Big Ten Bracketology: Michigan On Top, Illinois Free Falling

Andy Lyons

Michigan is on top of the world while Illinois continues it's free fall as their NCAA Tournament odds have more or less disappeared completely.

As the season continues it's becoming increasingly apparent that trying to predict the Big Ten is more or less pointless. It seems like each week the read on most of the league is completely different, while time and time again teams that are major underdogs pull out inexplicable upsets just to keep things entertaining. A few weeks back a lot of people were ready to make this a Wisconsin and Ohio State race while contemplating bailing on Michigan State. Now everyone is putting all of their money on the Wolverines and few people have any faith in the Badgers or Buckeyes. When all is said and done the only two constants seem to be the Illini's current losing streak and Purdue's inability to play consistently.

Team Record RPI SOS vs 1-50 vs 51-100 vs 101-200 vs 201+ Projection
Wisconsin 17-3 (4-3) 3 3 4-2 5-1 6-0 2-0 In
Michigan State 18-2 (7-1) 7 15 5-1 3-1 6-0 4-0 In
Michigan 15-4 (7-0) 12 12 5-3 2-0 4-1 4-0 In
Ohio State 16-4 (3-4) 17 25 1-3 8-1 5-0 2-0 In
Iowa 16-4 (5-2) 33 77 3-4 2-0 6-0 5-0 In
Minnesota 14-6 (4-4) 25 5 4-4 0-2 3-0 7-0 Bubble (In)
Illinois 13-8 (2-6) 62 53 0-4 2-1 6-3 5-0 Bubble (Out)
Indiana 13-7 (3-4) 66 51 1-4 2-2 5-1 5-0 Bubble (Out)
Purdue 13-7 (3-4) 105 118 0-4 4-1 5-2 4-0 Bubble (Out)
Nebraska 10-9 (2-5) 72 16 2-6 1-0 3-3 4-0 Out
Penn State 10-10 (1-6) 111 55 0-4 3-4 0-1 7-1 Out
Northwestern 10-11 (3-5) 120 39 0-6 2-3 2-2 6-0 Out

Currently In

Wisconsin

Record 17-3 (4-3)
RPI 3 (5)
SOS 3 (5)
Non-Conf. RPI 3
Non-Conf. SOS 13
Average RPI WIn 107
Average RPI Loss 34
Vs. 1-50 4-2
Vs. 51-100 5-1
Vs. 101-200 6-0
Vs. 201+ 2-0
Key Wins Florida, Saint Louis, Iowa, Illinois
Key Losses at Indiana, Michigan, at Minnesota
Upcoming Games Northwestern, Ohio State

The Badgers current losing streak finally ended thanks to a cold second half from Purdue. Now Wisconsin is still a top 5 RPI team with 9 wins versus the top 100 and will have an easy enough game this week versus Northwestern (as it avoids Evanston). If the Badgers can knock off Ohio State they'll most likely not be far removed from re-entering the Big Ten title race and if Wisconsin can get back to where they were a few weeks ago, this Badger team still has the possibility to trend back up to a 2 or 3 seed if they finish strong. Regardless, few people will want to face Bo Ryan's Badgers throughout the rest of Big Ten play.

Michigan State

Record
18-2 (7-1)
RPI
7 (7)
SOS
15 (21)
Non-Conf. RPI
11
Non-Conf. SOS
52
Average RPI WIn
118
Average RPI Loss
32
Vs. 1-50
5-1
Vs. 51-100
3-1
Vs. 101-200
6-0
Vs. 201+
4-0
Key Wins
Ohio State, Kentucky, Oklahoma, at Texas, Indiana
Key Losses
North Carolina, Michigan
Upcoming Games
at Iowa, at Georgetown

The Spartans dropped their first conference game of the season against rival Michigan, but they also didn't have Payne or Dawson down low. Michigan State might be limited for awhile thanks to injuries, but they still have Gary Harris Jr. and Keith Appling and plenty of talent to get by in the Big Ten. There's a perfect opportunity for the Spartans to bounce back with the opportunity of a road win versus Iowa, followed by an oddly placed road trip against Georgetown. Michigan State's odds of a number one seed are in jeopardy thanks to all of the injury issues but the team is still strong enough to save face and stay towards the top of the Big Ten (if not win the conference). And if Sparty gets healthy for the NCAA Tournament? Well that's one team no one will want to face.

