Big Ten Network Bracket of Classics Historical College Basketball Simulation Round 8

Big Ten Historical College Basketball Tournament featuring Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin, Purdue, Iowa and more. Which team is the best? See the bracket below for scores, recaps and boxscores.
1
16
Indiana 75-76
Penn St. 00-01
96
77
8
9
Illinois 04-05
Mich. St. 08-09
85
75
4
13
Indiana 80-81
Purdue 79-80
85
81
5
12
Mich. St. 99-00
Ohio St. 67-68
89
79
3
14
Michigan 88-89
Illinois 88-89
92
90
6
11
Indiana 86-87
Wisc. 06-07
88
87
7
10
Ohio St. 06-07
Wisc. 99-00
73
59
2
15
Mich. St. 78-79
Iowa 00-01
84
75
1
8
Indiana 75-76
Illinois 04-05
4
5
Indiana 80-81
Mich. St. 99-00
3
6
Michigan 88-89
Indiana 86-87
7
2
Ohio St. 06-07
Mich. St. 78-79

Bracket of Classics

WhatIfSports.com, in partnership with the Big Ten Network and sponsored by Reese's, present a tournament of Big Ten classic teams.

Included in the tournament are three Indiana National Championship teams, Earvin "Magic" Johnson's 1978-79 Michigan State squad, and the 1988-89 Michigan Wolverines featuring Glen Rice and Rumeal Robinson.

Whatifsports.com used its sophisticated college basketball simulation engine to "play" each game 101 times. You can simulate the games too with our
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Indiana
Penn State
1
16
Indiana 75-76
Penn St. 00-01
96
77
No chairs were harmed in the playing of this game.

Since 1939, only nine college basketball programs have run the table to finish the season with an unblemished record. The 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers were the last team to accomplish the feat.

"I enjoyed playing on that team because everybody was playing for the same thing," Indiana's Quinn Buckner said. "We had one common spirit. Coach Knight was demanding when he had to be."

Bobby Knight is not one to brag about accolades, but in this case, boasting is accepted. On top of the 32-0 record, all five-starters from this national championship squad, Benson, May, Abernathy, Buckner, and Wilkerson, went on to play in the NBA.

"The balance of those guys who have played at Indiana have been good players," Buckner said. "But they were so much better being part of the Indiana system and that common spirit."

Penn State's 2000-01 squad found little success inside the Big Ten as their conference record indicated at 7-9, but the Lions, led by Titus Ivory and Joe Crispin, made the most of their opportunity once they reached the NCAA tournament as a 7-seed.

"We had that swagger," Joe Crispin, who is currently playing professional basketball in Italy, said of his Nittany Lions. "The expectations were not high outside our team, but they were for us because we believed in ourselves. It was just the right mix of players."

Penn State knocked out Providence and 2-seed North Carolina before bowing out in the Sweet 16 to John Chaney's Temple Owls.

Thirty-four years after they cut down the nets, the young men from Bloomington have been graced with the "Bracket of Classics" #1 seed and made quick work of our friends from Happy Valley.

Eight minutes into the first half, Tom Abernathy's jumper brought the crowd to their feet and before the Nittany Lions knew what hit them, the Hoosiers had jumped out to a 22-6 lead. A young Bobby Knight enjoyed leads of 20 points in the first half before both teams jogged into the locker room with Indiana leading 52-38.

Penn State would face double-digit deficits the rest of the game. The Hoosiers, who shot nearly 60-percent for the game (59.4-percent) slammed down on the accelerator and ran over Penn State en route to a 96-77 first-round victory.

Indiana's Kent Benson was lights out from the field (10-13) and finished with a game-high 24 points to compliment 11 rebounds. Joe Crispin could not find the range from behind the arc (1-7, 3-pointers) and finished with 16 points. Titus Ivory led the Lions with 21 points.


