BTP continues our countdown of the best Big Ten programs of the past decade. Prior articles in this series can be found here:
- Rutgers Scarlet Knights
- Penn State Nittany Lions
- Northwestern Wildcats
- Nebraska Cornhuskers
- Minnesota Golden Gophers
- Illinois Fighting Illini
- Iowa Hawkeyes
- Indiana Hoosiers
- Maryland Terrapins
- Michigan Wolverines
- Purdue Boilermakers
As a reminder, we’ll be looking at eight categories for each program. The first four are the only ones that had any bearing on the ranking:
- Big Ten regular-season winning percentage
- Number of teams finishing ahead in the Big Ten standings
- Big Ten regular season titles
- Big Ten Tournament titles
- Team of the Decade
- Player of the Decade
- Regular Season Win of the Decade
- Regular Season Crushing Loss of the Decade
Our third-best program comes in mainly on the strength of its performance in the first half of the 2010s. If Ohio State had maintained their 2010-2013 level of success, they would have been the No. 1 team in these rankings. As it turned out, Thad Matta’s back problems and roster chemistry problems caused a drop-off, though the Buckeyes look like a program poised to break out nationally once again in the next season or two.
Big Ten Winning Percentage
The Buckeyes clocked in at .659 in conference games for the decade. That’s slightly worse than Purdue, but if you want to see why we had to put the Buckeyes ahead of the Boilermakers, look down three categories to see their Big Ten Tournament results.
Teams Finishing Ahead of Ohio State
Over ten seasons, 33 opponents finished above the Buckeyes in the Big Ten standings. Ohio State finished ahead of every other program at one point or another. Penn State and Rutgers are the only programs that didn’t finish ahead of the Scarlet and Gray at some point along the way.
Big Ten Regular Season Titles
An outright title in 2011, plus shared titles in 2010 and 2012. The 2011 team won the league by two games.
Big Ten Tournament Titles
The Buckeyes went on one of the most remarkable BTT runs ever from 2010 to 2013. They won the event three out of four years, and the one year that they didn’t, 2012, they made it all the way to Sunday before falling to Sparty by four points. Since that time, however, they’ve only made the semifinals once, in 2014.
Team of the Decade
The 2011 Buckeye team won the Big Ten with a 16-2 record, which ties for the best Big Ten regular season performance since the Oden/Conley 2007 Ohio State squad. They won the Big Ten Tournament, were a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and finished the year ranked No. 1 in KenPom. By all rights, the 2011 team should be the undisputed choice here.
But college basketball isn’t always rational. That 2011 team lost to Kentucky in the Sweet Sixteen, whereas the next season’s team made it all the way to the Final Four. For most people, that counts for more than anything else. And that 2012 performance wasn’t a fluke March run, either—that team won a share of the Big Ten title, came within four points of a Big Ten Tournament title, and finished the year ranked No. 2 in KenPom.
To settle this dispute, we’ll take a look at the roster from each of those teams. Naturally, a lot of players were on both rosters. The overlap includes Jared Sullinger, Deshaun Thomas, William Buford, and Aaron Craft. While these four were all a year older and a year better in 2012, the newcomers to the 2012 team are pretty underwhelming—Shannon Scott, Amir Williams, Lenzelle Smith and Sam Thompson. Whereas if you look at the guys who graduated from that 2011 team, you’re a lot more impressed—David Lighty, Dallas Lauderdale, and Jon Diebler.
If the two teams played each other, I’d take 2011.
Player of the Decade
Aaron Craft is the ultimate program guy, the epitome of I-can’t-believe-he-hasn’t-graduated-yet. Keita Bates-Diop was more important to the 2018 team than any other Buckeye was to any other team. D’Angelo Russell had the best freshman season of any Buckeye since Oden. Jared Sullinger worked the low post like none other. All great players. But none of them absolutely dominated the Big Ten like Evan Turner did in 2010.
The man that Mark Titus famously dubbed “The Villain” was the Big Ten Player of the Year, Big Ten Tournament MOP, and National Player of the Year.
We all know that he could score, and the narrative was that Turner was a ball-dominant player, but he was phenomenally underrated as a passer. His assist rate in 2010 was eighth-best in the country. Everyone else ahead of him on the list was a point guard. In fact, 98 of the top 100 players in that category were guards. For Turner to finish eighth as a forward is a ridiculous accomplishment.
Regular Season Win of the Decade
March 4, 2012
Three times over the past ten years, the final game of the regular season has involved two teams who both have a clinch at least a share of the Big Ten title with a win. One was last season. One was Indiana/Michigan in 2013. And there was this game from 2012.
Ohio State had to go on the road to East Lansing. The Buckeyes sat at 12-5 in the Big Ten. Sparty was 13-4, and fresh off an embarrassing loss to Indiana. The Spartans had Draymond Green in his prime and 4,000 students clad in white surrounding the lower bowl of the arena. The Buckeyes had Jared Sullinger and a chip on their shoulder.
Michigan State got up 24-9 and looked like they would cruise to an outright Big Ten title. But the Buckeyes got the deficit down to single digits at halftime. With ten minutes to go, they took the lead.
From there it was a back-and-forth affair—classic March basketball. You just had a feeling this one would come down to the final shot, and it did. With two seconds left, William Buford hoisted a long two-pointer with a hand in his face.
Ohio State 72, Michigan State 70. Co-Big Ten Champs.
Regular Season Crushing Loss of the Decade
December 6, 2017
Over the past decade, Ohio State has lost five games to teams ranked in the triple-digits on KenPom. Just five. That is an insane stat. Even crazier, three of those losses fell in just one season, the season that would end up being Thad Matta’s last. Those three games were a one-point home loss to Nebraska, a loss on Wednesday of the Big Ten Tournament to Rutgers, and this abomination.
The Buckeyes were up 11 with less than ten minutes to go, when FAU went on a 14-0 run to take the lead. The game would go to overtime, and FAU would have the ball with a chance to win the game. FAU’s point guard crossed over Kam Williams, sunk a floater, and with that it was clear that the Golden Era of Thad Matta was over.
Florida Atlantic 79, Ohio State 77
Fake Internet Quote That Puts It All In Perspective
I’m fine suffering, so long as Michigan suffers more
—Anonymous Buckeye fan, 1938.
Since that time, Ohio State has lost in the National Championship Game four times. But Michigan has lost six. There’s nothing like spite.