Michigan

Record
15-4 (7-0)
RPI
12 (25)
SOS
12 (35)
Non-Conf. RPI
56
Non-Conf. SOS
71
Average RPI WIn
125
Average RPI Loss
37
Vs. 1-50
5-3
Vs. 51-100
2-0
Vs. 101-200
4-1
Vs. 201+
4-0
Key Wins
at Michigan State, at Wisconsin, Iowa, Florida State, at Minnesota
Key Losses
Charlotte
Upcoming Games
Purdue, at Indiana

Michigan continues their hot streak and the question is when will they come back down to reality. Michigan is playing great basketball, though one has to wonder how much emphasis is put on a win over Michigan State without two of their best players. Also, as hot as Michigan is, a lot of people felt the same over Wisconsin earlier in the month. Luckily for Michigan, though, facing off against Purdue and Indiana this week should be two winnable games for the Wolverines. As good as the team is now in January, one has to wonder how hot they'll be in March, especially without McGary. But as of right now, Michigan is on top of the world. Let's just hope they didn't burn their hot streak too early this season.

Ohio State

Record
16-4 (3-4)
RPI
17 (11)
SOS
25 (15)
Non-Conf. RPI
5
Non-Conf. SOS
58
Average RPI WIn
125
Average RPI Loss
34
Vs. 1-50
1-3
Vs. 51-100
8-1
Vs. 101-200
5-0
Vs. 201+
2-0
Key Wins
Maryland, Notre Dame, Illinois
Key Losses
at Minnesota, at Nebraska
Upcoming Games
Penn State, at Wisconsin

Ohio State got back on track with a win this past week, knocking off Illinois. While the Buckeyes only have one win versus the top 50 in four opportunities, they have a nice 8-1 mark versus the top 51-100 and no losses outside of the top 100. Ohio State's resume, RPI and SOS will all play nicely if they can start ripping off wins again and they'll have a tune up versus Penn State before heading to Madison for a major test against Wisconsin. If Ohio State wants to push for a good seed in the tournament and keep their Big Ten title hopes alive, this weekends showdown with the Badgers is a must win for Matta's team.

Iowa

Record
16-4 (5-2)
RPI
33 (28)
SOS
77 (87)
Non-Conf. RPI
26
Non-Conf. SOS
240
Average RPI WIn
163
Average RPI Loss
8
Vs. 1-50
3-4
Vs. 51-100
2-0
Vs. 101-200
6-0
Vs. 201+
5-0
Key Wins
at Ohio State, Minnesota, Xavier
Key Losses
None
Upcoming Games
Michigan State, at Illinois

The Hawkeyes followed up their Michigan loss with a complete dismantling of Northwestern. Interestingly enough, the Hawkeyes actually have a worse RPI, SOS and less wins versus the top 50 then Minnesota does, but at the same time every team Iowa has lost to has been towards the top of the ratings. Iowa has looked great so far so it'll be interesting to see if they can finally start to pick up big wins more consistently and will have a chance early this week against Michigan State before heading to Illinois. Iowa is still alive in the Big Ten race and could still trend upward for a strong tournament seed, but if they want to get out of the mid-range seeds they'll need to start winning some games versus quality opponents. They've started to do it to some extent, but their five wins versus the top 100 is less than all of the other Big Ten teams that are currently a solid in.

Bubble

Minnesota

Record
14-6 (4-4)
RPI
25 (33)
SOS
5 (13)
Non-Conf. RPI
45
Non-Conf. SOS
68
Average RPI WIn
142
Average RPI Loss
34
Vs. 1-50
4-4
Vs. 51-100
0-2
Vs. 101-200
3-0
Vs. 201+
7-0
Key Wins
Wisconsin, Ohio State, Florida State, at Richmond, Purdue
Key Losses
Arkansas, at Nebraska
Upcoming Games
Northwestern

Minnesota has been solidly in the bubble as of late and had a week that started off strong before collapsing this weekend. The Gophers took advantage of a reeling Badger team, beating Wisconsin by double digits. Another marquee win (paired with the Ohio State win) had Minnesota riding high into the weekend but now they also added a bad loss as they failed to knock off Nebraska on the road. Regardless of the quality of said loss, Minnesota still has a RPI of 25, SOS of 5 and four wins versus the top 50. They'll need to continue to add wins to strengthen their case here though and will get a solid chance as they host Northwestern in this weeks only game. As long as Minnesota doesn't suffer another bad upset this week, it's looking like Minnesota has a solid chance to play their way into an at-large bid.

