Big Ten Bracketology: Down Goes Indiana

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

It now looks like only six Big Ten teams remain in the running for a NCAA Tourney bid after Indiana's disastrous week.

As we officially enter the tail end of February and a rapidly approaching March, the NCAA Tournament picture is becoming increasingly clearer after every game in the Big Ten. There's been some debate and discussion on if the Big Ten will get five or six teams in the tournament but it's looking more likely that the conference will be a five bid league.

Last week we detailed seven teams but this week Indiana drops off the list. The Hoosiers didn't help themselves out much two weeks ago when they lost their only game, but they still had a recent win versus Michigan that helped their resume quite a bit. Entering last week Tom Crean's squad needed to take care of business and add two wins versus Penn State and Purdue. The end result wasn't pretty, though, as Indiana collapsed versus Penn State and then got blown out by the Boilermakers. Indiana's middling (at best) resume, poor 14-11 mark, four games under .500 Big Ten record and losses to Nebraska, Northwestern, Penn State and Purdue have more or less eliminated the Hoosiers unless they can win out or win the Big Ten Tournament.

So that leaves us with six teams vying for the NCAA Tournament, with the top five all essentially locks and Minnesota the only team still currently up in the air. Interestingly enough, the Cornhuskers could actually reenter the picture if they take care of business. Three of their next four games are home outings versus Penn State, Purdue and Northwestern, with the only road game sandwiched in there being at Illinois. All four of these games are winnable and the idea of Nebraska being 18-10 at the beginning of March isn't complete crazy talk. They'd still likely need a couple of wins out of their two remaining games (at Indiana, Wisconsin) and the Big Ten Tournament, but it could happen. Then again the Big Ten is a roller coaster and the idea of Nebraska dropping two or three of their next four seems just as likely. Regardless it'll be interesting to see how the season pans out in Lincoln.

Team Record RPI SOS vs 1-50 vs 51-100 vs 101-200 vs 201+ Projection
Wisconsin 21-5 (8-5) 6 2 8-3 6-2 5-0 2-0 In
Ohio State 20-6 (7-6) 15 6 3-4 8-1 6-1 3-0 In
Michigan 18-7 (10-3) 16 4 6-5 4-1 4-1 4-0 In
Michigan State 21-5 (10-3) 18 19 6-3 5-2 6-0 4-0 In
Iowa 19-6 (8-4) 24 59 3-6 5-0 5-0 6-0 In
Minnesota 17-9 (6-7) 33 5 3-5 3-3 7-1 4-0 Toss-Up
Nebraska 14-10 (6-6) 53 20 3-7 4-0 3-3 4-0 Out
Illinois 14-12 (3-10) 91 47 1-7 2-3 5-2 6-0 Out
Indiana 14-11 (4-8) 102 73 2-5 2-3 4-3 6-0 Out
Northwestern 12-14 (5-8) 104 26 2-10 2-2 2-2 6-0 Out
Purdue 15-10 (5-7) 108 103 1-6 5-1 3-3 6-0 Out
Penn State 13-13 (4-9) 112 58 2-6 3-4 2-2 6-1 Out

Currently In

Wisconsin

Record 21-5 (8-5)
RPI 6 (7)
SOS 2 (3)
Non-Conf. RPI 3
Non-Conf. SOS 8
Average RPI WIn 92
Average RPI Loss 53
Vs. 1-50 8-3
Vs. 51-100 6-2
Vs. 101-200 5-0
Vs. 201+ 2-0
Key Wins Michigan State, at Michigan, Florida, Minnesota, Saint Louis, Iowa, Illinois
Key Losses at Indiana, Michigan, at Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State
Upcoming Games at Iowa

Wisconsin's mid-season slump is definitely over as the Badgers have now won four in a row, including wins versus Michigan State and at Michigan. Wisconsin is still two games behind in the Big Ten race, making it unlikely they'll take first in the conference, but third place seems like a solid bet for Bo Ryan's squad. Wisconsin only has one game this week when they play at Iowa on Saturday and it'll be interesting to see if Wisconsin can continue their winning streak. Wisconsin's resume is very, very solid and the more wins they pick up down the stretch will only improve their seeding in the tournament. It could get interesting for Wisconsin if they beat Iowa as well when you take into consideration a four game stretch that has the Badgers take on Indiana, Penn State, Purdue and Nebraska, all of which are winnable games.

The Badgers currently sit atop the Big Ten RPI wise, coming in at sixth, and also have the second best strength of schedule in the nation. The Badgers eight wins versus the top 50 and 14 wins versus the top 100 are both equally impressive feats and no team Wisconsin has lost to has been outside of the top 100. With a pretty record and one of the countries best resumes, if Wisconsin can take care of business down the stretch they could contend for a marquee seeding in the NCAA Tournament, especially if they can win out and then win the Big Ten Tournament.

