Wisconsin’s national semifinal victory over previously unbeaten Kentucky sent the Badgers to Monday night’s NCAA men’s basketball championship game. The Big Ten champions will take on Duke, who earlier this season defeated the Badgers in Madison during the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. If Wisconsin can knock off the Blue Devils, it will be one more crowning achievement for the Big Ten in a year that has been very kind to the conference.
A few months ago Ohio State roared its way to a national championship in the first ever College Football Playoff. The Buckeyes, after demolishing Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game in December, were paired up against the SEC champion and number one overall seed Alabama in the Sugar Bowl for one of the two semifinal games. Ohio State had no problem trading punches with Alabama until managing to pull away on the legs of Ezekiel Elliott. Perhaps in a bit of symmetry in the men’s basketball tournament, Wisconsin represented the Big Ten as conference champions and knocked off the number one seed in the entire field, SEC champion Kentucky. For the Big Ten champs in football and basketball to knock off the SEC champion in the semifinal must be a big reason for Jim Delany to grin. Now Wisconsin has a chance to give the Big Ten a rare championship double-dip in football and men’s basketball.
I went back and checked the history books (AKA Wikipedia and College Football Reference) to feed my curiosity. How long has it been since the Big Ten was the home of both the football and college basketball national champions? To my mild surprise, it has been over 60 years.
The last time the Big Ten had the football and men’s basketball national champion in the same academic year was 1952-1953. Michigan State ended the 1952 season on top of the Associated Press poll in football. Indiana then went on to men’s basketball title. Aside from last December’s Big Ten football championship game in the same venue, Wisconsin has created some memorable moments in Lucas Oil Stadium since the doors first opened in Indianapolis. Lucas Oil Stadium was the host venue for the first two Big Ten football championship games, each won by Wisconsin. The Badgers won a tough battle against Michigan State in 2011 and blew away Nebraska in 2012. On Saturday night it was the men’s basketball program authoring the latest great chapter of Wisconsin sports history in Lucas Oil Stadium by handing Kentucky its first loss of the season to advance to Monday night’s championship game. Will there be another chapter written Monday night?
If you were curious, I went back and found the last time each of the power conferences claimed the football and men’s basketball champion in the same year.
The SEC was the last conference to win both major titles, with Alabama winning the BCS national championship at the end of the 2011 season and Kentucky winning the 2012 men’s basketball tournament. The ACC pulled it off in 1981-82 with Clemson winning the football national championship and Dean Smith’s North Carolina with some guys named Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins and James Worthy on the roster, won the men’s basketball tournament. The last time the Pac-12 did it without a split national title in football involved was in 1972-73 with USC winning the football crown and John Wooden’s UCLA dynasty winning its seventh straight men’s basketball championship. The Big 12 has never had the championship double dip.