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BT Powerhouse's NCAA Tournament Bracketology: Big Ten 3/3

Entering the last week there are eight teams in contention for a NCAA Tournament bid, with most of them still having some work to do.

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

As we enter the last week of the regular season in the Big Ten there is still plenty of work for all eight teams involved in the hunt for the postseason. While teams like Wisconsin and Maryland are obvious locks, there's a lot of variance possible in their seeding depending on how they close out the season. On the flip side, there are also several teams firmly in right now (Iowa, Michigan State) that could find themselves in trickier situations if they stumble out of the last corner. And of course we have Purdue and Illinois, the two main "bubble" teams for the Big Ten as of right now.

Anyways, onto a slightly streamlined version of this week's Bracketology:

In

Iowa
Record Conference Record RPI SOS KenPom Vs. RPI Top 100 Upcoming Week
19-10 10-6 48 28 25 7-9 at Indiana, Northwestern
Maryland
Record Conference Record RPI SOS KenPom Vs. RPI Top 100 Upcoming Week
24-5 12-4 10 31 34 10-5 at Rutgers, at Nebraska
Michigan State
Record Conference Record RPI SOS KenPom Vs. RPI Top 100 Upcoming Week
19-10 10-6 31 23 20 6-8 Purdue, at Indiana
Ohio State
Record Conference Record RPI SOS KenPom Vs. RPI Top 100 Upcoming Week
21-8 10-6 33 88 15 7-8 at Penn State, Wisconsin
Wisconsin
Record Conference Record RPI SOS KenPom Vs. RPI Top 100 Upcoming Week
26-3 14-2 6 20 5 14-2 at Minnesota, at Ohio State

Let's start up top with the Badgers. Wisconsin's shot at a one seed was up in the air depending on how the other top contenders fared, mainly thanks to that pesky Rutgers loss, and dropping a road trip to Maryland more or less solidified their positioning at the two seed. There was a glimmer of hope last night when Virginia took over eight minutes to score on Syracuse (not making their second field goal until 6:06 was remaining in the half), but Cavaliers stormed back and picked up the victory. Now Wisconsin has to win out and hope for some help, something like a Villanova loss or one of the ACC teams (Duke / Virginia) bowing out quickly in the ACC Tournament, though Gonzaga is still hanging around after a poorly timed loss to BYU. Fair or not, but the Badgers couldn't afford that road loss to Maryland this week and will likely have to deal without the top seed now.

The team that upset Wisconsin this past week was the Terrapins, improving their record to 24-5 and more or less locking up second in the Big Ten. If Maryland can avoid a road upset they should be 26-5 heading into the Big Ten Tournament and look like a solid fit at the three line. Of course losing to Rutgers or Nebraska on the road could drop them down a spot or two, depending on how they fare in Chicago, but Maryland is faring well in their first season of Big Ten Basketball. Another team that benefited this past week was the Buckeyes, picking up a quality victory over Purdue at home on Sunday. Considering how easily they could have lost that game, it was a nice get for a tournament team without a killer resume. Ohio State has a winnable road trip tomorrow against Penn State and could improve their stock decisively if they can steal an upset against Wisconsin this weekend.

The two other teams that should be fine are Iowa and Michigan State. For Iowa they added a big win over Illinois and then avoided a potential mishap against Penn State. The Illinois win isn't a huge mover, but it does help them avoid a poor loss (while boosting the Illini resume) and now has Iowa riding a four game winning streak. Sure, competition has been tepid at best, but an Indiana win can more or less lock things up. As long as Iowa doesn't lose to both Indiana and Northwestern this week, they should have their spot locked up before even heading to Chicago. A three game losing skid could put that in doubt, but the basement for the Hawkeyes right now is most likely the first four if they struggle the next week or so. With wins against North Carolina, Maryland and Ohio State (twice), it's hard to see them not making the tourney.

