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BT Powerhouse's NCAA Tournament Bracketology: Big Ten 1/26

We kick off our weekly overview of where the Big Ten stands when it comes to the NCAA Tournament in March.

Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Well it's finally that time of year for college basketball and we'll be  kicking off our main set of Bracketology posts today. The goal (for now) is to post a main overview piece each Monday and then post individual team posts on an as needed basis. For now I'll be including any team with a remote shot for the NCAA Tournament, especially since no one expected Nebraska to climb their way into the postseason last year after a horrible 9-8 start to the season. So taking that into consideration, the only two teams not included are Northwestern and Rutgers (sorry guys, but if you start making a surprising run like Nebraska did in 2014 you could appear in the upcoming weeks).

Illinois

Record Conference Record RPI SOS KenPom Vs. RPI Top 100 Upcoming Week
13-8 3-5 56 45 67 3-8 vs Penn State

Illinois had a pretty good non-conference resume and could have likely been a legitimate NCAA Tournament team if Rayvonte Rice stayed healthy, but without Rice the team has been up and down. On one hand they did knock off Maryland and Purdue, but they've also lost to Nebraska, Indiana and Minnesota. With all of those three games being within ten points, one has to wonder if the Illini could have won one or two of them if they were healthy. The Maryland and Baylor wins are nice, but the Illini need to refrain from adding too many losses to their resume and try to stay afloat until Rice returns. Illinois has only one game this week, a home outing versus Penn State on Saturday, followed by a Rutgers game on the 3rd. If Illinois can save face and get to 15-8, they'll still be in contention for a bubble spot when they travel to East Lansing on the 7th to face off against Michigan State in what could be a critical game for John Groce and his Fighting Illini.

Prediction: Out, for now

Indiana

Record Conference Record RPI SOS KenPom Vs. RPI Top 100 Upcoming Week
15-5 5-2 28 59 42 8-4 at Purdue, Rutgers

The talk about Crean recently is that he went from the hot seat to Big Ten coach of the year. While the media has taken a liking to the young Hoosiers, a few people have been relatively standoffish and think they'll fade back to the middle of the pack. I think a trip to West Lafayette could speak volumes for Indiana and what to expect down the stretch. After a Rutgers match to close out the month, February starts off a bit rough with Wisconsin, Michigan, Maryland, Minnesota and Purdue all kicking off the month. Indiana will likely fade a bit, definitely outside of the top 25 and back towards the middle of the pack, but they also have a plethora of quality wins and as long as they don't collapse down the stretch they should be a legitimate tournament team.

Prediction: In

Iowa

Record Conference Record RPI SOS KenPom Vs. RPI Top 100 Upcoming Week
13-7 4-3 51 20 47 5-7 Wisconsin

Ouch. The Hawkeyes have beat teams like North Carolina and Ohio State (both on the road, as well as OSU again at home), as well as mid-level Big Ten teams like Nebraska and Minnesota. They also have only one so-so loss on their resume, this past weekend's road defeat against Purdue. On the other hand the Hawkeyes have played good enough early in plenty of games, only to get ran out the gym in the second half. Losing all of those winnable games could become a problem for Iowa in the near future if they're without Aaron White for any considerable period of time. The coaching staff said his shoulder injury versus Purdue was only a stinger, but it looked like it might have been considerably worse. With Wisconsin, Michigan, Maryland and Minnesota all coming up, things won't get any easier for Iowa. If the season ended today they'd be a tournament team, but the way they've played at times this season makes the idea of Iowa fading out of relevancy a very real possibility, especially if White misses any significant time.

