Twice as nice
By the Numbers: Big Ten foes continue Final Four trend
Posted: Monday March 22, 1999 10:53 PM
By Ryan Hunt, CNN/SI
Just as soon as Michigan State knocked off defending champion Kentucky on Sunday in the Midwest Regional final, Spartans point guard Mateen Cleaves turned to the television cameras and uttered a quick message to Big Ten foe and fellow Final Four-bound team Ohio State: "Way to represent. Big Ten in the house."
That house is now Tropicana Field.
After battling for the same crown in the regular season, the conference rivals now share the bond of becoming teams from the same conference to advance to the Final Four in the same year.
They certainly aren't alone.
In the last 20 NCAA Tournaments, including this year's edition, at least two teams from the same conference have made it to the Final Four an amazing 12 times -- including 10 instances since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985.
Coincidentally, it was that '85 season that a record three teams from the same league advanced to the Final Four (Big East's Villanova, Georgetown and St. John's) in the same year.
The good news? Six of those 12 times at least one of the teams from the same conference has gone on to win the national championship.
The bad news? On only two of those occasions, the conference foes played each other for the title -- Villanova beat Georgetown in '85 and Kansas beat Oklahoma in '88.
However, that doesn't include the first time that two teams from the same conference played for the national championship. In 1976, Indiana capped its perfect season by beating rival Michigan for the third time in that season.
Although the Hoosiers swept the Wolverines, both Kansas and Villanova were beaten twice by Oklahoma and Georgetown, respectively, before getting revenge in the championship game.
Michigan State and Ohio State, meanwhile, became the fourth pair of Big Ten teams to advance to the Final Four in the same year since 1980 -- the most of any conference. For the record, the Spartans beat the Buckeyes 76-71 on Jan. 27 in East Lansing, Mich., which was their only meeting of the season.
The Big Ten has been dogged with criticism for its NCAA Tournament performance in recent years, but thanks to the Michigan State and Ohio State, the conference now has sent five different schools to college basketball's showcase in the '90s -- which is also the most of any conference.
In the house, indeed.
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