Player of the game: Kent Benson (24 points, 11 rebounds)

Winning Percentage of 101 Simulations: Indiana 1975-76 (94%)
Illinois
Michigan State
8
9
Illinois 04-05
MSU 08-09
85
75
You know how most people dream in black and white?

Players from Illinois' 2004-05 and Michigan State's 2008-09 team dread going to sleep at night. Their nightmares terrorize them in white and Carolina blue. It was the boys from Chapel Hill, and not the Spartans or Illini, who cut down the nets at the end of the night as confetti rain down from the ceiling. Though their glass slippers shattered, members of both programs still have fond memories of the run through the tournament.

"I gave my team a motivational t-shirt with the St. Louis Final Four logo on it way in advance that season," Illinois head coach Bruce Weber said. "I always kick myself that I didn't put the national championship logo on there."

"We lost that game to Ohio State (in the 2009 conference tournament) and that was probably the best thing that could have happened to us," Michigan State point guard Travis Walton said. "It put us into one game season mode. If we lost, it was over. So, we tried to go out with a big bang and come together and win it as a team."

Coach Weber and Tom Izzo no doubt shared a few horror stories about their encounters with the Tar Heels during pre-game chit chat. But from the opening tip you could sense this game was going to be a dog fight.

Though the Spartans never enjoyed a lead in the first half, they played nip-tuck basketball with Illinois. Travis Walton, known more for his skills on defense, made an impact on offense early in this one.

Then around the 12-minute mark, the Illini started to create some breathing room. Off the no-look dish from Luther Head, Dee Brown sparked the spurt with a three-ball out of the corner. The guard later finished the run with a lay-up to increase the Illinois lead to ten, 27-17, with nine minutes to go in the first half.

Sparty was not impressed. Over the next eight minutes, Michigan State clawed its way back into this ball game. Walton continued his hot shooting with back to back buckets to cut the lead to four. Then with 90 seconds remaining, sophomore sensation, Kalin Lucas sent the crowd into a frenzy with a three-pointer. The Spartans finished the half on a 19-11 run and only trailed by two points at the break.

Michigan State carried that momentum into the second half. The Spartans connected on their first four shots, culminating with a bucket plus the foul for Goran Suton.

For the first time in the game, Izzo's crew led 44-43.

The rest of the game was played close to the vest, as neither team took a lead of more than five points.

With 4:10 remaining on the clock, the game was tied at 68. The Illini worked the rock around the perimeter and into the hands of NBA-bound Deron Williams, who nailed a three-pointer with a hand in his face to start a 9-2 run.

"When you have a veteran group like that they know what you want," coach Weber said. "They play together. They know each other. You don't have to start over each season."

Michigan State would never recover as Illinois would hit their fouls shots down the stretch and end up winning by ten, 85-75.


Player of the game: Luther Head (14 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists)

Winning Percentage of 101 Simulations: Illinois 2004-05 (84.1%)
Indiana
Purdue
4
13
Indiana 80-81
Purdue 79-80
85
81
Isiah Thomas entertained thousands of basketball fans throughout his NBA career as the catalyst of the Detroit Pistons.

But before the bright lights of professional basketball caught his eye, "Zeke", was just one solider in "The General's" infantry.

The 1980-81 Indiana Hoosiers, led by Thomas, cruised through the NCAA Tournament on their way to a 4th national basketball championship. They won all their tournament games by an average of 22.6 points.

The Hoosiers faced a much tougher challenge in the "Bracket of Classics" as they drew the 1979-80 Purdue Boilermakers in the first round.

"In my opinion, the Big Ten was the greatest conference in the country at that time," Boilermaker alum Drake Morris said.

Purdue reached the Final Four in 1980 before falling to UCLA.

"Luckily we stayed and played in the Midwest," Morris said. "So to me it was like home. We didn't have to travel. We gelled at the right time. Our determination got us to Indianapolis."

So, it was little-solider Thomas standing 6-foot-1 against Drake Morris and the goliath, 7'1", Joe Barry Carroll of Purdue.