Prediction: In, for now

Maryland

Record Conference Record RPI SOS KenPom Vs. RPI Top 100 Upcoming Week
18-3 6-2 14 63 24 8-3 at Ohio State

Well this write up almost got interesting as Maryland had to field a furious rally to come back from a late double digit deficit at home against...Northwestern? Yeah, I've mentioned it previously on BTP but my second favorite team and favorite team from the ACC (likely stemming somewhat from my hatred of Duke) was Maryland, so I've spent my fair share of time following the Terps. One thing that has been consistent under Mark Turgeon is Maryland will record some impressive wins and follow them with entirely puzzling losses to the worst teams on the schedule. So Maryland almost losing to Northwestern wasn't exactly a surprise for a team that has been so consistently great against strong opposition. That being said, Maryland at least picked up the win to avoid a truly disastrous week after losing in Bloomington earlier in the week. Things won't get much easier for the Terps as they have to travel to Columbus on the 29th, but if Maryland can get things up and running again then they should be in position for a favorable seeding in March.

Prediction: In

Michigan

Record Conference Record RPI SOS KenPom Vs. RPI Top 100 Upcoming Week
12-8 5-3 71 26 93 6-6 Nebraska, at Michigan State

The Wolverines could have helped themselves considerably with a win this weekend versus Wisconsin, but instead settled for a heart breaking overtime loss in primetime. Everyone is aware of the embarrassing losses to Eastern Michigan and the New Jersey Institute of Technology, as well as the loss of star Caris LeVert, but Michigan has enough fight and talent to win games down the stretch. The problem is they have a considerable number of losses (8), two losses to teams with horrendous RPIs and will likely add a number of losses to their record over the next several weeks. With Nebraska and rival Michigan State up this week, Michigan faces the real possibility of being 12-10 at the end of the week. With Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan State and Maryland closing out February...things might get bumpy for the Wolverines over the next month. Especially with a young team trying to get by without it's best player.

Prediction: Out

Michigan State

Record Conference Record RPI SOS KenPom Vs. RPI Top 100 Upcoming Week
13-7 4-3 42 17 27 4-6 at Rutgers, Michigan

Tom Izzo's program has been increasingly inconsistent over the season and has done little to improve their stock since taking care of Indiana and Iowa earlier in the month. With losses to Maryland and Nebraska, while barely edging off Northwestern and Penn State at home, State's 13-7 mark and a RPI that is starting to slip means the Spartans will need to start rattling off some wins or they could fade into the bubble. They should still be in, but the resume is a bit thin as of right now. With Rutgers, Michigan, Illinois and Northwestern coming up, Sparty should be favored in all four games and should be able to pretty up their resume over the next few weeks.

Prediction: In, for now

Minnesota

Record Conference Record RPI SOS KenPom Vs. RPI Top 100 Upcoming Week
13-8 2-6 90 79 52 4-8 at Penn State, Nebraska

The Gophers are looking awfully similar to last year's team, losing countless winnable games that would likely move them over to the right side of the bubble. Unfortunately for Minnesota, some awful luck the first five games of the Big Ten resulted in an almost insurmountable 0-5 start. The Gophers finally got on the board, edging out Rutgers before losing to a Nebraska team that is also on the outside looking in. Beating a depleted Illinois was a nice pick up as it at least gives them the edge over another potential bubble team, but Minnesota needs to stop dropping winnable games and take care of business in their softer matchups. This week has two such outings, with a road trip to Penn State and home game against Nebraska being must wins for Pitino and company. Of course both teams have played to a level that Minnesota could just as easily lose both games, but if they want to reenter the postseason conversation adding two wins this week will be a good start. Even more so with the potential to avenge close losses to Purdue and Iowa in the beginning of February.

Prediction: Out

Nebraska

Record Conference Record RPI SOS KenPom Vs. RPI Top 100 Upcoming Week
12-7 4-3 85 86 85 5-4 at Michigan, at Minnesota

The Cornhuskers made an improbable run last year into the NCAA Tournament and at 10-7 a week ago they're hoping to repeat this year as well. This past week was a good one for the Cornhuskers, edging a so-so Minnesota program and then picking up a key win against Michigan State. If Nebraska wants to gain even more ground they can do so this week with wins against Michigan and Minnesota, even more so as the two following games are considerably easier affairs (Northwestern, at Penn State). Of course going to Michigan and Minnesota won't be easy and with a 12-7 record and losses to Incarnate Word and Hawaii, there's little room for Nebraska to slip up over the next month or so. I still think Nebraska isn't a tournament team but they're good enough to provide problems for anyone in the conference, especially when at home. If Nebraska wants to reenter the postseason bubble they'll benefit from winning the next four games, but will need to win at least three of the next four (if they can add an upset later on in February).

