Inside Big Ten’s basketball championship drought: Zach Edey, Caitlin Clark can end curse with Purdue, Iowa

Big weekend for the Big Ten. Quite literally. 

Purdue big man Zach Edey – the 7-foot-4 center – led the Boilermakers to the men’s Final Four for the first time since 1980. Iowa guard Caitlin Clark – the biggest college basketball star in the country – led the Hawkeyes to the women’s Final Four. 

They have been the biggest stars of their respective tournaments, soon-to-be consensus Players of the Year and now they can break the conference’s respective droughts in both sports. Given the Michigan football team won the national championship for the first time since 1997 – the time to end droughts appears to be here for the Big Ten. 

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A look at Edey, Clark and those national championship droughts in both sports: 

When was last time Big Ten won Final Four? 

No. 1 Michigan State beat No. 5 Florida 89-76 in the 2000 NCAA men’s national championship game on April 3, 2000. Since then, the conference is 0-7 in national championship games

A look at those games: 

Big Ten in national championship games

2001-02 No. 1 Maryland 64, No. 5 Indiana 52
2004-05 No. 1 North Carolina, No. 1 Illinois 70
2006-07 No. 1 Florida 84, No. 1 Ohio State 75 
2008-09 No. 1 North Carolina 89, No. 2 Michigan State 72
2012-13 No. 1 Louisville 82, No.4 Michigan 76
2014-15 No. 1 Duke 68, No. 1 Wisconsin 63
2017-18 No. 1 Villanova 79, No.3 Michigan 62

Maryland was in the ACC when it beat Indiana in 2002-03. In fairness, No. 1 seeds have defeated the Big Ten in all of those championship games, and Wisconsin (2014-15) was the only one of those teams that was favored. 

Still, it’s a prolonged national championship drought when you consider the Pac-12 – which had won its last national championship with Arizona in 1998 – is no longer around. The Big Ten is behind the rest of the major conferences. A look at those conference’s last national championship: 

ACC Virginia (2019)
Big East UConn (2023)
Big 12 Kansas (2022)
SEC Kentucky (2012)

Will Purdue – which hasn’t made the Final Four since 1980 – be the one to break the Big Ten curse? 

Zach Edey’s stats in NCAA Tournament

Edey – a two-time Sporting News Player of the Year — has been dominant in this NCAA Tournament run. He led the Boilermakers to the Final Four with a 40-point, 16-rebound performance in the 72-66 victory against No. 2 Tennessee in the Elite Eight. 

In four tournament games, Edey is averaging 30 points, 16.5 rebounds and 1.8 blocks. He’s 42 of 62 (67.7%) from the field and 36 of 54 (66.7%) from the line. 

Edey has 120 points and 65 rebounds in the tournament. He has a chance to break Michigan’s Glen Rice’s NCAA tournament record 184 points – which was set during the Wolverines’ national championship run in 1989. 

Edey also could become just the second player to have 150 points and 80 rebounds in the NCAA tournament. Houston’s Elvin Hayes scored 167 points with 97 rebounds in a legendary performance in the 1968 men’s basketball tournament. 

That is the company Edey keeps heading into the Final Four matchup against NC State. 

DECOURCY: Zach Edey helps end decades of disappointment for Purdue

When was last time Big Ten won Women’s Final Four? 

Purdue is the only Big Ten school to win a women’s national championship. The Boilermakers – a No. 1 seed – defeated No. 3 Duke 62-45 on March 28, 1999 in San Jose, Calif. 

The NCAA women’s basketball tournament dates back to 1982, so it’s a far smaller sample size. No. 1 Ohio State made the conference’s first national title appearances in 1993, where they lost 84-82 to No. 2 Texas Tech, a team led by Sheryl Swoopes. 

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Since 1999, the Big Ten has had three teams reach the national championship game. No. 1 Notre Dame beat No. 3 Purdue 68-66 in 2001. No. 2 Baylor beat No. 1 Michigan State 82-64 in 2005, and last year No. 3 LSU beat No. 2 Iowa 102-85. 

The Hawkeyes have a chance to break that drought under longtime coach Lisa Bluder, who has been the Hawkeyes coach since 2000-01. 

Caitlin Clark’s stats in NCAA Tournament 

Caitlin Clark has set several NCAA records this season and enters the NCAA women’s Final Four with 3,900 career points. She led Iowa to a 94-87 victory against No. 3 LSU with 41 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds. 

Clark averages 32.3 points per game in the tournament this season. She is averaging 10 assists and 7.5 rebounds, too. Clark is shooting 20 of 54 (37.0%) from 3-point range and 25 of 28 (89.3%) from the free-throw line in the tournament. 

Clark could reset the record for most points scored in the NCAA women’s Tournament. She scored 191 points last year, which broke the record of 177 set by Texas Tech’s Sheryl Swoopes in 1993. Clark has 129 points through four games. She also has the record for most 3-pointers in a tournament with 32 last year. 

There have been 14 games where a player scored 40 points in the women’s NCAA Tournament. Clark has three of those games. Would she take a run at Drake’s Lorri Bauman’s single-game record of 50 points set against Maryland on March 21, 1982? 

MORE: Caitlin Clark is bringing her logo 3 show back to the Final Four

National championship odds for Purdue 

No. 1 Purdue is a 9.5-point favorite to beat No. 11 NC State in the national semifinal, according to odds from The Boilermakers are +210 to win the national championship. 

The problem? No. 1 UConn is +190 and has defeated their first four tournament opponents by an average of 28.3 points per game. The Huskies are heavy favorites to repeat as national champions, and they would be favored to beat Purdue in a national championship game scenario.   

National championship odds for Iowa

No. 1 Iowa is a 2.5-point favorite to beat No. 3 UConn in the women’s national semifinal. The Hawkeyes are +300 to win the national championship. 

There also is a problem. No. 1 South Carolina is -200 and is 35-0 heading into the women’s Final Four. Iowa did beat the Gamecocks 77-73 in last year’s Final Four, and the possibility of a rematch has created a lot of anticipation heading into the weekend in Cleveland.


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