ESPN's Joe Lunardi's new bracket came out yesterday, with that, we are going to take a look at the Big Ten teams that made the tournament and the Big Ten teams that are on the bubble. I will be giving my opinions and analysis on what the teams have done or still need to do to better their chances. Right now there are six Big Ten teams projected to be in the tournament. Those teams include Ohio State, Purdue, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Illinois. The Big Ten holds both a one seed and a two seed right now, which is good and betters the Big Ten's chances of getting to the Final Four and hoisting the national championship trophy as "One Shining Moment" plays and confetti rains down. Northwestern is the only Big Ten team that is sitting on the bubble as one of the first four out. Michigan is sitting on the bubble as one of the next four out. Some Big Ten teams are sitting pretty, while others still need a push to help with their seeding.
Teams projected to be in the tournament:
Ohio State: 1 Seed: Ohio State's seeding has not changed from the December 14th bracket. It comes as no surprise. Ohio State is playing as good as anyone in the country right now. They are ranked number two in both the AP and ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll. Ohio State is still undefeated at 14-0. Ohio State is a very deadly team due to their scoring options. They have five players that score in double digits and anyone of them can go off and score 20+ on any given night. Ohio State's leading scorer is a freshman, Jared Sullinger, which tells you something about the team. They are good. No one can argue with that. Ohio State has worked for and earned a number one seed so far this year. It doesn't take much in a tough Big Ten to lose a number one seed, but as long as Ohio State keeps playing like they are now, I don't see any reason why they wouldn't end up with a number one seed when all is said and done.
(More teams after the jump)
Purdue: 2 Seed: Purdue went from a four seed to a two seed in less than a month. Purdue has shown dominance in the early Big Ten games. They are beginning to look like a team similar to how they were last year, but not exactly the same. People are starting to realize what this Purdue team can truly do. If Purdue does really well in the Big Ten, the projections show they are in line for a one seed, waiting for a current one seed to fall. Ryne Smith lit up in their game against Northwestern and is a constant three point threat. I am waiting for John Hart to return from injury, that will tell us how good the Boilermakers really are. They could potentially have four double-digit-average player by the time March rolls around. JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore just need to continue doing what they are doing because it is working.
Illinois: 4 Seed: Illinois hit a bump, but what team doesn't? They have recovered nicely from that bump but still fell from a three seed to a four seed due to their loss to UIC. Illinois still has chances to get quality wins and get a better seed. They need to get a good road win. They need to win at Ohio State, Michigan State or Purdue. That would show the committee come March what this Illinois team can do and what they are all about. Illinois is a veteran team, lead by veterans. Demetri McCamey is leading the Illini as he averages 16.3 points a game. Illinois still has work that needs to be done if they want to up their seed.
Michigan State: 5 Seed: Michigan State moved from a three seed to a five seed due to the bumpy road they have faced and the funk they have been in. They have now broken out of that funk. In the Northwestern game, aside from the final stretch of the game, Michigan State played really well. They looked like they were back, they were knocking down shots when it mattered, and taking the crowd out of it. I saw a glimpse of the Michigan State final four team from last year. I think when it gets to March, MSU will have a higher seed than a five. Tom Izzo will have them ready to play with whatever seed they get.
Wisconsin: 5 Seed: Wisconsin moved up from a seven to a five seed. That looks to me where they will be sitting when the committee decides the seeding in March. They had a good half of a month, what really brought them up was they proved the could be a top 15 team, by downing then-#13 Minnesota at home. That showed everyone what they are capable of. To me, Jon Leuer has been great for the Badgers this year averaging almost 20 points a game. He needs to keep it up, and maybe if Wisconsin gets some more upsets, they just might improve their seed.
Minnesota: 7 Seed: Minnesota moved from a six seed to a seven seed. The loss to Wisconsin and Michigan State didn't hurt them as much as some thought it would. Minnesota can climb back up the charts as far as seeding, but it is going to be tough. They need to prove that they are worthy of the NCAA Tournament, and to me, they haven't yet done that going into Big Ten play. They are miles away from first place in the Big Ten, while two games behind doesn't seem like much, in a Big Ten as tough as this, it is going to be even harder to be in contention. With Minnesota, we will have to see as the next few weeks unfold, what they are made of.
Teams on the bubble:
Northwestern: The Wildcats went from in the tournament at an 11 seed to one of the first four out. But dropping games to St. John's, Purdue and Michigan State is what removed them from the field. Northwestern needs a signature road win in the Big Ten against a highly ranked opponent. They need to defend their home court as well. The only way this Northwestern team is making the field is if they do those things. They might even end up in the new "First Four" games in the new NCAA Tournament format. I think that is what will happen for Northwestern if they do the things listed above. I hope Northwestern does these things, it would be great for their program and for the Big Ten, if they were to make it.
Michigan: Michigan is part of the next four out group. To me, if Northwestern looks like they could barley get in. There is no way that Michigan is getting in unless they win a bunch of games on the road and at home against ranked teams, which at this point I just don't see happening. Michigan needs big wins, which they have not really gotten this year. Purdue steamrolled them, exposing their weaknesses after they did well in their non-conference schedule. I think Michigan has hit their wall and the Big Ten will just pick them apart until they fall off the bubble. Michigan is rebuilding, and it just isn't their year.