Detailing the Big Ten National Title Game Losing Streak


indiana basketball

If Michigan beats UCLA tonight, and they are heavily favored to do so, it means the Wolverines would go back to the Final Four. UM would then be just one win away from appearing in their sixth national title game. Michigan, the only Big Ten team left standing in the NCAA Tournament, is 1-4 all-time in the March Madness grand finale.

If they were lose that contest it would mark the eighth straight defeat for the Midwestern league in the national title game. I think we’re all ready for this losing streak to end at this point; heavy fatigue for this narrative has already long set in. But hey, we have a job to do, so let’s go down this road one more time.


Yes, it’s been over two decades now since the Big Ten last closed the deal, with Tom Izzo, Mateen Cleaves, Morris Peterson, Jason Richardson, Charlie Bell and company comfortably cruised past Florida in the 2000 title game. Let’s look at the seven near misses since.

2002  Indiana  52-64  Maryland

Mike Davis had the uneviable task of replacing Bobby Knight, and early on, he did a really good job, taking the Hoosiers to the title game in just his second season. Unfortunately, they fell to a Terrapins team that was still in the ACC at that point, so their championship doesn’t count towards ending the league national title drought.

Davis, now the head coach at Detroit Mercy, would never get past the second round again. Still the “banners” people, the hard core IU faithful with a deluded view of what their program is, might look back at his tenure quite differently now.

He went 115-79 overall, 55-41 in the league and made the tournament four years out of his six in Bloomington. That seemed unacceptable then, but look at IU now.

They haven’t been back to the Elite 8 since the Davis era and have been shut out of the NCAA Tournament every year since 2016.


2005  Illinois  70-75  North Carolina

How does your starting center foul out in just nine minutes? How are the refs treating Sean May with such kid gloves? How do you find yourself with a chance to tie or take lead in the final minute, despite the officials relegating you to a perimeter only team for an entire game?

How do you come this close to winning it all when you had to settle for taking 40 3pt FGAs? How do you not close the deal after being ranked #1 all season long and setting the record for single season wins with 37? I guess we’ll never know the answers to these questions.

2007  Ohio State   75-84   Florida

With Greg Oden, Mike Conley and more additional elite, blue chip talent on the roster, this was a golden opportunity for Brutus the Buckeye. Shame it didn’t workout for them because their championship window was always intended to be a narrow one.

Guess what happened three months prior to this- the same two teams met in the football national title game, with the Gators taking that one too; and much more decisively than in hoops.

2009  Michigan State  72-89  North Carolina

This was a whooping, no doubt, but everyone saw that coming given how the two teams met earlier that season, and that game was just plain ugly. MSU getting to play in their home state was no advantage, but at least it inspired some of the worst sports “journalism” ever created.

You know all too well the “local sports team succeeds, makes life in disaster struck city more bearable” narrative. CBS and company went hard on the “Economically ravaged Detroit got hit especially hard after the 2008 financial crisis, but hey, they have the Spartans in the Final Four! In their home state!” Yes, this was actually a thing that happened in sports media.

spike albrecht

2013  Michigan 76-82  Louisville

If you know anything about March Madness, you know that weird things happen all the time. When these very strange things occur, and they’re in your favor, well, roll with it, because it’s your night.

The Maize & Blue had to be thinking this was so when a then obscure Spike Albrecht, who had never scored more than 7 points in a single game heading into March Madness, had 17 first-half points on 4-for-4 three-point shooting. By the end of the first half, Albrecht tied Sam Cassell by making his first 9 three-point shots in the NCAA tournament that season, but it wasn’t enough to get the W.

Albrecht, now a grad assistant at Louisville, might be even better remembered for what he did after the game- tweeting at the reigning SI Swimsuit Issue cover girl.

spike-albrecht kate upton

Kate Upton, a Michigan fan who hails from St. Joseph, was in attendance that night, and Albrecht thanked her for coming to the game and invited her to watch them play again in the future. Hey, you miss 100% of the shots that you don’t take, and if you’re actually going to have a chance with the it girl of the early 2010s, then you got to strike while the iron is hot, so credit Albrecht for that.

This was the peak of his fame, so you just can’t second guess what he did on social media there, although he did later express some regret about that, but all in good fun. We had an exclusive with him, a couple years after the fact, and we discussed this topic in detail.


2015 Wisconsin  63-68  Duke

Shame Bo Ryan couldn’t close this one out because he really deserved to finish his career with a natty in Madison. The real story was the semifinal came where his Badgers handed 38-0 Kentucky their only loss of the season. That was Coach Cal’s version of the invincibles, the “reinforcements, not substitutes” team which was so deep their second unit would have easily been an AP top 25 team.

Ryan, a good dude with harsh, but fair press conferences (ask him a dumb question, you get called out, ask him a smart question, he’ll give you a great answer), retired the following December. This was his only Final Four appearance.

2018  Michigan  62-79  Villanova

Nothing of real note to discuss here, as this one was even more boring and dull than that final score indicates. The Maize and Blue are the only team to appear twice on this list.

If you are betting on the NCAA Tournament the rest of the way, make sure to click on BetQL; where they have march madness picks, moneyline picks, over under picks, for every game every day.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank, partnered with News NowBanks, the author of “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” has regularly appeared in WGNSports IllustratedChicago Tribune and SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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