for "college hoops is a horribly deficient product these days so give the NBA a try"), any team can go on a run from pretty much any seed in the field.

Unfortunately though, a few of those unexpected runs are what it will likely take for the B1G to come anywhere near to the level of success enjoyed in recent years. 

For a benchmark, here's how the conference has fared in the NCAA tournament over the last five years: 

2016 7 8-7 .533 (3RD) (2) MSU, (5) IU, (5) MD, (7) WISC IU, MD, WISC: SWEET 16
2015 7 12-7 .632 (3RD) (1) WISC, (4) MD, (7) MSU, (7) IOWA MSU: FINAL 4 | WISC: CG
2014 6 10-6 .625 (3RD) (2) WISC, (2) MICH, (4) MSU, (6) OSU MICH, MSU: ELITE 8 | WISC: FINAL 4
2013 7 14-7 .667 (2ND) (1) IU, (2) OSU, (3) MSU, (4) MICH OSU: ELITE 8 | MICH: CG
2012 6 11-6 .647 (3RD) (1) MSU, (2) OSU, (4)WISC, (4) MICH, (4) IU WISC, IU, MSU: SWEET 16 | OSU: FINAL 4

Last season, B1G squads combined to post the third-best won-loss record in the tourney and while three squads (Indiana, Maryland, Wisconsin) reached the Sweet Sixteen, none of them were able to make it any further. 

That makes sense when you look at the seeding and see just one conference squad, Michigan State with a 2-seed, was able to earn one of the overall top-16 seeds in the field though a trio of teams landed on the five-line. 

Collectively, the 2016 tournament was the worst showing for the B1G in recent memory. 

The league put seven teams into the 2015 Dance field and fared much better posting a 12-7 overall record headlined by Michigan State making a run to the Final Four as a 7-seed while 1-seed Wisconsin made it all the way to the title game where the Badgers fell to Tyus Jones and Duke by a score of 68-63. 

Maryland had the league's second-best seed but the 4th-seeded Terps fell to 5th-seeded West Virginia to close the opening weekend. 

Our beloved Buckeyes limped into the tournament as a 10-seed and felt the wrath of 2nd-seeded Arizona, 73-58 after slipping past 7-seed VCU in the opener. 

Overall, the league's collection of tourney entrants wasn't strong top-to-bottom but the Spartans and Badgers both earning spots in the Final Four was nothing to sneeze at. 

The conference boasted only six bids in 2014 but again managed the third-best won-loss record at 10-6. 

Despite only have six teams in the field, three would reach the Elite Eight with Wisconsin taking it a step further before losing a heartbreaker to Kentucky in the Final Four. 

Kentucky would go on to lose to UCONN in the title game as part of the tourney that triggered Lebron James to play GM and force the Heat to take Shabazz Napier following his electric March showing. 

Ohio State laid down in a 2014 tourney loss to 11th-seeded Dayton.
Jared Wickerham / Getty Images

Ohio State fans would just as soon forget the 2014 tourney as 11th-seeded Dayton beat a punchless Buckeye squad to cap a 25-10 season whereas 2-seed Michigan (Kentucky) and 4-seed Michigan State (UCONN) were able to reach the Elite Eight before losing to the eventual championship game participants. 

The 2013 tournament saw the B1G post a 14-7 record, good for the second-best winning percentage overall and most total wins over the last five tourneys for the league. 

Indiana captured the conference's lone 1-seed but fizzled out in a 61-50 loss to 4th-seeded Syracuse. Ohio State earned a 2-seed albeit in the West region beating 6-seed Arizona in Los Angeles thanks to the heroics of LaQuinton Ross before falling to 9-seed Wichita State 70-66, after storming back from a 20 point deficit with 12 minutes left in the game. 

Sparty earned a 3-seed and fell to 2-seed Duke in the Sweet Sixteen while 4-seed Michigan rode Trey Burke, Mitch McGary and Spike Albrecht all the way to their first Final Four since 1993*. 

Burke put up 24 points against Louisville in the title game but the Cardinals proved too much for the Wolverines as the Michigan hoops program fell to 1-5 all-time in championship games. 

Finally, the B1G went 11-6 in the 2012 tournament, good for the third-best winning percentage. 

Michigan State was the league's lone 1-seed but the offensively challenged Spartans dropped a 57-44 decision to 4th-seeded Louisville in a Sweet Sixteen matchup. 

Three teams, Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana, earned 4-seeds with the Badgers and Hoosiers both losing Sweet Sixteen tilts while the Wolverines spit the bit in the opening round falling 65-60 to Ohio. (Yeah, that Ohio.)

Meanwhile, Ohio State carried the conference as a 2-seed running through Loyola, Gonzaga, Cincinnati and 1-seed Syracuse ("Amir! Dunk that #$%$") to reach the Final Four before missing 25 of 33 shots in the 2nd half, blowing a 13 point lead in the process, in a 64-62 loss to Kansas. 

Overall, the league left some meat on the bone over the last five years but enjoyed some solid success as well.

And while it's hard to envision the B1G's 2017 entrants having a major impact on the Big Dance I guess they don't call it March Madness for nothing. 

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