BLOOMINGTON – Add another check mark to the list of steps that are placing Indiana back among the nation’s elite men’s basketball programs.
Thanks to losses by Wisconsin and Michigan State on Sunday, the Hoosiers have clinched at least a share of the Big Ten regular season championship. The 17th-ranked Badgers were stunned at home by Purdue 69-65 while Michigan beat Spartans in Ann Arbor.
Currently the Hoosiers hold a 13-3 league record with two games to go and the four teams in second place all have 11-5 records which means the worst the Hoosiers can do is tie for the top spot. Indiana can clinch an outright Big Ten championship with a win Tuesday at home against Ohio State or next Sunday on the road at Michigan.
Tom Crean’s team earns a share of the championship for the first time since 2002 when Mike Davis’ team went 11-5 in the conference to claim part of the Big Ten crown with Illinois, Ohio State and Wisconsin. The Buckeyes’ share of the title was later vacated due to violations. The Hoosiers would ride the momentum all the way to the national championship where they lost to Maryland at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
To find the last outright championship you have to go back to 1993 when Calbert Cheaney and Damon Bailey helped Indiana to a 17-1 conference record, two games better than Michigan. That year Indiana would make it to the Elite Eight before falling to Kansas.