Big Ten Bracketology: Three Bubble Teams Remain

Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

As we enter the last week of the regular season, the Big Ten has three teams remaining on the bubble as the conference looks to send more than five teams to the NCAA Tournament.

Team Record RPI SOS vs 1-50 vs 51-100 vs 101-200 vs 201+ Projection
Wisconsin 24-5 (11-5) 5 9 8-3 7-1 7-1 2-0 In
Michigan 21-7 (13-3) 12 6 8-5 3-1 6-1 4-0 In
Michigan State 22-7 (11-5) 23 20 6-4 3-3 9-0 4-0 In
Ohio State 22-8 (9-8) 27 21 4-4 7-2 8-2 3-0 In
Iowa 20-9 (9-7) 39 57 4-8 2-1 7-0 7-0 In
Minnesota 18-12 (7-10) 47 4 3-7 3-3 6-2 5-0 Bubble (Out)
Nebraska 17-11 (9-7) 55 36 3-7 3-1 7-3 4-0 Bubble (Out)
Illinois 17-12 (6-10) 74 49 2-7 3-2 6-3 6-0 Out
Indiana 17-12 (7-9) 79 54 4-6 2-2 5-4 6-0 Out
Penn State 14-15 (5-11) 110 35 2-7 4-5 3-3 5-0 Out
Purdue 15-14 (5-11) 126 85 1-9 5-1 5-4 4-0 Out
Northwestern 12-17 (5-11) 129 30 2-10 3-5 1-2 6-0 Out

Currently In

It's pretty much been set in stone that the Big Ten will have at least five teams in the NCAA Tournament so this final week will be mainly about seeding for Wisconsin, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Iowa. There was definitely a bit of disappointment for several of the teams, with a handful losing winnable games, and it'll be interesting to see how everyone here responds.

Let's start off with the weeks more disappointing teams, namely Iowa, Ohio State and Michigan State. In a busy three game week the Hawkeyes dropped two games to Indiana and Minnesota and then barely beat Purdue at home (in a game that would have gone the other way if not for a Boilermaker turnover fest). As is, Iowa managed to stop the bleeding but now will travel to East Lansing to face the Spartans before hosting an Illinois team that seems capable of competing nowadays. This week will be key to determining the Hawkeyes seeding, with last week seeing the team start to slide down the board. They're going to the tournament, the only question is where they'll end up. I have Iowa splitting this week, so their seeding likely could come down to their performance in the Big Ten Tournament. A strong finish would leave Iowa with a likely six seed. If they continue their skid this week and into the Big Ten Tournament, though, the possibility of a 8 or 9 seed (maybe, maybe a 10 seed if they lose to Illinois) could creep up on them.

Another team that had a disappointing week was Ohio State. After rebounding from an earlier skid, the Buckeyes were sitting at 22-6 (9-5) and had a relatively modest slate with Penn State and Indiana coming up. The idea of Ohio State winning both of those games, possibly beating Michigan State and then adding a few wins in the conference tournament seemed entirely possible. However, Ohio State dropped both games and could be riding a losing streak into the tournament. While the idea of a three or four seed seemed possible, the Buckeyes have quietly faded back towards a six or seven seed. Of course if they beat Michigan State and look strong in Indianapolis they could creep back up. One has to wonder how the Spartans will look, after falling out of the Big Ten race and losing to Illinois. The team finally got back Dawson and will look to get back in sync but it could be a difficult week as they host Iowa and travel to Columbus to close out the season.

Having considerably better weeks then the other three teams were Michigan and Wisconsin. It took a bit of good fortune for Michigan to knock off Purdue but their win this weekend against Minnesota sealed the conference title. Now the Wolverines will face another manageable week with Illinois and Indiana coming up. Wisconsin once again will finish towards the top of the Big Ten and added two more wins to their resume. The Badgers are 24-5 and have a top 10 RPI and SOS and look like a viable two seed if they can take care of business this week versus Purdue and Nebraska. It's the Big Ten, though, so who knows how it'll play out, but the Badgers are looking like a solid two seed if they can avoid any crippling upsets along the way.