Out of the tunnel, the Hoosiers cracked their in-state rivals in the jaw first. A Thomas reverse lay-up at 12:06 mark of the first half opened up a ten point lead for Indiana. The precious point guard from Chicago finished the half with 14 points.

Purdue managed to score 12 points the last four minutes of the half to keep this game in striking distance. But the Boilermakers had some work to do trailing 46-36 at recess.

Neither team came out of intermission on fire, but whereas Indiana had room for error, Lee Rose's boys needed to play catch-up and quick.

With seven and a half minutes remaining in the game, the Boilermakers trailed by 17 points and the outcome seemed inevitable. But then Morris chipped in two of his 20 points on the evening. The game and momentum began to shift towards Purdue. At one point the Boilermakers connected on seven consecutive shots with Carroll tickling the twine from outside to cap a 20-8 run by Purdue. With 1:22 to go, the Boilermakers had life, only down by five.

It was short lived as Indiana's Ted Kitchel answered Carroll's bucket with one of his own to push the lead back to seven. The Hoosiers put the game away at the free throw line and advanced to the next round with an 85-81 win.

Note: it is hard to beat a team that shoots 61-percent from the floor.


Player of the game: Isiah Thomas (25 points, 9-13 FG, 6 steals)

Winning Percentage of 101 Simulations: Indiana 1980-81 (58.4%)
Michigan State
Ohio State
5
12
MSU 99-00
Ohio St. 67-68
89
79
Basketball fans meet "The Flintstones".

Fred, Wilma and Pebbles will be portrayed by Mateen, Morris, and Charlie. Bedrock will now be referred to as East Lansing, Michigan. The trio of basketball stars, Mateen Cleaves, Morris Peterson, and Charlie Bell (all from Flint, Michigan) guided the Spartans to the national title in 2000.

Michigan State's first round opponent were college co-eds when "The Flintstones" eighth season began. The 1967-68 Ohio State Buckeyes were led by future NBA big-man Bill Hosket.

"Ohio State had a huge basketball tradition at that time," Hosket said. "It probably will never match the Buckeyes' football tradition, however."

You have to remember back in the 60's, "big" was 6'8", but the senior leader of the Buckeyes led his team to the national semi-finals until Dean Smith's North Carolina Tar Heels knocked Ohio State out.

"We got on a roll toward the end of the year," Hosket said. "We won our last four, five games."

So we have old school meeting new school in this first round affair.

"I think the programs were fundamentally more sound (in the 60s) than they are today," Hosket said when asked if the Buckeyes' style of play in the 1960s would make them competitive today. "You didn't have anybody leaving for the pros. You didn't have any one and done players or even leaving at the end of your junior year. So you knew you were going to compete. (Coaches today) don't have the adequate time to teach."

The first six minutes of the game the Buckeyes and the Spartans were matching each other bucket for bucket, as the two sides tried to adjust to the foreign style of basketball the other team was playing.

Ohio State's Denny Meadors' trey from the left wing eventually lifted the Buckeyes to an eight point lead with exactly 13 minutes to play in the first half. The Spartans would counter with 9-2 run. Adam Ballinger made the most of his playing time scoring two of his seven points with a drive through the paint to cap off the run.

MSU would briefly take a four point lead late in the first half before Hosket's three-ball with 30 seconds left, pushed Ohio State back ahead by four, 46-42, at the break.

The Spartans would again forge ahead by four on a David Thomas jam five minutes into the second half. But this time around the Buckeyes had trouble catching the up-tempo style of MSU.

Ohio State's Ed Smith cut the lead to three, 68-65, with 6:14 remaining in the contest, but at the worst possible moment the Bucks went cold from the field. For the next three minutes they were shutout as the Spartans increased their lead to ten.

OSU would make a valiant attempt to rally again, but with little success.

Izzo and the Spartans are moving on with an 89-79 victory.


