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Who Are The Best Big Ten Teams Of The Last Decade?

The Big Ten is the nation's best basketball conference, but which teams have been the best?

Two of the best B1G teams of the last decade.
Two of the best B1G teams of the last decade.
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Ten has been regarded as the nation's best college basketball conference the last few years.  Though the debate was pretty close this year, there's no doubt that the Big Ten has been right with everyone the past few years.  The results have been showing nationally as well with teams going deep into both premier postseason tournaments and with increased coverage nationally.

So, if the Big Ten has been so good, who has been the best?  Well, with inspiration from Land Grant Holy Land (SBNation's OSU Site), we are going to take a look at the best teams in the Big Ten over the last decade.

Here are the guidelines.  First, unlike Land Grant, we are blessed with an awesome advanced stats site for ranking teams.  Yes, no site is perfect, but KenPom does a great job at ranking teams and avoiding them being over or undervalued based on a great postseason run or a few early season or conference wins.  So, the teams will be selected based on their rating according to KenPom.  I am going to pull the top 16 teams on the list and over the next few weeks, we are going to set them up in a bracket and simulate some games to see who wins.

A few thoughts before we dive into the list.  First, remember to keep the Big Ten "powers" in mind as we go through the teams.  It's actually quite shocking how diverse the list is considering some of the programs in the Big Ten.  The conference really has been deep and talented.  Along with that, it's also interesting to watch the dates of some of these teams appear.  The conference truly has gotten better over the last few years.  With this, let's take a look at the top Big Ten teams according to KenPom since 2005.

#16 - 2014 Wisconsin

The first team to appear on the list came from just this past season.  Wisconsin narrowly edged out a few teams to claim spot #16.  As we all remember, the Badgers were able to go undefeated through their non-conference slate before struggling a bit in conference play.  Wisconsin regrouped and outside of a loss against a red hot Nebraska team and a fully healthy MSU, Wisconsin was great all the way through the end of the Big Ten season and through the NCAA Tournament.  Wisconsin of course fell to Kentucky in the Final Four.

#15 - 2011 Wisconsin

I have to admit that this was a surprising appearance for me.  The 2010-11 Badgers were certainly a quality team, but I think this may be one of those teams that was able to play the KenPom numbers just right.  The team finished 3rd in the Big Ten, was knocked out their first game of the Big Ten Tournament against Penn State, and only made the Sweet Sixteen before being knocked out by Butler.  Perhaps the highlight of the season was a 4 game stretch where Wisconsin recorded wins over #11 Purdue, Michigan State, Iowa, and #1 Ohio State.

#14 - 2010 Ohio State

The first Buckeye squad to appear on the list.  This team was able to snag the Big Ten regular season and Big Ten Tournament titles and also reached the Sweet Sixteen.  OSU lost just 1 home game all year and Buckeye fans will certainly remember beating Michigan in a classic Big Ten Tournament game that led to their eventual tournament championship.

#13 - 2009 Michigan State

It's kind of amazing to see this MSU team this low.  The Spartans not only were the National Runner-Up, but they also won the Big Ten title and at one point were ranked #1 in the nation.  Unfortunately, this was an inconsistent team that lost against too many bad teams for their KenPom rating to be high.  Home losses to Northwestern and Penn State stand out.  Still, there probably won't be many Spartan fans that will remember that over the team's Final Four appearance.

#11 - 2007 Wisconsin

The 2006-07 Badgers started out red hot.  They opened the season at 21-1 before losing a road game against Indiana and were in great shape for a Big Ten title before losing back-to-back games on the road against MSU and OSU.  They were able to make the Big Ten Tournament final before falling to Ohio State.  Unfortunately, they were upset in the 2nd Round of the NCAA Tournament.  Certainly very little to show for a 30-6 overall record.  However, it's important to remember some of the teams that they were competing against that year (keep an eye further down the list).

#11 - 2013 Michigan State

An interesting MSU appearance on this list.  This is the highest rated team on the list that failed to win the Big Ten regular season championship, the Big Ten Tournament or make the Final Four.  In fact, MSU finished 3rd in the Big Ten this year, got knocked out in the semi-finals of the Big Ten Tournament, and only made the Sweet Sixteen.  One could make an argument this team underachieved, but this was still a quality team and considering they are #11, it gets harder to call them underachieving.

#10 - 2005 Michigan State

Another Tom Izzo squad.  This one finished 2nd in the Big Ten, but was able to make the Final Four.  The Spartans went through some true bluebloods to get back to the Final Four.  MSU beat both Duke and Kentucky in one weekend to punch their ticket to the national semi-final.  The Spartans fell to North Carolina.

#9 - 2013 Ohio State

Ohio State's second appearance on this list.  This was a Buckeye squad that many discredited at the beginning of the season and after a tough road loss against Illinois, most wrote them off.  However, they rebounded, gave arch-rival Michigan their first loss of the season and ended up finishing 2nd in the Big Ten.  After winning the Big Ten Tournament, they were able to get to the Elite Eight off some great play from Aaron Craft and LaQuinton Ross before falling to Wichita State.

