Big Ten Bracketology: On To Indianapolis

Eric Francis

With the regular season the Big Ten has two teams left on the bubble, with Minnesota and Nebraska hoping to play their way into the tournament.

Minnesota Nebraska
Record 19-12 (8-10) 19-11 (11-7)
RPI 49 41
SOS 3 40
Non Conf. RPI 30 56
Non Conf. SOS 28 79
Last 12 Games 5-7 10-2
Vs. Top 25 1-5 2-5
Vs. Top 50 3-8 4-7
Vs. Top 100 6-10 8-8
Vs. Top 150 11-12 14-11
Vs. Sub 150 7-0 5-0
Neutral W-L 1-2 1-2
Road W-L 3-7 3-8
Key Wins Ohio State, Wisconsin, Iowa, Florida State, at Richmond Wisconsin, at Michigan State, Ohio State, Minnesota
Key Losses Northwestern, at Purdue, Illinois, Arkansas, at Nebraska at Purdue, at Penn State, at Illinois, UAB

Note: RPI numbers were taken from (late) Sunday night and will likely be slightly different then what is posted Monday morning. I will try to update during the day, but this post was written on Sunday.

Minnesota

The Good: SOS, non. conference SOS/RPI, three quality Big Ten wins (Ohio State, Wisconsin, Iowa), Florida State win

The Passable: Record, RPI

The Bad: 1-5 record versus top 25, so-so 5-7 the L/12, lost series to Nebraska, losses to Northwestern, Purdue, Illinois

The Verdict: Out for the time being

What Remains: Minnesota has been back and forth and was ultimately hurt by the rise of Nebraska. The Big Ten as a five bid conference seemed unlikely and at one point you wondered if the Gophers could have drawn a sixth bid just because of the conference name power. With Nebraska taking that sixth seed now though, Minnesota won't luck their way into the tournament and will need to play their way in instead. Their record, RPI and finish to the season are all so-so and don't really create any incentive to include Minnesota. They do have three big Big Ten wins versus Ohio State, Wisconsin and Iowa, as well as a win versus Florida State and a top 5 SOS, though.

That being said, the Gophers needs wins in Indianapolis if they want in. They also need the conference automatic bids across the nation to go to teams firmly in, creating more spots for bubble teams since Minnesota is either in the "first four out" or "next four out" group. Minnesota will have a solid chance to add a win in the opening round of the tournament as they draw a Penn State team they just crushed, but a win versus a sub 100 team will do little for their tournament odds. However, it would put them in the quarterfinals versus Wisconsin. If Minnesota can get by Penn State and upset Wisconsin they will reach 21 wins, have two wins versus highly rated Wisconsin and would be a legitimate possibility for the NCAA Tournament. You could even make the argument if this happens and Nebraska loses in their first game that the Gophers and Cornhuskers would be relatively even, with Nebraska likely having the edge thanks to their conference record and finish to the season (also beating Minnesota would help as well).

Either way, Minnesota has to beat Penn State to stay alive. They then have to beat Wisconsin and then they should be a toss-up, with their fate dependent on the other bubble teams and conference tournaments. If Minnesota can win three games and advance to the finals, they'd likely lock up a bid regardless of if they win the whole thing or not.

Nebraska

The Good: 10-2 the last 12 games, Wisconsin win, 11-7 conference record

The Passable: Record, RPI, SOS

The Bad: Non-conference RPI/SOS, poor road team, losses to Purdue, Penn State, UAB and Illinois

The Verdict: Should Be In

What Remains: The Wisconsin win should be the last step for Nebraska's quest to the NCAA Tournament. Honestly at this point, especially considering the inevitable resume boost thanks to the Wisconsin win, Nebraska is easily in the tournament . The only potential way I could even consider them being out is if a lot of teams currently on the outside win their conference tournaments and Nebraska ends up losing their first Big Ten Tournament game in laughable fashion versus Purdue, which seems unlikely. The biggest question is how far they've played into the tournament and if they can avoid the first four. A win would guarantee them avoiding Dayton, but a loss could potentially drop them into a play-in game depending on the bubble and automatic bids. That could be true if the selection committee feels strongly about Nebraska's chances winning away from Lincoln, something they've struggled immensely with this season. Nonetheless, Nebraska should be hovering around a 10 or 11 seed as is, with the potential to trend up to a 8 or 9 seed if they can win a game or two in the Big Ten Tournament.

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