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2/16 Bracketology: Big Ten Rising

With Wisconsin on the rise, the Big Ten could be a seven bid league.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The recent rise to power for Wisconsin has led to the real possibility of seven Big Ten teams earning a NCAA Tournament bid this March, something that was unexpected after a dreadful non-conference start for the conference. Today we take a look at the top seven teams (as well as Ohio State) when it comes to their postseason odds as we start to enter the final stretch of conference play.

Team Record Conf. Rec. RPI SOS KenPom vs. 1-50 51-100 101-200 201+
Iowa 20-5 11-2 10 13 4 5-5 2-0 6-0 7-0
Maryland 22-4 10-3 6 26 13 5-4 3-0 7-0 6-0
Indiana 20-6 10-3 36 112 21 4-3 3-0 4-3 9-0
Michigan 19-7 9-4 50 77 48 3-7 0-0 6-0 9-0
Wisconsin 16-9 8-4 46 11 33 4-4 4-1 5-3 3-1
Michigan State 21-5 8-5 18 63 3 7-4 1-0 7-1 6-0
Purdue 20-6 8-5 20 53 17 5-4 2-1 6-1 7-0
Ohio State 16-10 8-5 84 65 73 1-7 0-0 7-3 8-0
Nebraska 14-12 6-7 153 119 88 1-8 0-2 4-1 9-1
Northwestern 17-9 5-8 108 127 91 1-6 0-2 7-1 9-0
Penn State 12-13 3-9 113 57 146 1-8 0-2 7-3 4-0
Illinois 11-14 3-9 142 47 124 1-9 2-2 3-3 5-0
Rutgers 6-19 0-12 255 70 283 0-9 0-5 0-4 5-1
Minnesota 6-19 0-13 234 59 179 0-9 1-2 2-8 3-0

Average seed prediction is calculated from the Bracket Matrix, a website that takes the brackets posted by a long list of web sites and creates an average seed while also showing where every school included is projected.

Iowa

This Week: at Penn State
Last Week: at Indiana 78-85 L, Minnesota 75-71 W
Avg. Seed Prediction: 2 (1.77)

The Hawkeyes probably didn't help themselves by losing to Indiana, but that loss alone won't kill their shot at a top seed in the NCAA Tournament. Now a loss to Minnesota would have been an entirely different story, but the Hawkeyes managed to avoid a loss to the Gophers this weekend. Now Iowa has a very, very light week with their only game being a road trip to Penn State. While crazier things have happened, Iowa should add another win this week and probably remain at the same position they are right now. Of course this week's so-so showing has led to several people placing Iowa as a 2 seed, with a few dropping them to a 3 seed, so that creates little room for error for Iowa. Their closing schedule isn't horrible, but all four teams at the end (Wisconsin, Ohio State, Indiana, Michigan) of the season could go either way depending on how said teams fare down the stretch. Take Wisconsin for example, a win against the Badgers tomorrow would be seen as a nice win, but if Wisconsin cools down then that win a week from now might hold less value. The end result is, depending on how the other top seeds fare, Iowa may need to win the Big Ten Tournament if they want to end up as a top seed.

Maryland

This Week: at Minnesota, Michigan
Last Week: Bowie State 93-62 W, Wisconsin 57-70 L
Avg. Seed Prediction: 2 (2.29)

The Wisconsin loss this past weekend may have dealt a major blow to Maryland earning a top seed in the tournament, as well as their odds at winning the regular season Big Ten title, but it shouldn't have much more of an impact than that. As is, Maryland is still likely to be slotted as a two or three seed, though their closing schedule is a bit tricky. On one hand traveling to Purdue and Indiana, while hosting Michigan (they also have Minnesota and Illinois) isn't exactly an easy stretch by any means, but the problem is winning out here won't really elevate Mark Turgeon's team to a potential top seed. On the flip side, losing these games, while not bad losses, could potentially lead to a scenario where Maryland falls to a possible four seed. It's not a huge difference, but the 4/13 game and the following outing against a 5/12 seed aren't exactly the easiest of games.

The Terps will be without Diamond Stone for their next game, but the road trip to Minnesota is winnable regardless. While the Gophers have repeatedly played teams close, Pitino's team simply can't find a way to get a win. A more interesting outing will be this weekend when they host a Michigan team that narrowly beat them in Ann Arbor last month. It's a solid chance for revenge and to get things back up and running. That being said, while Maryland could add some additional quality wins down the stretch, they really would have benefited from playing a more difficult schedule. Luckily for Maryland, though, several teams they've knocked off (Princeton, Connecticut, Wisconsin) have been trending up as of late.

