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BTPowerhouse's NCAA Tournament Bracketology: Indiana Rises, Illinois Crashes

Two teams faced must wins today, but only one was able to take care of business.

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Entering the first full day of the Big Ten Tournament there were two critical games for teams on the bubble with Illinois facing Michigan and Indiana taking on Northwestern.

The Illini had been up and down throughout the season and finally faded enough down the stretch to find themselves on the wrong side of the bubble. Entering today the Michigan game wasn't going to be enough to get them in in all likelihood, but it would keep their hopes of a NCAA Tournament appearance alive. With Wisconsin awaiting the winner in the quarterfinals, an upset over the top seeded Badgers would lock up a bid for the Illini and officially get them off the bubble. However, the Illini still needed to get past a disappointing Michigan program in their first game.

And unfortunately for the Illini, that didn't happen. After a disastrous start put Illinois down 2-14 early, the Illini would retake the lead on a 13 point run and play relatively competitive until the Wolverines closed the half on a 21-4 run. With the loss to a bad Michigan team, Illinois adds a poor loss to a resume that likely wasn't good enough to sneak into the tournament as is and should guarantee Illinois' fate as a team in the NIT. The Illini already had a RPI and SOS in the 60s and the loss to the Wolverines will only drop that even further. With a 5-12 record against the top 100 and only three top 50 wins, the Illini needed a win over Wisconsin to secure a bid and that (obviously) won't happen.

As for the other bubble team playing today, Indiana was in a bit better shape than the Illinois. The interesting thing entering the Northwestern game was that it wasn't really a "must win," but rather a game they simply couldn't lose. A loss could have possibly dropped the Hoosiers out of the tournament, while the Hoosiers would have been a tournament team if they didn't have to play any games in the Big Ten Tournament. To complicate things even further was the fact that Indiana had faded down the stretch and even lost to the Northwestern team they were about to face. Luckily for the Hoosiers, though, a laundry list of bubble teams (Illinois, Texas A&M, Old Dominion) already lost earlier in the day, alleviating a bit of pressure on the Hoosiers.

Turns out it didn't matter as Indiana jumped all over the throat of the Wildcats and then did enough to keep them at bay in the second half. The win won't skyrocket the Hoosiers, but it does get them into the tournament. As bad as Indiana has been the last month and a half, their early season success and big wins will get them into the tournament without much doubt now. Now the interesting thing to keep an eye on is how Indiana will fare against Maryland tomorrow. If the Hoosiers can win another Big Ten Tournament game they can improve their seed a little bit, which would be huge because right now there's still a solid chance they end up in the First Four next week. Beating Maryland would likely help them avoid Dayton, while a loss would make that a realistic possibility. Of course Iowa State losing and Miami possibly losing (they play Notre Dame tonight) would help the Hoosiers out even more, but Indiana's ability to avoid Dayton could come down to if they can beat Maryland again after splitting in the regular season.

As for the third bubble team, Purdue draws an interesting draw in Penn State. On paper it's an easier game to win than Iowa, but it does create the possibility of a bad loss for the resume. On the flip side, though, with so many bubble teams dropping games early in their conference tournaments, Purdue is still likely fine. Of course dropping a game to the Nittany Lions could send them to Dayton, so look for Purdue to take the game very seriously. The Boilermakers laundry list of quality wins, 12-6 Big Ten record and third place finish in the Big Ten is good enough to get them in the dance, but they can still improve their stock this weekend.

That being said, it looks like the Big Ten has secured their fate as a seven bid league. While it looks like no teams can play their way in or out of the tournament (unless Minnesota, Michigan or Penn State win the tourney), there's still significant seeding implications for all of the remaining Big Ten programs.