09 Mar 2002: Luke Recker celebrates his game winning shot against Indiana in the 2002 Big Ten Tournament. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
The Hoosiers have not done well in the Big Ten Tournament.
Thursday is the beginning of the 16th annual Big Ten Tournament. The Big Ten was the last major conference to try this idea, although the Pac-10/12 has had an on-again, off-again relationship with its tournament. While the BTT has been reasonably successful in terms of attendance, I think it's fair to say that it has never become as big a deal as the Big East or ACC tournaments are to the fans of those leagues. A fair number of fans really dislike the event. Personally, I fall somewhere in the middle. I enjoy the event while it is going on, but I then promptly forget about it when it's over. I have a pretty decent mind for sports trivia. I could name every champion of the NCAA Tournament, the World Series, and the Super Bowl well back into the 1970s. But the Big Ten Tournament? Michigan won the first one. Michigan State won the most recent one. Iowa beat IU in 2001. Purdue won in...2010? 2009? Something like that. Beyond that, I would be guessing.
Perhaps one of the reasons for my lack of knowledge is that IU's poor performance in the Tournament has made the event not particularly relevant once it reaches the weekend. In the 15 prior tournaments, IU has reached the weekend only four times: in 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2006. IU's first round win against 12-seed Penn State last season is IU's only win in the past six Tournaments. Bob Knight disliked the idea of conference tournaments and it showed. Knight's only win in the event was a win in the 6/11 game against an awful Ohio State team in 1998. In 1999, IU was the 3 seed (tied for the best-ever before this season) and was whipped by 11 seed Illinois in its first game. In 2000, IU lost the 4-5 game to Illinois. Mike Davis took over in 2001, and at least early on, his teams did pretty well in the event. He remains the only IU coach to reach the weekend. In 2001, Davis probably secured a long-term contract with the upset of #1 seed Illinois in the semifinals in Chicago. Unfortunately, IU couldn't handle prosperity, and lost the title game to #6 Iowa. In 2002, the eventual NCAA runners-up were eliminated in the semifinals by #8 seed Iowa. Davis did reasonably well in the 2003 and 2006 Tournments, reaching the semifinals, but blew an NCAA Tournament bid by losing to #5 Minnesota. The 2007 and 2008 teams each earned the 3 seed, but both lost to the 6 seed (most memorably on Blake Hoffarber's buzzer-beater in 2008). In 2009 through 2011, 20-loss IU teams did what they were expected to do: nothing. Last season, IU could not break the Wisconsin jinx, falling to the Badgers on Friday.
All told, IU has exceeded its seed only four times and has fallen short three times, and has played to seed eight teams. The Hoosiers have been eliminated despite having the higher seed six times (this includes seasons such as 2001 and 2002, when IU pull a legitimate (4 over 1) or nominal (5 over 4) upset but then was eliminated by a Cinderella in the later rounds. The final verdict? IU's 9-15 BTT record is tie for second-worst (along with Penn State) among teams that have played in all of the Big Ten Tournaments. Only Northwestern's 6-15 is worse.
Will it change this year? Do we care? As I mentioned in the comments a few days ago, I do care, if not for the event itself but because it's ridiculous for there to be such a thing as the Big Ten Tournament and for IU to have never won it. It certainly matters less to me this season. As long as IU wins its first game, against either Illinois or Minnesota, the Hoosiers almost certainly will be the #1 seed in the midwest (but keep an eye on Louisville). I have tended to hope for BTT success in seasons in which IU did not seem to have legitimate Final Four hopes, such as 2008 and 2012. Still, I don't buy the fatigue issue. IU needs to win its first game, which means that we are all hoping that IU plays two games. That means that winning the whole thing would require only one more game than would be required to secure IU's NCAA Tournament position. Just win, baby.