#8 - 2008 Wisconsin

The top slotted Badger team on this list.  The 2007-08 Badgers did not get off to a great start at 6-2, but preceded to win their next 10 games to pull to 16-2 well into Big Ten season.  In fact, outside of being swept by Purdue, the Badgers would not lose a Big Ten game the rest of the year.  They did only make it to the Sweet Sixteen, but they had a Big Ten title and a Big Ten Tournament title when all was said an done.

#7 - 2013 Michigan

The Wolverines lone appearance on this list occurs with their 2012-13 Final Four squad.  This team was absolutely stacked with talent.  In fact, depending on the NBA Draft, all 5 starters in the NCAA Tournament during 2012-13 should be drafted and there is a decent chance all of them could be 1st Round draft picks.  When you add in that Caris LeVert played off the bench, you begin to see the talent of this team.  One could argue this team underachieved considering they were a #5 seed in the Big Ten Tournament, but considering they were literally a bounce away from winning the Big Ten title and from being seeded significantly higher, it does add some perspective.  This team also set the record for the best start in school history and Michigan was the last remaining undefeated team of the 2012-13 season.

#6 - 2013 Indiana

This is going to be a controversial statement, but I'm going to say it anyway.  The 2013 Indiana team may have been the most underachieving team of the decade.  Look, the Big Ten was stacked in 2012-13, but based on their position here, one would think they would have more to show than barely winning an outright Big Ten regular season title.  They failed to make the Big Ten Tournament final after being upset as the #1 seed in the semi-finals and only made the Sweet Sixteen after being upset by Syracuse as a #1 seed.  This was a really good team and winning a conference title in a very strong conference is nothing to overlook, but every team above them on this list made the Sweet Sixteen and won at least a share of the Big Ten title and most did far more.  Maybe it was just bad luck, but this just really feels like an underachieving team.

#5 - 2012 Michigan State

How astounding is it to think that the best Izzo team of the last decade only made the Sweet Sixteen?  This is a team that many tend to forget, but they had a legitimate national player of the year candidate in Draymond Green and entered the NCAA Tournament as a #1 seed.  In fact, coming off their Big Ten Tournament win over Ohio State, many thought they had an outstanding shot at the Final Four.  Unfortunately for MSU, the Spartans came up short against Louisville, but this is a team that may not get enough credit.

#4 - 2012 Ohio State

In all honesty, it's kind of surprising to see this team quite this high.  Yes, this was a very good team that split the Big Ten regular season title and made the Final Four, but it never felt like this team was as dominant as some of the other great Thad Matta teams.  However, in hindsight, this team was probably better than most of us thought all year.  Not only did they win the title in the toughest conference in the nation, but not one of their losses was bad.  Every loss came against an NCAA Tournament team and just one came at home.  Overall though, when a team makes the Final Four, they are obviously going to be considered an elite group.

#3 - 2007 Ohio State

The Buckeyes in 2006-07 were an interesting group.  Not only did they win the Big Ten regular season title and the Big Ten Tournament title, but they also raced to the Final Four and fell just flat against Florida.  For most, that is an incredible season, but looking back, one has to wonder what else this team may have done.  They lost a total of 4 games throughout the year, which is already impressive, but the games they did lose speak to how special this team was at Ohio State.  Of the 4 losses, not one came at home, 3 came in true road environments, all came against teams ranked in the top 10, and 2 of the losses came against the eventual national champion Florida Gators.  Most teams hope half of their losses come against quality teams.  OSU had half come against the best team in the nation.  They already had a tremendous year, but perhaps with a bit easier scheduling a few breaks, this team could have went undefeated and yes, I'm being serious about that.

#2 - 2011 Ohio State

The top Buckeye squad of the Thad Matta era according to KenPom was a special one indeed.  Though Ohio State only made it to the Sweet Sixteen, they did have an impressive season that included a Big Ten regular season championship and a Big Ten Tournament title.  This team also reached #1 for quite some time and was 24-0 before stumbling on the road against Wisconsin.  Before losing to a stack Kentucky team, the Buckeyes were 34-2.  In hindsight, it's incredible to look at the talent on this squad.  William Buford, Aaron Craft, Jon Diebler, Jordan Sibert, Jared Sullinger, and Deshaun Thomas all laced up for the Buckeyes in 2010-11.  This was probably not Matta's most successful unit, but it certainly may have been his most talented.

#1 - 2005 Illinois

The "team of the decade" in the Big Ten came from Champaign.  For people who were lucky enough to watch this Illinois team, they got to witness what happens with the right mix of coaching, experience, and talent can create.  Though this Illinois team came just short of the national championship, they did win the Big Ten title by 2 games, won the Big Ten Tournament and lost just 1 game entering postseason play.  In fact, outside of a loss on the road against Ohio State, this team's only loss was in the national championship game against a loaded North Carolina team by a final score of 75-70.  This team was not quite perfect, but it truly was a special squad and easily the best Illinois team in a long, long time.


Finally, for your viewing pleasure, here are all the teams assembled on a chart:











Ohio State




Ohio State




Ohio State




Michigan State
















Ohio State




Michigan State




Michigan State








Michigan state




Ohio State