LWOS’s all-time series continues with the Big Ten All-time awards. The Big Ten has plenty of college basketball history. However, they have not won a National Championship in well over a decade.
Big Ten All-Time Series Part 1
Illinois Fighting Illini
Best Team: 2004-05
The 2004-05 Fighting Illini were legit. For some reason, they are forgotten when discussing great teams of the past. This squad finished 37-2 with a loss in the National Championship game to North Carolina. Their other loss was a one-point loss at Ohio State to end the regular season. The guard play of Luther Head, Deron Williams, and Dee Brown were the stuff of legend, which propelled their starting five to the NBA.
Best Player: Deron Williams
Williams was the most talented player on that lethal Illinois team. He averaged 11.0 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 5.9 assists per game, which do not sound phenomenal. However, he was on a team of stars that all evened each other out. He earned an All-American spot and was named to the All-Big Ten team twice. He then would go on to have a great NBA career.
Honorable Mentions: Kendall Gill, Dee Brown
Best Coach: Bill Self
Bill Self had a short tenure for Illinois. He coached them from 2000-03 and brought them to the NCAA Tournament each year. He ultimately went 78-24 while in Champagne. Illinois has had several solid coaches in the past. They all went through some sort of cold stretch. Self might have also, but he was not there quite long enough for that to happen. Bruce Weber also garners some consideration here.
Best Team: 1975-76
The 1975-76 Hoosiers finished their season 32-0 including 18-0 in the conference. This was the first National Championship won by Bob Knight and it was done in dominant fashion. Going undefeated and winning a championship is extremely rare in college basketball. This team was the jumping-off point for Indiana as Knight would have his team contend annually for the next two decades.
Best Player: Isiah Thomas
Isiah Thomas is clearly the choice here. Thomas played two seasons for the Hoosiers, from 1979-81. He averaged 15.4 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 5.7 assists per game. He also helped lead Knight’s team to a National Championship where he was named Most Outstanding Player. Continuing the accolades, Thomas was an All-American. After leaving Indiana, Thomas was a star in the NBA.
Honorable Mentions: Yogi Ferrell, Victor Oladipo, Steve Alford
Best Coach: Bob Knight
This one cannot be argued. Knight led the Hoosiers from 1971-2000. While there, he recorded a ridiculous 659-242 record, equating to a win percentage of 73 percent. Knight also went to five Final Fours and won three National Championships. Knight will always be mentioned in the same breath as the best coaches of all time. Forget the unsavory departure and remember the tears flowing when he made his way back to campus this season.
Best Team: 1986-87
The 1986-87 Hawkeyes finished their season at 30-5 with a loss in the Elite Eight. They opened that season ranked tenth in the AP poll and never looked back. Their loss in the NCAA Tournament was to the powerhouse UNLV Runnin’ Rebels who were the number one team in the nation. This Hawkeyes roster had seven NBA players on it, including some of the best players in Iowa history.
Best Player: B.J. Armstrong
B.J. Armstrong is a 6’2 point guard that had his way with the Big Ten. Ignoring his first season where he played eight minutes per game, Armstrong averaged 16.2 points and 4.8 assists per game. He was a great lead guard and ran the offense to perfection. He would go on to have an impressive NBA career, as well.
Honorable Mention: Roy Marble, Ronnie Lester, Luka Garza
Best Coach: Tom Davis
Tom Davis coached Iowa from 1986-1999 where he made nine NCAA Tournaments. The state of Iowa has a proud basketball tradition and they expect to compete annually. Of all the coaches they have had, Davis achieved this goal the best. He won 269 games while on campus, for a winning percentage of 66 percent.
Best Team: 2001-02
The 2001-02 Terrapins have something no other Maryland team does: a National Championship. That crown carries a lot of weight in general, but when it is the one and only, nothing else matters. However, Maryland was excellent that whole season. They finished with a record of 32-4 and earned a number one seed in the tournament. They also ended up producing four pros.