Player of the game: Bill Hosket (28 points, 12-15 FG and 11 rebounds)

Winning Percentage of 101 Simulations: Michigan State 1999-00 (75.2%)
Michigan
Illinois
3
14
Michigan 88-89
Illinois 88-89
92
90
"A Michigan man will coach Michigan," University of Michigan athletic director Bo Schembechler said back in March of 1989.

Bill Frieder's post-season resignation as head coach of the Wolverines sent shockwaves throughout the Ann Arbor campus. Frieder said he planned on coaching Michigan in the NCAA tournament. Bo knew Michigan and, in his eyes, Frieder was no longer bleeding maize and blue. So, Steve Fisher, the Wolverines top assistant, was promoted to head coach. His first order of business: win the NCAA tournament.

Mission accomplished.

"The focus and determination it took to get by our foes, especially North Carolina and Illinois, may have been the most I've ever been locked and loaded mentally in a six game stretch ever in my career," Sean Higgins said.

The 1988-89 season was good to the Big Ten. In addition to Michigan's title run, fans of the conference were entertained by Lou Henson's Illini, a small, quicker team than the Wolverines, as they too pushed through the tournament and landed in the Final Four.

"Everybody remembers the "Flyin' Illini," Illinois star Kendall Gill said. "We had a catchy nickname. We played an exciting style of basketball. We played above the rim. The fans loved to watch us play."

It was a classic game against, of all teams, Michigan that forced fans to chomp their nails for 40 minutes.

On that day, with the game tied at 81, Michigan back-up Sean Higgins dropped in a 6-foot jumper with 2-seconds remaining to break the hearts of the Illini faithful.

Can you say déjà vu all over again?

Terry Mills' slam dunk set an early tone for Michigan. Less than six minutes into the game, the Wolverines jumped all over Illinois and led by 15.

But Illinois, led by future NBA player Gill, reminded us it's not how your start, but how you finish. The Illini ended the first half on an 8-0 run to close the gap to eight points at halftime.

It took another 14 minutes, but Illinois finished what they had started late in the first half. Henson's boys were tied with Michigan, 76-all, with 5:41 to go in the game. Over the next five minutes, the lead exchanged hands a number of times.

But it didn't come down to minutes. It came down to seconds.

With ten seconds remaining in the game, and Illinois trailing 90-87, Nick Anderson ripped down the rebound for Illinois. Down the court the Illini pushed the ball. Steve Bardo hit Andy Kaufman with a quick pass to the corner. Kaufman, who only played 12 minutes in the game, buried the three to tie the game up with five seconds to go.

Overtime right? Wrong.

The Wolverines push the tempo back the other way and in 3...2...1, Rumeal Robinson sank a jumper and Illinois' hopes of moving on to the elite eight.

Michigan wins in the final seconds, again, 92-90.


Player of the game: Rumeal Robinson (Game-Winning Shot, 19 points)

Winning Percentage of 101 Simulations: Michigan 1988-89 (60.4%)
Indiana
Wisconsin
6
11
Indiana 86-87
Wisc. 06-07
88
87
Keith Smart. Syracuse. Jumper. Championship.

"Every kid that has played basketball has sat in a room or been on a court and counted down the clock 5...4...3...2...1 and made the shot to win the championship," Keith Smart said. "They are in their own little dream world. I had an opportunity to make it in a real setting."

You have to admit, it's kind of ironic how the young man from Baton Rouge hit one of the most, if not the most, historic shots in college basketball history right down the road in New Orleans. It was also Smart who came up clutch in the final seconds and not Steve Alford. The senior had been Bobby Knight's go-to-guy his entire Indiana career.

"When Keith got there he was kind of a wild playing guy," Dan Dakich, an assistant under Bobby Knight during the 1986-87 season, said. "It was terrific to watch him grow as coach Knight worked him in to the Indiana motion offense."

