BTP Roundtable: Bracketology

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

The BTP staffers diagnose the Big Ten's outlook for the NCAA tournament with some early bracketology.

It's never too early to start thinking about March Madness, so the BTP staffers are giving their takes on the Big Ten's best teams and how they will fair in the big dance. Here's BTP bracketology:

1. How many B1G teams will get into NCAA Tournament?

Thomas Beindit - I'm going to go with 6 teams here. Five teams are clearly locks (MSU, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, and OSU) and the team fighting on the bubble is Minnesota. It's tough to project since the bubble race is always so tight, but I think the Gophers will get enough to slide in when we hit March. Indiana was the Big Ten's potential 7th bid, but after that loss to Penn State, I just can't see it happening outside of an insane Big Ten Tournament run.

Bryan Steedman - Five. The top five are obviously (in no order) Michigan State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa and Ohio State and I think all of these teams are locks unless one of them (Ohio State, Iowa) lose out or something. As for the bottom five teams, I think it'll take either a B1G Tournament Title to get there unless they can win out (that's unlikely). So that leaves us with Minnesota and Indiana. The Hoosiers have the recent success but they have way too many bad losses, poor non-conference SOS and a pretty bland resume that won't sit nicely with the number of losses they're likely to end up with. It's kind of the same story for the Gophers except they have a prettier resume currently. I'm writing this as they're playing Wisconsin, but if they don't come back that'll be their ninth loss. With Ohio State, Iowa and Michigan all still remaining, I think there's a solid chance Minnesota ends up with 13 losses (one in the B1G tourney, could win one of those three and inexplicably drop one of their easier games). When all is said and done the Gophers have had plenty of opportunities but I think they'll play themselves out of the tournament while Indiana has already dug too big of a hole to climb out of.

Jason Dorow - Six. As Bryan noted, five teams (Michigan, MSU, Wisconsin, Iowa, and OSU) have essentially locked up bids to the NCAA tournament. Assuming one of those teams wins the Big Ten tournament, there are only two other teams with a shot at sneaking into the big dance, Indiana and Minnesota. In ESPN analyst Joe Lunardi's most recent bracketology, Minnesota is an 11 seed and possesses one of the last four byes. The Gophers are ranked 39th in RPI and 4th in strength of schedule. They have three RPI top-50 wins and no really bad losses. With Dre Hollins back at 100%, the Gophs should be able to win three of their last six and get at least one victory in the B1G tourney. At 20-13 and 8-10 in conference, Minnesota will be worthy of dancing. In Lunardi's bracketology, Indiana isn't even in his first eight out of the tournament. The Hoosiers just lost to Penn State, and they don't look ready for a late-season push, especially with their excruciatingly tough remaining schedule. Minnesota: IN. Indiana: OUT. Six B1G tourney teams.

2. Michigan/Michigan St.: Who gets a higher seed?

Thomas Beindit - Honestly, I think this is simply going to be based on who wins the Big Ten. MSU has the upper hand simply because they don't have Michigan's loss to Charlotte, but that loss column will get much closer if the Wolverines win the conference. This will be interesting to watch, but I think it's primarily going to be on that February 23rd matchup between the two teams, although it wouldn't be surprising to see both get the same seed.

Bryan Steedman - Michigan State. I think the Spartans will end up winning the Big Ten and by the time March comes rolling along they should be healthy. Their losses in conference play have all came with the team short handed and once they're 100% it'll be hard to argue Michigan or anyone else is better. Plus their resume already is better than the Wolverines, especially with Michigan starting off the season with a slew of losses (including the one versus Charlotte).

Jason Dorow - Both these teams are currently 2 seeds in Lunardi's bracket. Michigan is benefitting from strong play in conference after a lackluster start to the season. The Wolverines end on four very winnable games after home matchups with Wisconsin and MSU. If they win five of those and get a B1G tourney win, Michigan is a solid two seed. MSU's schedule is a bit rougher, but the close matchups are near the end, when the Spartans are expected to be healthy again. Izzo's squad will have a good chance at taking the B1G tournament as well, but it's unlikely they steal a number 1 seed. So I am going to push here. Two 2 seeds from the state of Michigan.

3. Iowa/Wisconsin/Ohio St.: Who gets the highest seed?

Thomas Beindit - Wisconsin seems the most likely to me. They have that great non-conference performance under their belt, are trending up, and have a manageable slate ahead. Pick up a few key wins and they could have a big jump.