Indiana

This Week: Nebraska, Purdue
Last Week: Iowa 85-78 W, at Michigan State 69-88 L
Avg. Seed Prediction: 7 (6.89)

Oh Indiana. Two weeks ago they absolutely demolished Michigan on the road and promptly followed that by losing at Penn State. This past week they knocked off Iowa before getting ran out of the gym down the stretch against Michigan State. The Hoosiers had an easy start to conference play so losing games down the stretch isn't a huge surprise, but that Penn State game was dreadful and the second half against the Spartans was unexpected regardless of your personal opinion on how good Indiana is. The Hoosiers have received more flak then they honestly deserve, a lot of it based on the underachieving nature of Tom Crean, so whenever Indiana falters a lot of people come out of the woodwork to pile it on.

It's been mentioned previously that the Hoosiers didn't have an insanely difficult start to the season, especially out of conference thanks to a Wake Forest loss that dramatically lowered the talent of their opponents in Maui, but the recent rise of Wisconsin and Michigan now gives Indiana four wins against top 50 teams (though that could be two wins once again within a few days). Indiana is still 20-6, 10-3 in conference play and fighting for a Big Ten regular season title, so it would take an epic collapse to miss the NCAA Tournament, but considering the talent at hand it would probably be best for Tom Crean's future if he can continue to win games down the stretch. This week the Hoosiers will remain at home, with a winnable game tomorrow against Nebraska followed by a marquee showdown with hated rival Purdue on Saturday night. It would be best for Indiana to win both of these games and then knock off Illinois to close the month since their March slate includes Iowa and Maryland in two games that will be very difficult. As a 7 seed right now, dropping any of the next three games (barring two upsets to close the season) means Indiana could be stuck in the mid-upper seeding, with the Hoosiers probably set to draw a 6,7 or 8 seed a month from now.

Michigan

This Week: at Ohio State, at Maryland
Last Week: at Minnesota 82-74 W, Purdue 61-56 W
Avg. Seed Prediction: 9 (9.27) (only in 74 of 79 brackets)

The Purdue win was huge for Michigan's tournament odds, adding only their third win against a team in the top 100. Their laundry list of games getting ran out of the gym by stronger opposition could prove problematic if they start getting compared to other bubble teams next month, so adding as many quality victories to close the season is going to be important for Michigan. While the Purdue win was a major addition to their resume, the Wolverines still really need a win tonight in Columbus against the Buckeyes. With a road trip to Maryland this weekend, as well as a future road trip to Wisconsin and home game against Iowa, that means that their upcoming Northwestern game is the only other game that will likely see Michigan as the favorite.

If Michigan were to drop tonight's game, followed by a likely loss at Maryland, that would drop them to 19-9. That's not the worst record in the world, especially since the Northwestern game sets up an easy enough opportunity for win number 20, but then potential losses to Wisconsin and Iowa could put Michigan in a bind. That would essentially force Michigan to add a win or two in Indianapolis or hope that the bubble is weak (or that Wisconsin fades). Beating Ohio State would allow Michigan to likely reach at least 21 wins in the regular season and by that point it'd be hard to see them miss the tournament, though if they fall down to close the season they may need to steal an upset to close the season. A home showdown against Iowa, while no gimme, could be a prime chance to get off the bubble completely.

Wisconsin

This Week: at Michigan State, Illinois
Last Week: Nebraska 72-61 W, at Maryland 70-57 W
Avg. Seed Prediction: 11 (10.07) (only in 57 of 79 brackets)

I mentioned it before but if the Badgers get into the NCAA Tournament next month I think it's more or less a requirement that Barry Alvarez removes the interim tag from interim head coach Greg Gard. The Badgers were 9-9 (1-4) and in a rough spot before winning seven games in a row, including wins against Michigan State, Indiana and Maryland. Of course Wisconsin is still in the thick of things more than the media seems to realize, especially with early season losses to Western Illinois (251), Wisconsin-Milwaukee (151), Marquette (116) and Northwestern (108) still tarnishing their resume. The most difficult aspect to swallow for Badgers fans is that those losses came by 2, 1, 2 and 5 points respectively, while the Badgers just missed on losses against Maryland (60-63), Purdue (55-61) and Indiana (58-59). Wisconsin is a bubble team with a lot of weak spots, but with a little bit of luck they could have easily been in the running for a Big Ten title and a lock for the postseason. Instead they're some sort of weird hybrid of 2014-15 Purdue (bad losses) and 2013-14 Nebraska (getting hot at the right team after a bad start to the season).

The interesting question is if Wisconsin can keep it up. The recent seven game win streak and upsets over Maryland Indiana are nice, as well as knocking off Michigan State and Syracuse earlier in the year, but Wisconsin is still sitting at a so-so 16-9 and their laundry list of dreadful losses could prove problematic in direct comparisons with other bubble teams. Luckily for Wisconsin their schedule is full of games that could move the needle enough to secure them a spot in the NCAA Tournament, though their remaining schedule could still prove to be a double edged sword.