Indiana's one-point win over Jim Boeheim's Orangemen may go down as a thriller, but could history repeat itself again in the "Bracket of Classics"?

"It became a real team," Dakich said. "This Indiana team had a bond and roles were played and the players took pride in those roles."

The 2006-07 Badgers had more wins than any other Wisconsin men's basketball team in the school's history.

"That team had a special group of players," Badger alum, Brian Butch said. "We all played our roles and that is why we won a lot of games. It was great playing for Coach Ryan. He really taught us the game of basketball and made it an enjoyable experience. I guess when you win though that helps."

However, Wisconsin's 30-win season ended with a thud, as the 2-seed Badgers got bounced from the NCAA Tournament by 7-seed UNLV in the second round.

"I thought if it wouldn't have been for an injury we could have made a longer run in the tournament," Butch, now member of the Bakersfield Jam of the NBDL, said.

In the early going, it looked as if Indiana was prime for the picking. The Badgers Marcus Landry hit a top of the key triple to propel his team out in front 17-8. Coach Knight quickly got the attention of his men in the huddle. The Hoosiers bounced back to take a two point lead on a Smart bucket with five minutes to go in the half.

Bo Ryan's players were ready for the challenge. Kammron Taylor and Alando Tucker continued to apply the pressure by knocking down shot after shot and led the Badgers into the half with a 42-36 lead.

Wisconsin's lead would build over the course of the second half, eventually to eleven with less than eight minutes to go in the game.

But over the next six minutes everything changed. Knight, as well as the play of the Badgers, finally got the Hoosiers' attention.

Indiana caught fire, rattling off a 23-10 run with Smart's three pointer at the 1:47 mark that gave IU the lead 86-84.

"You don't have these type of experiences now," coach Dakich said of working with a team like the '86-'87 Hoosiers. "The one and done has eliminated that process in most cases."

We move ahead to the final 30 seconds. Joe Krabbenhoft, the most unlikely of players, connected on his only 3-point attempt of the game to put Wisconsin ahead 87-86.

However, we've seen this stage before and we know who the lead actor is going to be. Smart came back down the court and, like he knew what the end result was going to be, drained a pull-up jumper.

"The airport was packed," Dakich said of the scene when Indiana returned home after winning the 1987 NCAA championship game. "People lined the street from Bloomington Airport to Assembly Hall. You get there and Assembly Hall has 18,000 people inside it. It was crazy."

Wisconsin should have known. We've read this script before.

Indiana moves on 88-87.


Player of the game: Keith Smart (Game Winning Shot, 19 points, 7 rebounds)

Winning Percentage of 101 Simulations: Indiana 1986-87 (55.4%)
Ohio State
Wisconsin
7
10
Ohio St. 06-07
Wisc. 99-00
73
59
Thad Matta has to be asking himself "what if" a lot these days.

A freshman class of Greg Oden, Mike Conley, and Daequan Cook appeared to be the future of the Big Ten for the next four seasons.

Matta enjoyed one.

The athletic 2006-07 Buckeyes charged into the national championship with a 35-3 record. Though, most will remember, Matta's crew dodged a few bullets that tournament season. The Buckeyes needed overtime to beat Xavier in the second round and a game saving swat by Oden to sneak by Tennessee. Billy Donovan's Florida Gators would force the Bucks' clock to strike twelve as Ohio State had to settle for national runners-up.

"(Ron) Lewis and I were the team captains that kept everything together," Ohio State point guard Jamar Butler said. "But without the play of our young freshman that year our run would not have been possible. I made friends for life and not many people get to say they played in national championship game."

Dick Bennett's 1999-00 Wisconsin Badgers focused on two things come game time: ball control and defense.

"He's a master," Mike Kelley, member of the 1999-00 Badgers, said. "There's no other coach who could have gotten everything out of our team the way he did. He had a vision, he stuck with it, and he led us to a goal that most would have presumed impossible. I am so lucky to have had him as a coach."