Prediction: In
Projected Tournament Odds: 100%

Ohio State

Record
20-6 (7-6)
RPI
15 (16)
SOS
6 (12)
Non-Conf. RPI
6
Non-Conf. SOS
46
Average RPI WIn
111
Average RPI Loss
42
Vs. 1-50
3-4
Vs. 51-100
8-1
Vs. 101-200
6-1
Vs. 201+
3-0
Key Wins
at Wisconsin, at Iowa, Maryland, Notre Dame, Illinois
Key Losses
Penn State, at Minnesota, at Nebraska
Upcoming Games
Northwestern, Minnesota

Scoring has been probably the biggest issue plaguing the Buckeyes and that continued into this past week with Ohio State scoring an average of 54 points in their two games. Their lack of offense was detrimental in their attempt to knock off Michigan, but ultimately meant little in an ugly game against an Illinois team that couldn't even hit 40. The schedule this week is once again favorable for the Buckeyes as they'll host Northwestern and Minnesota this week.

Interestingly enough Ohio State is also the second highest team in the Big Ten when it comes to their RPI. The Buckeyes have been hit or miss versus tougher opposition, going 3-4 in seven games versus the top 50, but have taken care of business with eight wins versus teams in between 51st and 100th. A strong SOS and a high non-conference RPI mark are still holding Ohio State up pretty nicely and if they can pick up some wins down the stretch the idea of them having a reasonable seed isn't out of the picture. Some analysts have the Buckeyes around sixth or so, a mark that seems about right. If Ohio State can become more consistent on offense and take of business, the idea of them trending upwards to a four seed (or even maybe a three seed, who knows) isn't out of the picture.

Prediction: In
Projected Tournament Odds: 100%

Michigan

Record
18-7 (10-3)
RPI
16 (17)
SOS
4 (9)
Non-Conf. RPI
67
Non-Conf. SOS
76
Average RPI WIn
115
Average RPI Loss
43
Vs. 1-50
6-5
Vs. 51-100
4-1
Vs. 101-200
4-1
Vs. 201+
4-0
Key Wins
at Michigan State, at Wisconsin, at Ohio State, Iowa, Florida State, at Minnesota
Key Losses
Charlotte, at Indiana
Upcoming Games
Michigan State

Michigan took care of business early in the week, knocking off rival Ohio State in Columbus, but couldn't capitalize on their home matchup against Wisconsin. The loss to the Badgers became even more troubling as Michigan State somehow dropped a home game to the Cornhuskers. Michigan could have been in very, very good shape but instead remain neck and neck with the Spartans as they a huge showdown next Sunday. The game very likely should determine the Big Ten regular season title, especially with Michigan's closing schedule not being overly difficult (at Purdue, Minnesota, at Illinois, Indiana).

It'll be interesting to see how the Wolverines end up getting seeded in the NCAA Tournament. There was quite a bit of hype surrounding the program after their initial hot streak in conference play, but the team is still sitting at a nice, but nothing special, 18-7 record. They have a strong RPI and SOS, but at the same have only a modest non-conference SOS and five losses to top 50 teams. Michigan does have an easy enough schedule to pad the resume with some wins, which would prove beneficial, but there's still the possibility they could slide to double digit losses this season. They'll make the NCAA Tournament regardless, but one has to wonder how low (or high) they could go. If Michigan takes the conference down the stretch the idea of a three seed seems very likely, while if they lose to Michigan State, don't win out the rest of the regular season and lose in the Big Ten Tournament, they could easily fade to possibly a 7 seed. Of course there's a lot of 2 and 3 seeds hoping they won't draw the Wolverines in the second (er, I mean "third") round if that happens.

Prediction: In
Projected Tournament Odds: 99.9%

Michigan State

Record
21-5 (10-3)
RPI
18 (10)
SOS
19 (10)
Non-Conf. RPI
14
Non-Conf. SOS
57
Average RPI WIn
120
Average RPI Loss
32
Vs. 1-50
6-3
Vs. 51-100
5-2
Vs. 101-200
6-0
Vs. 201+
4-0
Key Wins
at Iowa, Ohio State, Kentucky, Oklahoma, at Texas, Indiana
Key Losses
Nebraska, North Carolina, at Wisconsin, at Georgetown, Michigan
Upcoming Games
at Purdue, at Michigan

Well talk about disappointing. After Michigan dropped a home game on Sunday the Spartans where in perfect position to take sole control of the conference but ended up getting knocked off by Nebraska...at home. Now Michigan State remains tied with the Wolverines and the two teams matchup this weekend will most likely determine the Big Ten and have significant NCAA seeding implications. However, State will have to focus on their matchup at Purdue this Thursday and be sure to not overlook a Boilermakers squad that can be relatively difficult at home.

