History Of Indiana Teams Fighting For The March Madness Crown

Posted on April 5, 2022 - Last Updated on April 7, 2022

Kansas took down North Carolina to claim the 2022 March Madness title on Monday night. Neither of those teams came from Indiana, but the state still has a rich history of making its way into championship games.

Purdue basketball was likely Indiana’s best chance this year at representation on the biggest stage. Unfortunately, the Boilermakers ran into this season’s cinderella squad from Saint Peter’s.

It’s been over a decade now since a team from Indiana played for a national title. Despite that, the history of the Hoosier State’s teams continues to give fans hope for future seasons.

Butler’s cinderella runs

The most recent team from Indiana to make an NCAA Championship appearance isn’t one of the state’s premier programs.

Bulter University made the latest pair of Indiana runs back in 2010 and 2011.

Butler rose to national prominence in 2010 thanks to their unexpected trek into the deeper rounds of the NCAA Tournament.

At the time, Brad Stevens was running the show with future NBA All-Star Gordon Hayward leading the charge.

The team dueled a talented Duke squad to the final buzzer, with Hayward’s famous half-court heave just narrowly missing the mark. That shot took place 12 years ago today. A make would’ve landed Butler its first title in program history.

Hayward left for the NBA that summer, but Matt Howard and the rest of the team’s key players decided to run it back with Butler.

Once again, the team defied the odds by carving their way to the NCAA Championship Game. And once again, the team fell short of its ultimate goal. Kemba Walker and UConn spoiled Butler’s 2011 title hopes.

No teams from Indiana have managed to sniff a championship since then. Butler’s runs were the Hoosier State’s best hope since the glory days of IU.

The Bobby Knight era

The IU Hoosiers managed to sneak into an NCAA Championship back in 2002, but the team ultimately fell short against Maryland.

That was the cream and crimson’s only shot at a title since the glory days of old IU. The team hasn’t exactly lived up to its blue blood status in recent years.

Despite the recent shortcomings, the golden years of Bobby Knight’s Hoosiers have still been enough to keep fans coming back year after year.

IU captured three National Championships under Knight in 1976, 1981 and 1987. Those teams featured all sorts of incredible talent such as Hall of Fame Point Guard Isiah Thomas and other college standouts like Steve Alford.

Of course, that 1976 team is most famous for being the last undefeated champion in NCAA basketball history. Their 32-0 record still hasn’t been matched to this day.

The days in the limelight are long gone for IU, but the legacy of those teams keeps fans hopeful for the future.

Larry Bird vs. Magic Johnson

Indiana’s love affair with basketball is a well-known one.

Over the years, the state has found a way to interject itself into the sport’s biggest storylines. Even the ones that end up reaching the level of NBA basketball.

All the way back in 1979, the Indiana State Sycamores faced off in the NCAA Championship against the Michigan State Spartans.

It was another spot on the biggest stage for one of Indiana’s college hoops teams, but more importantly, it was the first duel between Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.

Magic’s Spartans would end up winning that title game, which cost Bird and company their perfect season.

Bird vs. Magic would go on to be one of basketball’s most famous storylines, and it all started with an Indiana team playing for a National Championship.

The early Indiana championship games

Indiana had plenty of representation in the early days of college basketball. The NCAA Tournament officially began back in 1939, and it didn’t take long for Indiana to make its mark.

IU basketball ended up winning the tournament’s second-ever championship back in 1940. It was the team’s first bout with Kansas for a title, but not the last.

The Hoosiers would end up facing off against the Jayhawks again in 1953, with IU also winning that game. After that matchup, it took 16 years for another Indiana team to make its way into the tournament’s final game.

However, things didn’t exactly go well for Purdue in the 1969 title game.

The team ran into the buzzsaw of John Wooden’s legendary UCLA teams. The Bruins dominated that matchup with a 92-72 win.

Will more Indiana teams make championship games?

It’s been over a decade since a team from Indiana made a real push for the March Madness crown.

However, future teams might be able to finally end the dry spell.

Purdue Basketball has been having some of its best years recently. The team has made the Elite Eight twice in the last three seasons.

Roster turnover will always threaten the long-term viability of college teams, but at the very least, the consistent progress shows the health of Purdue’s program as a whole.

With IU, Notre Dame and Butler struggling to even make the tournament in a typical year, Purdue is likely Indiana’s best shot at reaching the National Championship again.

That might not end up happening in the near future, but at least college fans in Indiana can hang their hats on the state’s long history of reaching the biggest stage.

Photo by Associated Press
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Jake Garza

Jake Garza is a sports writer based in Indianapolis, IN. He's an Indiana University graduate who's spent time as a sports reporter covering teams at the prep, collegiate and professional levels.

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