Bryan Steedman - Probably Wisconsin if they can keep it up the rest of the way out. Ohio State's offensive issues will likely cost them some games, though they could make a run because their schedule is very, very favorable. Wisconsin already has a very strong resume numberwise and as long as they don't drop off considerably they should get the highest seed of the three. The Hawkeyes only lose to good teams but they've failed to win versus stronger opposition quite a bit and it's hard to see them ahead of Wisconsin. Honestly if Ohio State takes advantage of their schedule they should likely end up in front of Iowa, but the Big Ten is crazy so who knows how that'll play out.

Jason Dorow - Iowa, likely as a 4 seed. First off, take a look at Iowa's resume. All of their losses were to teams that are currently ranked in the top 25, and they have four RPI top 50 wins. The Hawkeyes have a fairly easy remaining schedule, as does OSU. But the Buckeyes have proven to be inconsistent through losses to Nebraska and Penn State. Wisconsin has to go to Iowa and Michigan, which looks like two more quick losses. It may very well come down to the B1G tournament to determine who gets the highest seed here. I'm banking on Iowa to finish strong and get to the B1G Championship Game, and seeding will go Iowa (4), Wisconsin (5), and OSU (6).

4. Which B1G team is built to make a deep run in the tourney?

Thomas Beindit - The thing that I always say about making a deep run is that it requires two things. First, obviously the team has to be pretty good. The thing is that this year, all 5 of those "locks" are good teams. Maybe there are some gaps in there, but I think they're a lot closer than most think. Second, to make a deep run, a team must have a player that can take over a game. This may sound kind of stupid, but look at any team that makes a deep run. There always comes a time where they have to either come from behind or pull off some big baskets in crunchtime. There has to be a guy that can do that. Michigan had Trey Burke last year, Ohio State had Jared Sullinger the year before that, and MSU had Kalin Lucas before that. The teams who clearly have a guy that can perform at that level are MSU (Gary Harris) and Michigan (Nik Stauskas). Maybe Wisconsin with Sam Dekker or Iowa with Roy Devyn Marble can do it as well, but MSU and Michigan have to be the teams to watch here. MSU still has the health question, but it's hard not to lean toward one of those two.

Bryan Steedman - Michigan State or Ohio State are likely the best possibilities in my opinion. On paper you'd think a team like Wisconsin would be a strong bet but it's been awhile since they've gotten past the Sweet 16. I'm not really sold on Iowa in the tournament, especially when you look at all of the games they've lost to their stronger opponents. They haven't been bad, but all of those losses show that there's no guarantee they can win these games come crunch time. I'm assuming a number of people will mention Michigan but unless they get hot again in March it's going to be tough, especially if they have a night where the threes don't sink. So that leaves Michigan State and Ohio State. The Buckeyes have plenty of offensive issues and Craft seems to struggle at times when he tries to do everything, but it's hard to knock out Matta's teams in the tourney. However, if Michigan State is fully healthy for the tournament they're going to be fresh and likely the strongest B1G team by far.

Jason Dorow - Michigan State is obviously the first pick here. They are so talented, deep, and unlike many top college teams right now, experienced. Having senior leaders Keith Appling and Adreian Payne will make a huge difference in the postseason. Remember that this team may be the best in country when they are 100% healthy, and come tournament time that should be the case. After MSU, I'd take Iowa. The Hawkeyes are a model of consistency. As I mentioned earlier, they have only lost to teams who are currently ranked in the top 25, so you can count on them to get through the first couple rounds. Iowa is extremely big and will dominate the paint against anyone. They are also deep, rotating in 11 different guys. Teams can get tired due to the travel and tourney schedule, but the Hawkeyes will be just fine. Iowa will take care of business and get to the elite eight.

Chris Kay - MSU will have the best chances of making it deep in the tournament based off star players (Payne and Harris) and coaching. Ohio State plays solid defense, but I don't think they have enough offense to make it deep. Iowa has the whole "deep team" thing going for them with some very reliable players in White and Marble. Michigan has the shooting to make a run if they get hot plus they're getting better contributions from Irvin and Walton Jr. They're a tough team to play on short rest and not a whole lot of time to prepare. With all of this being said, MSU and Michigan have the best chances of making a run at the Final Four. Both teams have great players. Both teams have coaches that have been there before. And both teams haven't shown their highest potential yet as a team.

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