Sometimes things don't go as planned. Sometimes teams struggle and fail in epic proportions. When it comes to power conferences that seems a bit less common, but it still happens. And boy has the Big Ten had some stinkers, which we'll take a look at today.
For the teams included I've set the cut off at the 2000 season. Also, to save this list from being almost entirely made up of Northwestern and Penn State teams, I'm limiting the list to one year per school. And for simplicity sake, we'll take a look at the teams that ended with single win totals. Anyways here we go...
Minnesota 2006-07 9-22 (3-13)
Incumbent head coach Dan Monson would only last seven games, resigning after Minnesota fell to 2-5 thanks to a 22 point loss at home to Clemson. The Clemson loss came immediately after the Old Spice Classic, where the Gophers lost all three games to the likes of Marist, Southern Illinois and Montana. Monson believed that his time had come and he couldn't fix the Gophers after only making the NCAA Tournament once in his first seven years. Minnesota would struggle on their way to nine wins, finishing outside the top 300 in points per game and ending their season with a 40 point performance in the Big Ten Tournament against Michigan. For what it's worth, the need for a new coach did lead to the hiring of Tubby Smith.
Purdue 2004-05 7-21 (3-13)
It was clearly time to go in 2005 when Gene Keady saw his Boilermakers win only seven games in his last season as coach in West Lafayette. The long-term coach had a disastrous final season, with JUCO transfer Carl Landry leading the team. The team was so thin across the board that they even utilized Charles Davis during the season. If you didn't follow the football team, Davis was actually the starting tight end for Purdue during the football season. Not only did Purdue struggle, but they would go on to lose a dozen of their games by double digits.
Penn State 2004-05 7-23 (1-15)
Statistically since 2000 Penn State has had several seven win seasons, but the 2004-05 season included the most losses of the bunch with 23. Oh, and that horrible Purdue team above...they beat these Nittany Lions by 27 points. The Nittany Lions started early, dropping a game to South Carolina State by 20 points, and would only win one conference game, edging Northwestern by three points. Penn State would lose 21 of their last 23 games, including the last 12 games of the season. The year would be of many tough seasons under head coach Ed DeChellis, who would only get Penn State to the NCAA Tournament once over eight seasons.
Indiana 2008-09 6-25 (1-17)
NCAA Violations. Self-imposed sanctions. Roster turnover. A new coach. Tire fire. Indiana's 2008-09 team won six games and had the least amount of wins since any Hoosiers team since 1916. Oh, and they played only 13 games that year. Their winning percentage was was only better than their 1913-14 season, though that was only a 14 game season. Indiana's 1-17 conference mark was by far their worst Big Ten season, ever, as well. The 311th (of 330 teams at the time) scoring offense was outscored by double digits (10.5) per game. One of the Hoosiers six wins came against a non-Division 1 team. The Hoosiers only beat two teams with winning records, IUPUI and Cornell.
Do you want to know how the season closed for Indiana? An eleven game losing streak, followed by an eight point win over Iowa and then a ten game losing streak to close out the season. Things wouldn't get particularly better for the Hoosiers either, having two more atrocious seasons before Crean got the ball rolling in Bloomington.
Northwestern 1999-00 5-25 (0-16)
It's only fitting that Northwestern would not only make this list, but top it. That's what happens when you don't win a single Big Ten game and only pickup five wins throughout 30 games. Kevin O'Neill, fresh off of a poor tenure at Tennessee, won 30 games over three years in Evanston before disappearing for quite some time (he eventually resurfaced but remained a disaster of a coach, last seen wrapping up six and seven win seasons at USC).
While the bar was set low (O'Neill's predecessor won 19 games his last three seasons), the five win season followed the second winning season Northwestern had in almost two decades. But back to the 1999-2000 team, the team that finished dead last in scoring. How did the Wildcats manage that? Well they averaged only FIFTY ONE AND A HALF points per game. They shot a whopping 36.8% from the field and scored more than 70 points only ONCE.
Oh, and they scored TWENTY SIX points versus Evansville. TWENTY SIX. Let us not forget their thrilling 29 point outing versus Michigan State or 30 point performance versus Illinois, either. Wildcats couldn't even hit 50 points in 14 of their 30 games. Their five wins, which came against Chicago State, Rice, Western Carolina, Jacksonville State and Nicholls State, included no teams with winning records.
Northwestern is known as the only major conference team to not make it to the NCAA Tournament, something that is somehow a better achievement then what they did in Kevin O'Neill's last season in Evanston.