Illinois

Record
13-8 (2-6)
RPI
62 (59)
SOS
53 (57)
Non-Conf. RPI
39
Non-Conf. SOS
163
Average RPI WIn
190
Average RPI Loss
63
Vs. 1-50
0-4
Vs. 51-100
2-1
Vs. 101-200
6-3
Vs. 201+
5-0
Key Wins
Indiana
Key Losses
Purdue, at Georgia Tech, at Northwestern, at Indiana
Upcoming Games
Iowa

Illinois dropped both of their games this week, failing to score more than 55 points against Ohio State and Indiana. Now the Illini are 13-8 and a ghastly 2-6 in conference play, with zero wins versus the top 50. The only thing keeping them on the bubble is an RPI still hovering around the 60s and the fact that their tough schedule means there's still opportunities to pick up some wins and re-enter the bubble race. Of course Illinois only plays once this week, versus Iowa, and a loss would be another nail in the coffin. It won't get any easier next week either as Illinois starts off versus Wisconsin, plus faces a very tough three game stretch to finish the season. Groce's squad desperately needs wins and the schedule has done them no favors, if Illinois cannot pick up a win at home versus Iowa this week that might be all she wrote for this year's Illini.

Indiana

Record
13-7 (3-4)
RPI
66 (74)
SOS
51 (73)
Non-Conf. RPI
59
Non-Conf. SOS
191
Average RPI WIn
178
Average RPI Loss
46
Vs. 1-50
1-4
Vs. 51-100
2-2
Vs. 101-200
5-1
Vs. 201+
5-0
Key Wins
Wisconsin, Washington, Illinois
Key Losses
Northwestern, at Illinois, UCONN, Notre Dame
Upcoming Games
at Nebraska, Michigan

Indiana failed to add a big win versus Michigan State but did finish the week with a nice enough win against Illinois in an ugly 56-46 performance. Unfortunately for Indiana (same goes for Purdue), the quality of their win against Illinois is likely to decline even more over the next two weeks. Indiana currently has a 13-7 record, sub .500 mark in conference play, so-so RPI/SOS and only three wins versus the top 100. The Hoosiers will benefit from the programs recent success to some extent, but this team needs to pick up wins and do it now. Luckily for Indiana there is a prime opportunity this weekend when they host Michigan. Like in-state rival Purdue, their game against Michigan is more or less looking like a must to keep their NCAA hopes alive, though Indiana has considerably more room for error. Unfortunately their first game this week is at Nebraska. Playing in Lincoln hasn't been easy for most of the Big Ten, making Indiana vulnerable to a potential upset. And if Indiana wins on the road, beating Nebraska will do very little for their resume. When all is said and done it's quickly becoming crunch time for Indiana and they really need to go 2-0 this week to get the ball rolling.

Purdue

Record
13-7 (3-4)
RPI
105 (86)
SOS
118 (138)
Non-Conf. RPI
40
Non-Conf. SOS
287
Average RPI WIn
181
Average RPI Loss
64
Vs. 1-50
0-4
Vs. 51-100
4-1
Vs. 101-200
5-2
Vs. 201+
4-0
Key Wins
at Illinois, West Virginia
Key Losses
at Minnesota, Butler, Washington State, at Northwestern
Upcoming Games
at Michigan, at Penn State

Entering the week Purdue was looking pretty good, leaving the week Purdue is on the outside looking in. Unless they pull off a massive winning streak down the line, this Thursday's game versus Michigan is more or less a must win for the Boilermakers. If Purdue can knock off Michigan and end their win streak? Not only would it completely overhaul the Boilermakers resume, but it could be a confidence booster that could get Purdue to finally start taking care of business. Rounding out the week is a trip to Penn State, a place that Purdue hasn't always played very good at. The Boilermakers have unfortunately left far too many quality wins on the table, going 0-4 versus the top 50, and the loss to Northwestern was another poor loss. When all is said and done Purdue had no business losing in Evanston, but now that game could essentially turn out to be the knockout punch if Purdue doesn't flip the switch this week.

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