Michigan State is in a similar position. Coming off of their own four game win streak, highlighted by a home win over Ohio State (and little else besides a road win over Illinois), Michigan State dropped back to back games last week. With two tricky games this week against Purdue and Indiana, a four game losing streak is possible to close the season. That being said, though, whenever State seems to fade back towards the bubble they find a way to pick up a win. And while they have a slew of poor losses (Nebraska, Texas Southern, Minnesota) and only six wins against the RPI Top 100, the committee will likely look favorably on the Spartans thanks to Tom Izzo and his success here. Fair or not but Michigan State is a team that will get the benefit of the doubt on selection Sunday and it's easy to see the committee taking a shaky Spartans team over another bubble team with question marks (or one from a lesser conference).

Bubble

Illinois
Record Conference Record RPI SOS KenPom Vs. RPI Top 100 Upcoming Week
18-11 8-8 59 57 57 5-10 Nebraska, at Purdue
Indiana
Record Conference Record RPI SOS KenPom Vs. RPI Top 100 Upcoming Week
19-10 9-7 42 32 48 8-9 Iowa, Michigan State
Purdue
Record Conference Record RPI SOS KenPom Vs. RPI Top 100 Upcoming Week
19-10 11-5 58 80 50 8-8 at Michigan State, Illinois

I only included Indiana in here because if the team is capable of losing to Northwestern, they can definitely lose both games this week. Naturally they decided to make me look extremely arrogant last week as I claimed their win against the Wildcats was inevitable, but now the Hoosiers haven't had a worthwhile win since...January? Yep, when they knocked off Maryland at home well over a month ago (January 22nd). Since then the Hoosiers have gone 4-6, with two of those wins coming against Rutgers and the other two coming against non-tournament teams in Minnesota and Michigan. There's a lot of quality wins on the resume, including Maryland, Ohio State, Butler, Pitt and SMU...but those all happened quite some time ago. The Hoosiers are at home this week, but both games (Iowa, Michigan State) won't be easy and if the Hoosiers drop both they'll be sitting at an unfavorable 19-12 and 9-9 in the Big Ten. That would likely force them to pick up a game in Chicago, though the Hoosiers would need a massive collapse to miss the tournament all together.

As for their rival, Purdue, the Boilermakers blew a prime opportunity for another huge road victory that could have locked up their bid for the tournament. Dropping a road game to Ohio State shouldn't hurt their stock much overall, but it does mean Purdue definitely needs the win this weekend against Illinois and very well might need either a win tomorrow in East Lansing or a game in the Big Ten Tournament. Interestingly enough, if Purdue splits this week and stays in the top four, that could somewhat hurt them as they could miss out on a considerably more winnable game on Thursday and miss out on a win in the Big Ten Tournament, something that could be detrimental depending on how the rest of the bubble shakes out. While some bubble teams have helped Purdue (Pitt losing to Wake this weekend) and Purdue can more or less eliminate the Illini with a win on Sunday, a team Purdue beat (BYU) is making a major play for one of the last bids after an upset over Gonzaga.

The last team on the bubble is Illinois, a team up and down and one that I can't get behind. Their record of 18-11 (8-8) is uninspiring, their RPI and SOS doesn't push the envelope and over the last month and a half there only quality win has came against Michigan State in a game that is keeping their tournament hopes alive (while State's dropping stock makes Illinois look worse as time goes on). The Illini did beat Purdue back in January at home, but if they lose in West Lafayette on Sunday that win will be meaningless. With a poor 5-10 record against the RPI top 100 and only one top 100 team remaining (Purdue), Illinois very well could be 19-12 (9-9) with a 60ish RPI and a 5-11 top 100 record. That's not a tournament team, with the only hope Illinois having is if they beat Purdue on the road or make a deep run in Chicago. Either way it's going to be tricky for a team that is 1-3 their last four. Tomorrow's outing against Nebraska is definitely a must win for the Illini.

Final Week's Predictions
Team Prediction Seed
Illinois Out n/a
Indiana In 11 seed
Iowa In 9 seed
Maryland In 3 seed
Michigan State In 8 seed
Ohio State In 7 seed
Purdue In 11 seed
Wisconsin In 2 seed

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