Wisconsin's game plan did not revolve around three pointers or dunks; it focused on keeping the score low and giving yourself a chance to win at the end of the game.

"We were an 8-seed," Kelley said. "We had to win several games at the end of the year just to make the tourney. On top of that, we didn't have an all-conference player; not even on honorable mention!! When was the last time THAT happened?"

The Badgers held eventual champion, Michigan State, to 19 points at halftime (AT HALFTIME!) of their Final Four encounter before falling 53-41 to Izzo's Spartans.

Though Wisconsin probably wished their defense had shut down Ohio State as a whole in the first half. They did manage to shut down Greg Oden. The freshman center only scored 3 points in the first half and Wisconsin took a 38-36 lead into halftime.

Matta must have reminded his players at halftime that he only had them for this one year. If they lose, this is their last game. The Bucks came out on fire in the second and ripped off a 12-2 run to start the half.

Over the course of the next 20 minutes, the Buckeyes displayed their depth and versatility as every Ohio State player contributed something to the game. Four players scored in double figures for the Bucks and Oden came down with 11 rebounds. The balanced scoring attack pushed Wisconsin out of the way and allowed the young Bucks to keep fighting alongside Matta for another day.

Ohio State advances with a 73-59 win over the Badgers.


Player of the game: Michael Conley Jr. (11 points, 7 rebounds and 4 steals)

Winning Percentage of 101 Simulations: Ohio State 2006-07 (96%)
Michigan State
Iowa
2
15
MSU 78-79
Iowa 00-01
84
75
Steve Alford may want to look into purchasing a DeLorean with all the time-travel required for this tournament.

Alford, who won a previous first-round "Bracket of Classics" game as a player, is now the head coach of the 2000-01 Iowa Hawkeyes.

"Coach Alford had a lot of similarities to coach Knight in the way he ran his program," Luke Recker, an Indiana transfer who played for both coaches, said. "Their personalities were different though."

Just like Penn State's 2000-01 team, Alford's Hawkeyes finished the Big Ten with a under achieving record of 7-9 and yet still made the field of 64. The Big 10 tournament champs entered the NCAA tournament with an overall mark of 25-9.

"A lot of our success was because of Dean Oliver," Recker said. "He was a four year starter at point guard, which is huge in the Big 10. He was the guy that made our team go."

Unfortunately for the Hawkeyes, Creighton was not waiting for them in the first round of this tournament and Larry Bird was fresh out of eligibility. Earvin "Magic" Johnson and his 1978-79 national champion Michigan State Spartans were poised to eliminate Iowa in quick order and advance to the Elite Eight.

"We realized our potential and won the ultimate prize," Greg Kelser said of his Spartans' championship season. "Earvin was the catalyst. He was our floor leader. I'm happy my career coincided with his and Jay Vincent's and the rest of my teammates."

Thanks to the play of Recker, Iowa got off to a strong start against the Spartans. His 14, first-half, points were a huge reason why the Hawkeyes had any life going into the second half against the 1979 national champs.

Michigan State's strong kick into halftime included scoring 16 points in the final 3:30 to clip the Hawks' and lead at the break 42-40.

Fans had to witness a sluggish start to the second half by both teams as neither cracked the 50 point plateau until seven minutes had passed. Iowa's Oliver connected on a three-ball to push his Hawkeyes ahead by eight a few minutes later. Fans sporting the green and white were just waiting for the Spartans to answer.

It probably took a bit longer than expected, but Michigan State did rally back. Magic Johnson's three pointer cut the Iowa lead to three, followed up by Greg Kelsor's lay-up and two free throws and "abracadabra" the Spartans were back on top by one.

Michigan State had to fight off a pesky Iowa team the final four minutes, but won 84-75 and advance to play in the elite eight.


Player of the game: Earvin "Magic" Johnson (16 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists)

Winning Percentage of 101 Simulations: Michigan State 1978-79 (79.2%)
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