The Best Indiana Teams That Didn’t Make the Final Four

Final Four weekend is upon us, and just a few short months ago there was chatter in some circles that Indiana was a sneaky pick to be playing in Minneapolis this weekend.

We all know how that worked out.

While the 2018-19 Hoosier season will be thought of by many as a disappointment, there is nothing more painful than watching a legitimate title contender fail to reach the Final Four.

Here are our eight picks for the best Indiana teams that didn’t make the final weekend of the NCAA Tournament:

2012-13 (29-7, 14-4)

It was to be the final step in the Tom Crean rebuild.  All the pieces were in place for a national title as Indiana entered the season ranked No. 1 and had a roster that included future NBA players in Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo and Yogi Ferrell.

The Hoosiers would go on to win the Big Ten regular season outright, and earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.  In the Sweet 16 round Indiana faced a Syracuse zone defense that will live in infamy in the annals of IU basketball history.  A Jordan Hulls shoulder injury also contributed to a rough night for IU.  The Hoosiers had no answers and went out with a thud, 61-50.

1992-93 (31-4, 17-1)

Led by the Big Ten’s all-time scoring leader Calbert Cheaney, Indiana was ranked in the top five all season and was No. 1 in February when a major injury struck the team.  Sophomore forward Alan Henderson, the team’s leading rebounder, hurt his knee with IU standing at 12-0 in Big Ten play.  The Hoosiers would go on to win the Big Ten after sweeping Michigan and the “Fab Five”, but Henderson’s injury eventually caught up with them.

Image result for 1993 indiana hoosiers alan henderson
Many believe the loss of Alan Henderson cost IU the 1993 title.

IU advanced to the Elite Eight round against Kansas, and there a much longer Jayhawk team was too much.  Henderson tried to play but was ineffective in just three minutes, while Matt Nover tried to contain multiple Kansas big men on his own.  The Jayhawks won 83-77

1974-75 (31-1, 18-0)

If you ask anyone around the program at this time including Bob Knight, they will tell you that the 1975 Indiana Hoosiers were better than the 1976 undefeated national title team.  The reason?  Depth.  Steve Green, Knight’s first ever recruit, and John Laskowski were senior leaders on a team that was stacked with talent.

This was Indiana’s best team that didn’t reach the Final Four and one of the best in the history of college basketball.  But all it took was one critical injury to change what seemed to be a a certain national title.

Indiana became the first team to ever go 18-0 in Big Ten play and looked destined for the school’s third title.  First team All-American Scott May broke his arm in the 26th game of the season (a win at Purdue).  Up to that point IU had won all but one of their Big Ten games by double digits, and they outscored league opponents by 22.8 points per game.  Although Green filled in for May’s leading scorer role admirably, IU eventually lost in the Elite Eight.

1973-74 (23-5, 12-2)

Coming off of a Final Four appearance and reloading talent, the 1973-74 Hoosiers came into the season ranked No. 3.  IU lost Steve Downing and John Ritter but added Scott May, Bobby Wilkerson and Kent Benson to an already strong team.

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Scott May and the Hoosiers would suffer two seasons of disappointing endings before finally breaking through in 1976.

With early wins over Kentucky and Kansas, IU didn’t disappoint.  But a late stumble against a bad Ohio State team cost IU a chance for an outright Big Ten title in the final year of an era where only league champions and independents made the NCAA Tournament.

IU and Michigan ended the league season tied, and faced off on a neutral court (at Illinois/Champaign) to decide the NCAA bid.  Michigan won the game 75-67, and IU was relegated to the CCTA Tournament.

1959-60 (20-4, 11-3)

Walt Bellamy is one of the greatest IU players of all-time to not win an NCAA title.  During his junior season the 6-foot-11 center dominated, averaging 22.4 points and 13.5 rebounds per contest as the Hoosiers reached as high as No. 7 in the country.  He would go on to be the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft after his senior season.

This may have been Branch McCracken’s best team that didn’t win a title, but a three game losing streak to open Big Ten play would be too much to overcome for Bellamy and the Hoosiers.

Ultimately the Hoosiers couldn’t get past Big Ten and eventual national champion Ohio State — a team that included Bob Knight.  IU did manage to beat Knight and the Buckeyes in the final game ever played at the Old Fieldhouse to close out that year.

1953-54 (20-4, 12-2)

The Hoosiers only had one thing on their mind this season — repeat.  With their top seven scorers returning, the defending national champion Hoosiers came into the season as the No. 1 ranked team.  Although there were a few missteps, IU largely lived up to the expectations, won the Big Ten, and found itself back in the NCAA Tournament with a chance to defend it’s title.

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There would be no trophies for Schlundt and McCracken in 1954.

The tournament brought familiarity for Indiana, as they would travel to the home court of a Big Ten team (Iowa) to play an opponent they had defeated earlier in the season (Notre Dame).  The Irish came into the contest riding a 17-game winning streak and were able to hold off IU 65-64.  Don Schlundt had a rare quiet game with just 10 points.

1950-51 (19-3, 12-2)

It was the final chance for Hoosier legend Bill Garrett to make the NCAA Tournament.  The Shelbyville native did all that he could and earned first team All-American honors for his senior season and became IU’s all-time leading scorer with 792 points.

Although the Hoosiers finished seventh in the final AP Poll, that still wasn’t enough to make the NCAA Tournament, which again, was only reserved for league champions.  Illinois and Indiana split their season series, but the Illini finished a game ahead in the standings with a 12-1 mark.  In the game that would ultimately decide the Big Ten champion, Garrett fouled out in the second half at Illinois, and the Illini seized control of the game from there to secure the victory.

1942-43 (18-2, 11-2) 

Indiana started the season on a 16 game winning streak and the Hurryin’ Hoosiers were setting standards in the Big Ten.  IU became the first team in the league to top the 70-point mark in a game, taking down Iowa 71-55.  Ralph Hamilton set the all-time IU single game scoring record with 31 points in that game, and he would go on to become the program’s all-time leading scorer.

But this was a time of war, and special scheduling rules were implemented that saw teams play multiple road games in the same city over the span of a few days.  For example, IU played in Iowa City on January 23 and 25.  McCracken and the Hoosiers never got to play undefeated league champ Illinois.  Indiana finished second in the Big Ten and thus didn’t have a postseason.

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