What if I told you that the B1G has neither scored a point in the last three College Football Playoffs, nor scored a point in an Elite Eight game in the last two years?
You should probably believe me because both of those things are true.
Here’s another stat that you’ve probably heard. Since the turn of the century, the B1G has just one national title in basketball and two in football. Michigan State’s hoops title was back in 2000 while Ohio State won both football titles.
Yeah, that’s not very good.
Another thing that’s not very good is the fact that the B1G has just four teams in this year’s NCAA Tournament. That’s the conference’s lowest total in a decade. That’s coming off a football postseason in which the B1G was shut out of the College Football Playoff for the first time.
That got me to thinking about an interesting question that’s worth asking; if you were betting on a B1G team to win the conference’s next national title, would it be in basketball or football?
Obviously there’s not an easy answer to that question. Some might assume that basketball is the more obvious choice. The NCAA Tournament is a bit of a crap shoot. After all, it’s not like the B1G has been completely shut out from the possibility.
Look at all of those runner-up teams:
- 2015 Wisconsin
- 2013 Michigan
- 2009 Michigan State
- 2007 Ohio State
- 2005 Illinois
- 2002 Indiana
Six different times, six different schools could’ve ended that drought. Instead, from 2001-17, here’s how many national titles each power conference won:
- ACC — 7
- Big East — 5
- SEC — 3
- Big 12 — 1
- AAC — 1
- Pac-12 — 0
- B1G — 0
It’s been a rough go in terms of winning it all, but it’s not like the B1G has been completely out of the mix. Sending an average of roughly six teams to the NCAA Tournament the last decade is proof of that.
After MSU’s title in 2000, the B1G participated in a national championship once every three years. That means the B1G is due for another national championship participant in 2018, right?
(Let me go rush to pencil in Michigan in my national championship. I already did that? Good.)
The B1G might only have four entrees this year, but between Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue and some would even argue Ohio State, the conference has four teams capable of a deep run. It’s interesting because that’s what the football season felt like.
For a while, it felt like Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin were all legitimate Playoff contenders. The same was true the year before, though Michigan was in Michigan State’s spot. Obviously that didn’t yield a single Playoff point.
That’s the reason that it feels like B1G football is further away from a national title than B1G basketball. We saw B1G teams get demolished by consecutive national champions. That’s the measuring stick. It’s been four years since Ohio State stunned the college football world and trucked its way to the first College Football Playoff National Championship. Nobody has been on that level since then.
And for all the people saying that 2015 Ohio State, 2016 Penn State or 2016 Michigan would’ve put up a better Playoff fight, that doesn’t really matter because those teams came and went without an opportunity. All that matters now is what can happen moving forward.
In my opinion, Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin are the only B1G teams who can win a national title in football under their current coach (I realize that Michigan State isn’t part of that group). Because of recruiting or coaching limitations, I’d be stunned if anyone outside of that group broke the trend.
In basketball, I think we’re looking at the four current tournament teams (Michigan, MSU, Ohio State and Purdue) as the only ones who can win a national title in the next five years. Obviously there are more basketball teams than football teams and reaching a title game is much more of a crapshoot because of the NCAA Tournament.
With that in mind, B1G basketball is the more likelier sport to win a title because of those odds. There’s no Alabama-like or even Clemson-like force that’s standing in the way of a potential B1G basketball power like there is in football. Even the Dukes and North Carolinas can lose to a middle-of-the-pack ACC team on a given day.
I’ll still say that B1G hoops are the better bet to turn around the conference’s weak national title total in the 21st century. Maybe that happens in this NCAA Tournament with a red-hot Michigan squad or an us-against-the-world MSU team. Or perhaps this year Urban Meyer surprises us all like he did in 2014.
Whenever the next B1G title happens, it’ll be long overdue.