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BTPowerhouse's NCAA Tournament Bracketology: Purdue, Indiana, Illinois All on the Bubble

Three teams remain on the bubble entering the Big Ten Tournament.

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight marks the end of the regular season for the Big Ten (and the rest of the conferences that haven't already started their conference tournaments) and regardless of how Chicago fares for any of the teams in the Big Ten, the conference already has five surefire locks. We'll take a look at those teams over the next few days, but for now we'll take a look at the remaining bubble teams in the Big Ten.

Before starting this piece, though, it should be mentioned that while none of these teams will play until Thursday, there's still meaningful basketball left to watch (especially if you're an Illinois fan). One thing of interest to watch will be if teams not good enough for the bubble can steal a bid. For example, earlier today Illinois State almost won the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament before blowing a double digit first half lead. If Illinois State, a non-tournament team, had won they would have effectively stolen a bubble bid as their opponent Northern Iowa (and Wichita State, who they beat in the semis) are both locks. Also, bubble teams like Texas, Tulsa, Miami, etc. could all play themselves out of the tournament if they have a bad conference tournament showing...or play themselves in if they make a run late into their conference tourney. The number of bubble spots can shrink by a handful unexpectedly and there's a lot of factors completely out of the hands of teams like Illinois, who probably need a lot of help to get in. Same for Indiana, depending on who you ask...

Record Conference Record RPI SOS KenPom Vs. RPI Top 100 Upcoming Week
19-12 9-9 59 64 53 5-11 Michigan (Thursday)

Case for Illinois

An interesting resource for looking at the bubble is sites like Bracket Matrix, which essentially goes out and lists all of the major brackets from a wide variety of sources. Taking a look at the Illini's odds and they don't exactly look promising, with a lot of people keeping them out. They're usually on the first four out or next four out lists, though, so they can still play their win if they get some help and a strong showing...but we'll tackle that a bit further below.

The best thing going for the Illini is probably their early January win over Maryland. That home win against Maryland is one of their two best wins, with the other being an early season win over a strong Baylor program. Outside of that it's slim pickings though, with a road win at Michigan State looking a tad underwhelming as the Spartans faded. They did knock off Purdue in January but their next best win after that is only against Michigan. If the Illini want a chance they'll have to hope the committee values their wins over Baylor and Maryland and gives them a break for having to play part of the season without star Rayvone Rice.

Case against Illinois

A lot of things, actually. They just lost to Purdue, another Big Ten bubble team. They lost to their closest comparable Big Ten program, Indiana, as well as dropping a game to fellow bubble program Miami back in December. They only have three wins against the top 50 and a poor 5-11 record versus the top 100, with the Michigan State win a month ago being the only thing of relevance they've done the last two months. Oh, and 12 losses with a 9-9 record in a so-so Big Ten with an average RPI (59th) doesn't help things either.

What Needs to Be Done

The Illini will start their tournament slate with a game against a Michigan program they split with. Simply put, that's a must win. Not only do they need to win that game to have a remote chance, they need several bubble teams to fade and for no unassuming teams to steal any bids in the conference tournaments. The good news is if they beat Michigan they'll get a Friday showdown with Wisconsin...which may be the only team capable of boosting Illinois back into the tournament. If they can get to Wisconsin and win that'd be their 21st win and third win versus a team with a RPI in the top 10, probably putting them in solid shape to edge Indiana if the Hoosiers bow out early in Chicago. Of course the only time Illinois played Wisconsin they lost by 19 points...but it would be the best thing they could do outside of make it to the conference title game.

Record Conference Record RPI SOS KenPom Vs. RPI Top 100 Upcoming Week
19-12 9-9 57 24 55 8-11 Northwestern (Thursday)

Case for Indiana

A lot of people have the Hoosiers in but there has recently been a growing number of people who have started to leave them out of the field. If the Hoosiers get in it's going to be because of their four wins against SMU, Butler, Ohio State and Maryland. That's definitely an impressive slate of wins and the Hoosiers also have games against Pittsburgh, Minnesota and bubble team Illinois (on the road) to justify a spot in the tournament. If they can win their opener on Thursday that'll get them to 20 wins and as long as the bubble doesn't rapidly shrink the Hoosiers have enough of a resume to get themselves in. On the other hand, though...

Case against Indiana

Since beating Maryland and having people discuss Tom Crean as a potential "Big Ten Coach of the Year" candidate the Hoosiers have gone 4-8. Their four wins have came against Rutgers (twice), Minnesota and Michigan. Half of their losses have been by double digits and they also dropped a no-no to Northwestern, joining Eastern Washington as two poor losses.

The team definitely had plenty of early season success but the last month and a half have been a train wreck and anyone watching Indiana lately doesn't see much of a tournament team. With the team not doing anything since January that magnifies their fading RPI (57) and the fact that they finished at only .500 in the Big Ten. While the Hoosiers had managed to mainly avoid bad losses throughout the season (outside of Eastern Washington), the Northwestern loss opened the flood gates and put Indiana's tourney odds in doubt.

What Needs to Be Done

Win on Thursday. While their opponent isn't set yet as of now, losing to Northwestern would likely keep Indiana out of the NCAA Tournament unless they get a lot of help from the other bubble teams failing to capitalize. Winning the game isn't going to catapult them to a lock status, but it does at least put them in a bit more manageable position and more likely to still end up in the big dance. If the Hoosiers can win on Thursday and knock off Maryland they'll for sure be in, but winning at least one game could be enough depending on how the next week pans out. Of course you don't want to leave your fate in the hands of the committee, so Indiana really needs two wins to lock this thing up.

Record Conference Record RPI SOS KenPom Vs. RPI Top 100 Upcoming Week
20-11 12-6 56 68 48 9-9 Winner of Iowa vs. Neb/Minn - Penn State (Friday)

Case for Purdue

I think Purdue is in already and the only thing that could have kept them out is if they had to play on Thursday and suffered a loss to a team like Nebraska. With Wisconsin winning Purdue gets a double bye and that means a first game loss would probably be against Iowa, something that should still keep them in the dance. With wins against Iowa and Ohio State, as well as bubble teams Indiana (twice), Illinois, BYU and North Carolina State, the Boilers have an advantage over a laundry list of teams that don't have their bid locked up yet. Also, tying for third in the Big Ten with a 12-6 record, finishing the last few months of the season very strong and having 9 wins against the top 100 (4 against the top 50) all show the Boilers are a capable team worthy of being in the tournament.

Case against Purdue

Interestingly enough the case against Purdue all takes place last year, literally. The program had two dreadful losses back in December, dropping games to Gardner-Webb and North Florida (North Florida did just lock up a NCAA bid though). That being said, though, if the committee puts more value on good wins than bad losses these games should be relatively meaningless, though we wouldn't even be discussing Purdue on the bubble had they won one or both of these games.

What Needs to Be Done

Most likely nothing. If Purdue wants to eliminate any doubt of tomfoolery they can seal the deal with a win against most likely Iowa, advancing to the conference semis to take on the tournament favorite Wisconsin Badgers. If Purdue loses? Well they should still be in regardless, but beating the Hawkeyes (if they draw them) would suffice. The only potential thing that could hurt Purdue is if the bubble shrinks considerably and their Friday draw is the 12/13 seed, as a loss to a team like Penn State or Nebraska could hurt Purdue's stock, though it'll hurt a tad less with the loss coming on Friday compared to if it had happened on Thursday.

Team Prediction
Illinois Out
Indiana In
Purdue In