Prediction: Out

Ohio State

Record Conference Record RPI SOS KenPom Vs. RPI Top 100 Upcoming Week
16-5 5-3 48 93 21 4-5 Maryland

Ohio State is an interesting team because prior to yesterday's win over Indiana, they were a team that most people thought was easily in even though their resume was considerably lacking. The Buckeyes have had no bad losses, but their best win prior to Sunday was a home win over Illinois. Luckily the Buckeyes got a marquee win and put themselves into considerably better position heading forward. Ohio State's only game this week will provide the Buckeyes with another chance at a quality victory, hosting a Maryland team that has been the second best team so far this year in the Big Ten.

Prediction: In

Penn State

Record Conference Record RPI SOS KenPom Vs. RPI Top 100 Upcoming Week
13-7 1-6 93 155 101 2-6 Minnesota, at Illinois

Penn State's not really in the contention for a NCAA bid, with the possibilities of a surprising postseason run quickly evaporating thanks to a six game losing streak to open up conference play. The only reason they're included is because of what Nebraska did last season and at 13-7 I guess hypothetically they're not technically eliminated. This week Penn State has two winnable games against teams on the outside looking in (Minnesota, at Illinois) and two wins is an absolute must for the Nittany Lions to even entertain the idea of being the 2015 Cornhuskers. So far the only thing of note on Penn State's resume is a win back in December against George Washington, negated completely thanks to losses against Charlotte, Rutgers, Purdue and Michigan.

Prediction: Out

Purdue

Record Conference Record RPI SOS KenPom Vs. RPI Top 100 Upcoming Week
12-8 4-3 88 70 74 6-5 Indiana, at Northwestern

Purdue looked like they had a chance at one point but then went on to struggle during the tail end of the non-conference slate and put themselves in a massive hole they're unlikely to get out of. On one hand knocking North Carolina State, Iowa, BYU, Minnesota and Michigan provides a solid base to build on, but losing to Gardner-Webb and North Florida completely kills the Boilermakers resume as is. Seriously, imagine if Purdue had won both of those games. They'd be sitting at 14-6 with only one bad loss (at Vanderbilt) and primed to make a run. As is, the Boilermakers will need to make a run starting now and pick up some marquee wins in the Big Ten, which may be hard as the two best teams aren't on their remaining schedule (Wisconsin, Maryland). If the Boilers want to retain a fighting chance a win at home against their dreaded rival this Wednesday would be a good start, especially since three of the four following games (at Northwestern, at Minnesota, at Rutgers) are winnable and if Purdue can beat Indiana at home they could do the same against Ohio State on the 4th.

Prediction: Out

Wisconsin

Record Conference Record RPI SOS KenPom Vs. RPI Top 100 Upcoming Week
18-2 6-1 8 25 5 10-2 at Iowa

At 18-2 Wisconsin is obviously in the NCAA Tournament, the only question is if they can land a number one seed or if they'll fall to a two or three seed. The not-so-good Big Ten definitely will hurt the Badgers, evident as they only have two wins against RPI top 50 teams (Georgetown, Oklahoma), and that loss to Rutgers was a rough one (even without their best player). Losing to Duke puts them at a disadvantage to the Blue Devils and teams like Kentucky, Kansas, Arizona and Virginia will likely end up with better resumes if they keep taking care of business. Believe it or not, but as of right now the Badgers only have three remaining games against top 50 teams (Indiana, Maryland, Michigan State) so they'll likely need to nearly run the table if they want to get a one spot, making a two or three seed a more likely scenario right now. This week the Badgers have a road trip to Iowa on the docket, a game that could be considerably easier if Aaron White is still out from a shoulder injury suffered this weekend.

Prediction: In

Note: For the RPI and SOS numbers I used ESPN's Daily RPI listings (I like their team charts) from Sunday night.