Sure, additional wins against teams like Michigan State, Michigan, Iowa and Purdue would definitely help take care of business, but the problem is that Wisconsin's schedule was home heavy to start and the team will now need to win away from Madison. That further shows how problematic those early season losses to Maryland, Purdue and Indiana were, especially considering how easy all three games could have been wins. With three of the remaining opportunities for quality wins coming on the road (Michigan State, Iowa, Purdue) and only one coming at home (Michigan), that means the Badgers still could come back down to earth too early and miss the tournament. Assuming they knock off Illinois and Minnesota, that only gets Wisconsin to 18 wins. If the Badgers go 1-3 in their other four remaining games, that would leave Wisconsin at 19-12 and too many losses to get in without a strong showing in Indianapolis. Their recent success has opened the door to get into the NCAA Tournament, but the emphasis there is on "opened the door." While Wisconsin has opened the door, they still need to take care of business over the last six games to seal the deal and as of right now there's still quite a bit of work left to do.

Michigan State

This Week: Wisconsin
Last Week: at Purdue 81-82 L, Indiana 88-69 W
Avg. Seed Prediction: 3 (3.05)

The Spartans have been getting back to where they started as of late, with few teams being hotter than Michigan State in the conference. They almost overcame a poor first half at Purdue but came up just short in overtime, not exactly a bad loss. Of course they then followed it up with a thrashing of Indiana at home and now they have a chance to take out a hot Wisconsin team. A few weeks back beating the Badgers wouldn't have been a big accomplishment from a national perspective, but that win could hold quite a bit more weight nowadays. Mix that with next week involving Ohio State and Penn State, followed by Rutgers and Ohio State to close the season, and there's a strong chance Michigan State could easily win out the rest of the regular season.

If that happens then the Spartans January skid will likely be forgotten and the fact that they've knocked off Kansas, Maryland, Louisville, Florida, Indiana, Providence and Michigan will look very, very nice. With a strong close to the season and a deep run in the Big Ten Tournament it's easy to see Michigan State as a viable threat for a 2 seed. Of course they dropped too many Big Ten games early in the season that they probably are out of the running for a top seed, but Sparty is still one of the most dangerous teams in both the conference and the country, with things setting up nicely for Tom Izzo's squad.

Purdue

This Week: Northwestern, at Indiana
Last Week: Michigan State 82-81 W, at Michigan 56-61 L
Avg. Seed Prediction: 4 (4.68)

The Boilermakers had another somewhat typical week this past week, adding a quality victory over Michigan State before blowing a winnable road game against Michigan. Purdue has had issues with finishining strong in the second half, losing winnable games to Iowa, Maryland and now Michigan thanks to poor second half performances. Either way, the Boilermakers have five top 50 wins, a solid resume all around and the only question is if they can do enough to hang around a 4 or 5 seed or if they will fade down the stretch. The week will kick off with a chance for Purdue to add win number 21 against Northwestern, but the real test will be a road trip to Bloomington this weekend. The value of beating Indiana might lessen down the stretch, especially if Indiana starts dropping some games, but it's a chance for a solid road win and a nice way to improve the resume. At the very least it'll be a big game for Purdue because of the obvious rivalry implications and the fact that Purdue will still have Maryland and Wisconsin in their last three games, meaning if Purdue can't find some consistency they could start to fall when it comes to their future seeding. Of course a win in Bloomington, followed by the potential for home wins against Maryland and Wisconsin, could pave the way for a path to a seeding as high as a 3 seed if they play their cards right.

Ohio State

This Week: Michigan, at Nebraska 
Last Week: Northwestern 71-63 W, Rutgers 79-69 W
Avg. Seed Prediction: n/a

No one is talking about Ohio State and the NCAA Tournament because, well, they're not currently a tournament bound team. Thad Matta's team is extremely young and could be building towards a promising future, but they've been far too inconsistent this season and that has led to both way too many losses and way too many bad losses, all while somehow only winning one quality victory even though they play in one of the better conferences in the country and actually had a respectable non-conference schedule.

The one positive from the last week was that Ohio State didn't do anything to further seal their fate. Knocking off Northwestern and Rutgers won't do anything to improve their odds, but losing either of those games would have likely killed any slim hope of reaching the tournament. The reality is while Ohio State is way outside of the bubble right now, they're still 8-5 in conference play and not far removed from at least reaching 20 wins. With only a Kentucky win to highlight their first 26 games, Ohio State needs to finish strong if they want any chance of sneaking into the postseason. I'm only mentioning this because I guess it's hypothetically possible, with today's home game against Michigan being winnable and a road trip to Lincoln on Saturday not exactly murder's row. Get to 18-10 and 10-5 in conference play, while adding Michigan as a quality win, would put Ohio State in a position where they would at least have a shot. That of course is because they close the season with two games against Michigan State surrounding a home game against Iowa, meaning if Ohio State can win both games this week, add an upset or two to close and then have a strong showing in Indianapolis? Well who knows.