Over the weekend, BTPowerhouse got the chance to chat with SBNation Bracketology Expert Chris Dobbertean about the Big Ten's NCAA Tournament standing this season. Chris had some really interesting thoughts about teams all across the conference and things that could impact teams hoping to get into this year's Big Dance.
Here is the full text of the interview with BTP's questions in bold and Chris' answers listed below.
Chatting With SBNation Bracketology Expert Chris Dobbertean
1. Wisconsin looks to be the Big Ten's best bet at having a #1 seed this season. How likely do you think it is that the Badgers snag a #1 seed?
I think the Badgers earning a No. 1 is a 50/50 proposition. They look to be a strong bet to win the Big Ten regular season crown, which would be a boost, but as I've written previously (see here), the Selection Committee loves trophies. If Wisconsin can complete the regular season/tournament double, it would be very difficult to leave them off the top line. This is particularly true with two ACC teams -- Virginia and Duke -- at the top of my projected bracket right now. It's highly unlikely both stay there, since only one can claim both ACC crowns.
The lateness of the Big Ten Championship game shouldn't be much of a worry, as the Committee has to plan for contingencies.
2. Outside of Wisconsin, the Big Ten doesn't necessarily have too many contenders for top seeds this year. Which team do you think has the best shot at getting in the #2 or #3 seed range?
Maryland has the best chance, though the Terps will need to get out of the mini-slump they're currently in. And, looking at their schedule, even that may not be enough, considering that only three of Maryland's nine remaining regular season games are against teams in my current projection, with Wisconsin's February 24th visit looming particularly large.
It looks to me like the Terrapins will need to basically run the table and make a nice run in the Big Ten Tournament, to the semifinals perhaps, to get to the two or three line.
3. There appear to be a handful of Big Ten teams this year that are either on the good side of the "bubble" range or have been talked about as bubble teams. Who do you see that fits here?
Currently, I have three Big Ten teams considered on the bubble in -- Michigan State, Iowa, and Illinois. The latter is a bit of a surprise, since many have the Fighting Illini out. But a November win over Baylor in Vegas and home win over Maryland boost a profile that currently features one truly bad loss, at Nebraska. I must stress that the Illini's margin is razor thin, as they were my very last team in on Tuesday. A loss to Rutgers on Tuesday would drop them out on Friday.
The Hawkeyes, who have dropped three in a row, are another team that needs to be careful, though a win at North Carolina and a sweep of Ohio State are nice trump cards to have on a profile. Michigan State, meanwhile, is a little light on quality wins (2-5 against the RPI Top 50), which is unusual for the Spartans. So is the presence of a pair of losses to two teams from outside of the Top 100, with the OT defeat to Texas Southern the most damaging, since the RPI punishes home defeats so severely.
4. Which Big Ten teams do you see close to the field right now and which of them do you think have the best chance to make the field?
As for the teams on the outside looking in, Purdue looks to be getting its act together for the right time, thanks to four wins in their last five, including ones over Iowa and Indiana. They still need to grab a few more though, to make up for defeats at the hands of Vanderbilt, Gardner-Webb, and North Florida. Conversely, while Michigan is improving, the Wolverines may regret not being able to defeat Wisconsin or Michigan State after forcing OT with both. Nebraska looked to be on their way after defeating Minnesota and Michigan State in Lincoln, but now they need to build a serious winning streak after dropping two straight on the road. The Gophers, meanwhile, have started to play better, having won three of their last five, but five losses in a row to start the Big Ten season is a considerable hole to climb out of.
Of this group, I'd say Purdue has the best shot simply because while they have a few quality win chances left, they're all against teams that are beatable (Ohio State and Illinois at home and Indiana, OSU, and MSU away). Wisconsin and Maryland are only a possibility for Chicago. On the other hand, Minnesota still has to play the Badgers twice, which is simultaneously a great and terrifying opportunity for the Golden Gophers.
5. If you were a fan of a team that is narrowly out of the field right now, what should you be hoping for from your team? Obviously, winning is important, but where do you stand on the "good wins" vs "bad losses" issue?
To me, bad losses will always hurt more, especially if they happen at home. They will weigh down your computer numbers, especially the all-important RPI. Plus, from the comparison perspective, it's never good to lay an egg when your competition is in position to and very well might make the opposite impression.