Best Player: Len Bias
This is not close. Len Bias was far and away the most talented player in Maryland history. He played for the Terps from 1982-86 and was outstanding. Ignoring his freshman season when he played limited minutes, Bias averaged 19.1 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. He dominated the action whenever he was on the court.
Honorable Mentions: Juan Dixon, Joe Smith, Steve Francis
Best Coach: Gary Williams
This is close. Gary Williams has the lone championship ring. He coached at Maryland from 1989-2011 and was insanely consistent. Williams made the NCAA tournament 14 times and made Maryland a respected competitor. He coached 713 games for the Terrapins and registered 461 wins. Lefty Driesell also earns plenty of consideration. He put Maryland basketball on the map. The difference is Williams won that ring.
Best Team: 1992-93
The 1992-93 Wolverines team was year two of the “Fab Five.” This is one of the most famous teams of all time as they revolutionized the basketball world. This was also year two of losing in the National Championship. The 1992-93 team went 31-5 overall and was impressive all year long. While Michigan does have a National Championship team, no team had the impact that the Fab Five did.
Best Player: Chris Webber
Realistically, the best player in Michigan history is any member of the Fab Five or Glen Rice. Chris Webber gets the nod from an overall talent standpoint. He averaged 17.4 points and 10.0 rebounds per game for his career. He was also named Big Ten Rookie of the Year and was an All-American in his sophomore season. Webber was a double-double machine in Ann Arbor and also turned out to be the best pro of the group.
Honorable Mentions: Juwan Howard, Trey Burke, Glen Rice
Best Coach: John Beilein
There is no wrong answer here. Steve Fisher and John Beilein were both incredible. Fisher was at Michigan for nine seasons, won a National Championship, and made three Final Fours. Beilein was at Michigan for 12 years and made two Final Fours. While Fisher has better accolades, Beilein did more with less. Regardless, both coaches were outstanding. Beilein will most likely attempt a college return after his failed NBA tenure.
Michigan State Spartans
Best Team: 1999-00
The 1999-00 Spartans were Tom Izzo’s one and only National Champion. The team went 32-7, including a 13-3 conference record, propelling them to a Big Ten championship. They went on to be a one seed in the NCAA Tournament and cut down the nets on the back of Mateen Cleaves. This was a solid basketball team with four NBA players on the roster.
Best Player: Magic Johnson
This is a no-brainer. The Spartans have several great alumni, but none better than Magic Johnson. Johnson played for the Spartans from 1977-79. While there, he averaged 17.1 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 7.9 assists. He also knocked off Larry Bird in one of the most memorable National Championship games. Johnson won Most Outstanding Player that year, as well as being named an All-American.
Honorable Mentions: Mateen Cleaves, Draymond Green, Cassius Winston
Best Coach: Tom Izzo
Again, a no-brainer. Izzo has been in East Lansing since 1995. Remarkably, he only missed the NCAA Tournament twice, which were his first two seasons. He made eight Final Fours and won six Big Ten Championships. Izzo has been outstanding. Overall, he boasts a 628-241 record, good enough for a 72 percent winning percentage. Izzo is among the greats of the coaching world.
Minnesota Golden Gophers
Best Team: 1996-97
The 1996-97 Golden Gophers made it the farthest of any Minnesota team. They finished their season at 31-4 and lost in the Final Four. They won the Big Ten regular-season crown and were ranked inside the top 25 all year. From February on, Minnesota was not ranked outside the top five.
Best Player: Kevin McHale
Kevin McHale played for Minnesota from 1976-80. He averaged 15.2 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. McHale is consistently referred to as one of the most fundamentally sound basketball players ever and that was the case in Minnesota, as well. His NBA career propelled him to this spot as the best player in Minnesota history.
Honorable Mentions: Mychal Thompson, Bobby Jackson
Best Coach: Clem Haskins
No Minnesota team has made it past the Sweet 16, except for teams coached by Clem Haskins. He took the Golden Gophers to the Final Four once and the Elite Eight twice. He also helped Minnesota to an NIT Championship. Haskins was 239-169 over his career with a winning percentage of 59 percent.
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