Today, we wrap up our offseason series counting down the best Big Ten programs of the 2010s. If you’re a Michigan State fan, you knew this was coming, so take some time to celebrate. If you’re a fan of any other team, we’re at the end of the series, which means the offseason is just about over, which means basketball is almost here, so take some time to celebrate.
Previous entries 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
- Ohio State Buckeyes
- Wisconsin Badgers
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
Michigan State is the clear top team of the 2010s. They won or shared four Big Ten titles, more than any other team. They won four Big Ten Tournaments, more than any other team. They made three final fours, more than any other Big Ten team. By any metric you want to use, Sparty is inarguably the alpha dog of our conference.
Big Ten Winning Percentage
Michigan State broke the 70% mark, posting an impressive .703. The gap between them and second was bigger than the gap between second and third; this was not a close-run thing.
Teams Finishing Ahead of Michigan State
Over ten seasons, only 12 teams ever found themselves sitting in front of the Spartans in the standings. Second place in this category was 26. That said, fully half the conference managed to pull off the feat at some point, with Michigan, Purdue, Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Maryland, and (believe it or not) Minnesota besting the green and white at some point or another.
Big Ten Regular Season Titles
Just one outright title in 2018, and a shared title in 2010, 2012, and 2019.
Big Ten Tournament Titles
Izzo and the boys took home the hardware in 2012, 2014, 2016, and—the sweetest one of them all—2019.
Team of the Decade
Of the years Michigan State won the Big Ten, last season was the only one that was the whole package. The regular season title, three wins over their in-state rivals in Ann Arbor, and no ignominious early exit from either the Big Ten Tournament or the NCAA Tournament. If some of you had been wondering whether Izzo had lost his fastball—nope. And this coming season looks likely to be more of the same.
Player of the Decade
There were four Big Ten players who were National Player of the Year over the past decade. There’s only one we haven’t seen yet in this category, and it’s this guy:
Draymond has made a name for himself in the NBA, where he has lost both weight and his temper. He’s a 3-time World Champion and a 3-time All-Star.
Regular Season Win of the Decade
March 9, 2019.
Y’all already knew it would be this game. March. At home. Izzo. Izzone. Beilein in his final regular season college game. Big Ten title on the line.
Cassius Winston had 23, Sparty went on a 25-4 run in the second half that lasted eight minutes, and even though this one was never in doubt late, not a fan in the stands left early.
Michigan State 75, Michigan 63.
Regular Season Crushing Loss of the Decade
March 3, 2013.
In the What Could Have Been file, the 2013 season sits right there at the top for Michigan State. The final Big Ten standings for the season ended with Indiana in first place, and Michigan State tied with Ohio State in second.
On February 19, Indiana won by 4 in the Breslin Center, completing the season sweep. That was a Tuesday night. The following Sunday, the Spartans traveled to Columbus, where they played the Ohio State Buckeyes in front of a national CBS audience. Thad Matta & Co. won that one by eight.
The Spartans then had a week off before traveling to Ann Arbor for another CBS Sunday road game. Amazingly, the entire thing is available on YouTube.
I would encourage you guys to watch the whole thing—it’s Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery for goodness sake—but assuming that you don’t have 90 minutes to watch a college basketball game from 2013, just jump to 1:18:00 in the video. At that point, Michigan State is down 7 with under three minutes to play. Here’s what happens next:
Two big offensive rebounds and a put-back. Down 5.
Trey Burke misses. Gary Harris transition three. Down 2. Less than two minutes to play.
Michigan misses. Michigan rebounds. Timeout.
Michigan draws up a play... and Trey Burke—National Player of the Year—turns it over.
One minute left. Trey Burke—National Player of the Year—fouls Appling. First free throw... swish. Second free throw... rattles home.
Mitch McGary dribbles on the baseline.
Michigan State dribbles the ball to midcourt...
And Trey Burke steals the ball and dunks it.
(Ahem) That’s National Player of the Year Trey Burke.
17.7 seconds left.
The Spartans work the ball and find Derrick Nix at the rim. Nix goes up... Nix gets fouled.
Derrick Nix to the line to tie the game back up.
He misses the first, hits the second. Sparty down one. Less than ten seconds to go.
Michigan inbounds too McGary. Foul. One-and-one coming up.
Spartan ball, eight seconds left. A field goal wins the game. Though they didn’t know it yet at the time, a field goal wins a share of the Big Ten title.
Timeout. 4.9 seconds left.
Check the calendar. Yep, its March.
Check the coach drawing up the play in the huddle. Yep, it’s Izzo.
Let’s f—ing go!
[YouTube ad, lol]
Ball is inbounded. Gary Harris dribbles. Dribbles. Dribbles. Passes.
Pass is stolen by OH MY GOD, J.R., IS THAT NATIONAL PLAYER OF THE YEAR TREY BURKE!! BURKE WITH THE STEAL!! AS GOD AS MY WITNESS, IZZO HAS LOST IN MARCH!
Michigan 58, Michigan State 57.
Fake Internet Quote That Puts It All In Perspective
March IzzoTrey Freaking Burke, April, May, June, July, August, September, Reggie Jackson, November, December
—Me after watching that video.