Rush the Court has concluded its "Teams of the 2000s" series, giving the honorary team-of-the-decade title (quite deservedly) to the North Carolina Tar Heels. As previously noted, RTC slotted MSU in at #5, arguably shorting us a by a spot or two. Nevertheless, we were the only Big Ten team in the top ten (Illinois got honorable mention status), indicating that Michigan State was the class of the conference over the last ten years.
But wait a second: What about the fact that this past season's conference championship was the first outright crown we've won this decade? And, in case you've forgotten, we haven't won a Big Ten Tournament championship since all the way back in 2000.
As I pondered these matters, a voice in my head cried out, "To the archives!" After spending some time at StatSheet.com, I compiled the dataset that follows the jump:
(Note: Conf Seas=Conference Regular Season, Outrt B10=Outright Regular Season Big Ten Championships, Shrd B10=Shared Regular Season Big Ten Championships, BTT Chmp=Big Ten Tournament Championships; I think the rest should be self-explanatory.)
The teams are sorted based on regular season conference wins. Despite MSU's seven-year drought without a Big Ten regular season championship, they still rank first in that category. Three teams have won two outright Big Ten championships versus MSU's one. And two teams have won four total conference championships (including shared titles) versus MSU's three (Why does it seem like Wisconsin should have more than three championships?). Finally, four teams have won the conference tournament twice versus MSU's single title.
But all that's more than offset by MSU's success in the Big Dance. Wisconsin is the only other team to appear in the NCAA Tournament in all 10 seasons. We have two more Sweet Sixteen appearances than any other team in the conference, and we have as many Final Four appearances as the rest of the league combined. And, of course, we won the whole thing in 2000.
So to answer the question in the title of this post: Yeah, we're sure.
In terms of ranking all 11 teams on their success over the last decade, the order in which they're listed above looks pretty good. Generally, postseason success has correlated very closely with conference regular season performance. You could probably bump Illinois above Wisconsin based on an extra regular season title and success in the conference tournament. Iowa deserves some credit for their knack at making runs in the conference tournament--but not enough credit to move them past Purdue, which has had more success in the NCAA Tournament. Michigan and Minnesota finished the decade in a statistical dead heat.
As has been discussed here and elsewhere, the conference looks awfully strong going forward. The four teams at the top of the list don't look like they're going anywhere soon. Matt Painter has turned Purdue back into an elite program within the conference, and Tom Crean may well be taking Indiana in the same direction. Michigan and Minnesota are clearly on the rise under new coaches with proven track records. And Penn State and Northwestern are no longer willing to play the part of pushover (a point MSU fans are acutely aware of).
Check back in 2019 to see if Michigan State can hold off the pack to defend its conference team-of-the-decade crown.