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Sweet Sixteen: Best Big Ten Teams Of The Last Decade Tournament

We've compiled our list of the best Big Ten teams of the last decade. Now it's time to see who comes out on top.

Gregory Shamus
Earlier this summer, I posted an article breaking down the best Big Ten teams of the last decade according to KenPom.  Some of the results were surprising and some were expected, but the list was an interesting one that featured several teams from the Big Ten and repeated appearances by a few select programs like Michigan State and Ohio State.  Eventually, I ended up with a list of 16 teams.  As promised, I have seeded them into a bracket and we can begin simulating the matchups:

Best B1G Teams Since 2005 Tournament Group A:


Best B1G Teams Since 2005 Tournament Group B:


Clearly, a pretty stacked field that features a bunch of great match-ups in the 1st Round.  There are a few things worth noting before we start simulating games.  First, there was actually a "play-in" game I had to simulate.  2013 Michigan State and 2007 Wisconsin had identical KenPom scores, so I had to simulate a game between the two teams to decide who would be seeded #11 and #12.  MSU won by a final score of 71-65.

This play-in game is actually a good place to start.  I will be using for all simulations.  All the games will only be simulated once (I promise) and all will be played at a neutral court, so no team gets any type of advantage in the simulation outside of just general skill.  With that in mind, let's start going through the Round of 16:

Best B1G Teams Since 2005 - Round of 16

#1 - 2005 Illinois vs. #16 - 2014 Wisconsin

The "Team of the Decade" makes their debut in the tournament with a matchup against last year's only Big Ten team on the list in 2014 Wisconsin.  That 2005 Illinois team was obviously very special, but this is also Bo Ryan's only Final Four team on the list.  Considering Wisconsin appears 4 times, that's pretty significant.


The Illini end up pulling this one out with an 8 point win.  For the record, I simulated this game 5 or 6 times simply because I wanted to see how high the site rated Illinois.  They never lost in a single simulation against this Wisconsin team.  In fact, this was one of the closer scores here.  Every team in this field is very good, but man, it's tough to see this Illinois team going down anytime soon.   Dee Brown led the scoring for Illinois with 19 points.

#2 - 2011 Ohio State vs. #15 - 2011 Wisconsin

We get our first "real" matchup of the tournament with 2011 OSU and 2011 Wisconsin.  These teams split their season series, but people will remember 2011 for being the first team to beat Ohio State in the 2010-11 season.  In fact, the Buckeyes were 24-0 coming into Madison.  We can finally find out who would have won the third game.


So far, no surprises, with Ohio State pulling away in a narrow 63-59 win.  This one seemed a little closer than I would have expected from a #2 vs. #15 matchup, especially considering Wisconsin narrowly beat OSU in real life with an insane home crowd and OSU pummeled them in Columbus to close the season.  Still, the Buckeyes move on to the Elite 8.  Jon Diebler put up an impressive 21 points in this one.

#3 - 2007 Ohio State vs. #14 - 2010 Ohio State

Not sure how Ohio State fans are going to react to this matchup, but yes, two of Thad Matta's teams are going to battle it out on the court.  The 2007 Buckeyes made it to the NCAA championship game, won the Big Ten title, and the Big Ten Tournament title.  The 2010 Buckeyes were less accomplished, but still won the Big Ten and Big Ten Tournament.


Matta's 2007 squad will move on to the Elite 8 after a pretty easy victory over 2010 Ohio State.  You might expect this one to be a little closer, but there's certainly no doubt that the 2007 squad was stacked.  Perhaps the 2010 Buckeyes got looking ahead to the next round ... ok, probably not, but still, a pretty big margin of victory considering the quality of both of these teams.

#4 - 2012 Ohio State vs. #13 - 2009 Michigan State

The third straight game on the docket involving a Buckeye team.  This time it's 2012 Ohio State facing off against the 2009 Spartans.  Michigan State's squad not only won the Big Ten this year, but also advanced to the National Championship game where they lost to an absolutely loaded North Carolina team.  The Buckeyes also went to the Final Four off great performances from Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas.  Though this is #4 against #13, this is right with any other matchup in postseason success.


Wow, another pretty big win here.  The Spartans score the tournament's first upset and do it in impressive fashion.  That 2012 Ohio State squad may have underachieved in some people's minds, but they were a very talented team that scored some very impressive victories.  Seeing them lose by that much is a big statement.  Still, this is the first Tom Izzo squad to punch their ticket to the Elite 8 in this tournament.

#5 - 2012 Michigan State vs. #12 - 2007 Wisconsin

Two interesting teams facing off.  MSU's Spartan team led by Big Ten Player of the Year Draymond Green that also featured quality options in Keith Appling, Derrick Nix, and Adreian Payne.  They didn't go as far as some hoped in the NCAA Tournament, but this was a very good team.  The 2007 Badgers ended up finishing 2nd behind a stacked OSU team in the Big Ten and only made it to the 2nd Round of the NCAA Tournament, but was still a good team.


Our second upset of the tournament goes down with Wisconsin pulling out a narrow victory over the Spartans.  Obviously an upset is always surprising, but with some of the lower matchups, the teams get a bit closer.  Wisconsin will get gifted with another matchup against MSU, but this time the 2009 Spartans in the Elite 8.

#6 - 2013 Indiana vs. #11 - 2013 Michigan State

Our second "real" matchup of the tournament occurs with 2013 Indiana facing 2013 Michigan State.  In the regular season, the eventual Big Ten champion Hoosiers swept the Spartans.  Both games were highly competitive, but winning these two games were huge for Indiana's Big Ten title run.  Let's see if things end differently this time.


Yup, MSU gets a win in the third game of the series and does it in pretty dominant fashion.  These two teams were probably a lot closer than people like to admit considering they both made the Sweet 16 and finished just a game apart in the Big Ten standings.  2013 MSU will move on to face 2007 Ohio State.

#7 - 2013 Michigan vs. #10 - 2005 Michigan State

Michigan's lone appearance on this list is their 2013 National Runner-Up team.  This was the team with National Player of the Year Trey Burke.  The 2005 Spartans also made the Final Four, which makes this one of the more accomplished games in terms of combined postseason performance.  Let's see how a battle between the in-state rivals ends up for both teams.


Another narrow game and this time the Wolverines go down to the Spartans.  A little surprised to see Michigan go down this quickly, but they also lost to a dreadful Penn State that year, so it's not like it was a perfect team.  The Spartans move on to face 2011 Ohio State.

#8 - 2008 Wisconsin vs. #9 - 2013 Ohio State

One of Bo Ryan's best squads in 2008 Wisconsin faces off against an interesting Thad Matta team.  The Badgers won both the Big Ten and the Big Ten Tournament and 2013 Ohio State won the Big Ten Tournament.  OSU made the Elite 8 and Wisconsin made the Sweet 16, but both were very good teams that could have easily went further.


A narrow win for 2008 Wisconsin as they beat the 2013 Buckeyes in the final game of the 1st Round of this tournament.  The 2013 squads have not had the best luck in this tournament, but certainly played some close games.  2008 Wisconsin moves on to face 2005 Illinois.


Here is the bracket following the 1st Round.

Best B1G Teams Since 2005 Tournament Group A:


Best B1G Teams Since 2005 Tournament Group B:


Make sure to stay tuned for the next round on BTP as we move on to the Elite 8 and further.