Bubble

Minnesota

Record
18-12 (7-10)
RPI
47 (46)
SOS
4 (6)
Non-Conf. RPI
43
Non-Conf. SOS
50
Average RPI WIn
135
Average RPI Loss
45
Vs. 1-50
3-7
Vs. 51-100
3-3
Vs. 101-200
6-2
Vs. 201+
5-0
Key Wins
Wisconsin, Ohio State, Florida State, at Richmond, Indiana, Iowa
Key Losses
Arkansas, at Nebraska, Northwestern, at Purdue, Illinois
Upcoming Games
Penn State

Minnesota has been on the bubble the entire season and that hasn't changed much entering this week. The Gophers have spent the season bouncing back and forth with crippling losses to bad teams followed by impressive wins versus stronger opposition (this of course while failing to pick up a handful of wins that would have locked up a tourney bid). Looking at the resume and it's easy to fall in love with their SOS and wins against Wisconsin, Ohio State, Iowa and Florida State. At the same time, though, they have 12 losses, a so-so RPI and losses to Arkansas, Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue and Illinois. Yikes. The Gophers got a big win versus Iowa but couldn't knock off Michigan in a game that likely would have put them into the tournament. Now Minnesota faces a must win versus Penn State as a loss would likely eliminate them from the bubble. Even if they win they'll still need to likely add a few wins in Indianapolis if they want to make it to the big dance.

Prediction: Out
Projected Tournament Odds: 40%

Nebraska

Record
17-11 (9-7)
RPI
55 (48)
SOS
36 (27)
Non-Conf. RPI
86
Non-Conf. SOS
101
Average RPI WIn
141
Average RPI Loss
51
Vs. 1-50
3-7
Vs. 51-100
3-1
Vs. 101-200
7-3
Vs. 201+
4-0
Key Wins
Ohio State, Minnesota, Indiana. at Michigan State
Key Losses
UAB, at Purdue, at Illinois
Upcoming Games
at Indiana, Wisconsin

Nebraska had a major hot streak recently that got them into the bubble talk. The only problem was outside of the Michigan State game, none of the wins were against any quality opponents. This put a lot of pressure on the Cornhuskers to simply win and move on, something they managed to do until last week. Nebraska is great at home but they struggle on the road and the loss to Illinois likely killed off any chance of them getting an at large bid. Their record isn't that impressive, their RPI is so-so and they're only 3-7 versus the top 50. That's not even taking into consideration the teams three losses to teams outside of the top 100 and their struggles on the road. If Nebraska wants to go dancing they'll need to first win both of their games this week. That'll be quite the challenge for Tim Mile's squad as they have to travel to Bloomington and then host a hot Badgers team. Even if they win both games this week they'll likely need to add a quality win in the Big Ten Tournament. It's not impossible to suggest the Cornhuskers could go to the tournament, especially since their fate is in their hands, but all things considered it seems unlikely at this point in time.

Prediction: Out
Projected Tournament Odds: 30%

Indiana

Record
17-12 (7-9)
RPI
79
SOS
54
Non-Conf. RPI
50
Non-Conf. SOS
208
Average RPI WIn
157
Average RPI Loss
59
Vs. 1-50
4-6
Vs. 51-100
2-2
Vs. 101-200
5-4
Vs. 201+
6-0
Key Wins
Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, Ohio State
Key Losses
Notre Dame, at Illinois, Northwestern, at Nebraska, Penn State, at Purdue
Upcoming Games
Nebraska, at Michigan

I decided to add Indiana back into the mix because there's a slim chance they could fight their win into the tournament. Their RPI is poor, their SOS (especially non-conference) isn't impressive and they have a ton of bad losses on their resume, but they've also beat Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa and Ohio State. If the season ended next week these last two games wouldn't even matter, but if Indiana can knock off Nebraska and upset Michigan in the finale they should create a strong enough resume to re-enter the bubble mix, especially since they beat Iowa and Ohio State last week. It'll take two wins this week and then another win or two in Indianapolis, but it's at least a possibility. It'll be interesting to see how the week pans out for the Hoosiers as their first game comes at home versus a very bad road team in Nebraska, followed by a game versus a Michigan team that already has the conference wrapped up. It's times like these that Indiana is probably kicking themselves over the fact that they've lost to Purdue, Penn State, Northwestern and Illinois in games they should have ultimately won.

Prediction: Out
Projected Tournament Odds: 25%


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