Michigan State's best bet for a strong seeding will be if they can win the Big Ten conference this season and look strong in the Big Ten Tournament. The team has dealt with injury and personnel issues the entire season and it'll be interesting to see how the selection committee takes that into consideration as so much of their season has been limited in one way or another by lost playing time from their starters. The resume still looks strong, but having losses to both Nebraska and Georgetown could keep State from getting a 2 seed come March. If the Spartans recent up and downs continue into March they could fade even more. Regardless of where they end up, though, if the Spartans are healthy come late-March they will be one of the most dangerous teams in the entire nation, regardless of seeding.

Prediction: In
Projected Tournament Odds: 100%

Iowa

Record
19-6 (8-4)
RPI
24 (23)
SOS
59 (45)
Non-Conf. RPI
26
Non-Conf. SOS
240
Average RPI WIn
152
Average RPI Loss
12
Vs. 1-50
3-6
Vs. 51-100
5-0
Vs. 101-200
5-0
Vs. 201+
6-0
Key Wins
Michigan, at Ohio State, Minnesota, Xavier
Key Losses
Ohio State
Upcoming Games
at Indiana, Wisconsin

The Hawkeyes only had one game this week, facing off against Penn State, and overcame an early deficit to pick up their 19th win on the season. It's been pretty apparent for awhile now but the Hawkeyes will be back in the NCAA Tournament this season (unless the Big Ten goes fully crazy and they lose out or something). The Hawkeyes are an interesting team to look at because none of their losses are bad, evident by an average RPI loss of 12. However, their SOS is only so-so (59th) and their non-conference SOS is outright pathetic (240th). Mix that with a not-so-impressive 3-6 record versus the top 50 and an average RPI win lower than all other teams in contention (B1G-wise)...there's definitely some flaws for Iowa. Regardless of any selection issues, they're still going to end up with 20 something wins, double digit Big Ten wins and more than enough quality wins to safely get into the tournament without any hesitation. Their question marks could keep them a bit lower than some people anticipate, but Iowa still has enough opportunities to put said questions to rest and pick up a four or five seed.

Prediction: In
Projected Tournament Odds: 99.9%

Bubble

Minnesota

Record
17-9 (6-7)
RPI
33 (41)
SOS
5 (6)
Non-Conf. RPI
44
Non-Conf. SOS
36
Average RPI WIn
135
Average RPI Loss
45
Vs. 1-50
3-5
Vs. 51-100
3-3
Vs. 101-200
7-1
Vs. 201+
4-0
Key Wins
Wisconsin, Ohio State, Florida State, at Richmond, Purdue, Indiana
Key Losses
Arkansas, at Nebraska, Northwestern, at Purdue
Upcoming Games
Illinois, at Ohio State

The Gophers remain firmly on the bubble, doing little to improve their chances but ultimately not hurting themselves either. They failed once again to pick up a big win, losing to Wisconsin earlier in the week, but managed to slow down Northwestern and pick up a win on Sunday. Their best shot of a NCAA bid is the fact that their resume does look pretty solid and their win total has been steadily increasing, now sitting at 17 wins. The problem for Minnesota is they've failed to pick up wins in big games time and time again and the schedule doesn't get any easier. A home game versus Illinois next up and the season finale versus Penn State should get Minnesota to 19 wins (or so you'd think), but they likely need to pick up a win versus Ohio State, Iowa or Michigan to feel pretty good about their tourney odds. It also creates little room for error in their more winnable games, something problematic when you take into consideration the unpredictability of the Big Ten this season.

A lot of people still say Minnesota is in right now, with a good number of those people under the impression that they'll play themselves out of contention. I can see that happening, especially if Minnesota keeps splitting games and losing to questionable teams. The Nebraska loss is looking less and less bad as time goes on, but dropping games to Arkansas, Northwestern and Purdue will do them no favors. SOS and RPI are the Gophers best friends right now and if they can slide in or not could end up coming down to how much value the committee puts into said metrics. If the Gophers end up with 12 or 13 losses, will they still get in? I'm a firm believer if the Gophers don't step it up to close out the regular season they'll end up with a 1 or 2 seed...in the NIT. But for now their fate will be determined on the hardwood.

Prediction: Toss-Up
Projected Tournament Odds: 50%


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