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3/1 Bracketology: Wisconsin Solidifies NCAA Tournament Bid

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This is March.

Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Today we take a look at the latest bracketology odds for the teams in the Big Ten as we tip off the last week of the regular season. The way things have played out as of late, the Big Ten looks like at least a six team league, with Michigan probably one win away from locking up a bid and Ohio State still somehow hanging on by a thread.

Team Record Conf. Rec. RPI SOS KenPom vs. 1-50 51-100 101-200 201+
Indiana 23-6 13-3 27 93 15 4-3 4-1 6-2 9-0
Michigan State 24-5 11-5 14 56 1 7-4 5-0 5-1 7-0
Maryland 23-6 11-5 10 32 21 4-4 5-1 7-0 6-1
Iowa 20-8 11-5 22 37 14 5-6 3-2 5-0 7-0
Wisconsin 19-10 11-5 33 11 29 5-5 6-0 5-4 3-1
Ohio State 19-11 11-6 74 64 64 2-7 2-2 8-2 7-0
Purdue 22-7 10-6 18 39 19 6-4 3-2 8-1 5-0
Michigan 20-10 10-7 57 59 47 3-8 2-2 5-0 9-0
Northwestern 18-11 6-10 121 126 84 1-7 0-4 6-0 11-0
Penn State 15-14 6-10 98 72 133 2-7 0-4 7-3 6-0
Nebraska 14-15 6-10 169 104 99 1-8 1-5 3-1 9-1
Illinois 13-16 5-11 163 58 137 2-9 1-4 3-3 7-0
Minnesota 8-20 2-14 239 60 170 1-7 0-5 3-8 4-0
Rutgers 6-23 0-16 282 90 307 0-7 0-7 0-7 5-2

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. All RPI ratings, Bracket Matrix numbers and KenPom ratings are from 2/29.

Indiana

This Week: at Iowa, Maryland
Last Week: at Illinois 74-47 W
Avg. Seed Prediction: 5 (5.31)

One of the more interesting things about Indiana is they only need one win to lock up the Big Ten title and yet their average seed prediction is still a five seed, with some sites still listing them at a six or a seven seed. Maybe it's those specific writers assuming Tom Crean's team will drop games this week, something that is definitely possible with a tough week on deck. To say Indiana's schedule has been favorable would be an understatement, but it doesn't change the fact that they've racked up a decent number of quality victories down the stretch (Purdue, Iowa, Notre Dame, Wisconsin). Outside of the Penn State fiasco, the Hoosiers haven't really done anything to hurt themselves after their early season nightmare out west against Wake Forest and UNLV. If the Hoosiers can win the Big Ten and finish strong, people will have to come around and the chance that the Hoosiers could trend up to a three seed seems like a strong possibility.

However, how will people view Indiana if they lose to Iowa and Maryland this week and then don't have a strong showing at the Big Ten Tournament? Ever since Maui it seems like people are looking for a reason to knock on Indiana and a losing streak to close the season would provide plenty of reasons to keep Indiana at a six or seven seed. I think Indiana will likely end up somewhere in the middle, probably splitting this week and winning a game or two in Indianapolis, with the Hoosiers possibly set to earn a four seed for the tournament. Of course once the tournament begins who knows how Indiana will fare, with the team having more then enough talent to make a deep postseason run, even if they've routinely underachieved with Tom Crean as their coach.

Michigan State

This Week: at Rutgers, Ohio State
Last Week: at Ohio State 81-62 W, Penn State 88-57 W
Avg. Seed Prediction: 2 (2.09)

A three game losing streak in January most likely killed the Spartans odds of earning a top seed in all likelihood, but Tom Izzo's team has rebounded nicely with an 8-1 record since the Nebraska loss (their only loss was a one point overtime defeat at Purdue). Now the Spartans continue to close out a favorable schedule with a trip to Rutgers and then a home game against Ohio State. When everything is said and done the Spartans should be 13-5 at the end of the season and if Indiana drops games to Iowa and Maryland, Izzo could earn part of the regular season title. Either way, though, Michigan State has regained form and is getting hot heading into March.

Right now the Spartans are a pretty solid two seed, with a few people penciling them in as a one seed. It'll be hard to see them surpass Kansas, Oklahoma, Virginia and Villanova, but it could happen if those teams happen to fall early in their respective conference tournaments. Barring a collapse to close out the week, the Spartans seem destined to be a lock for a two seed, with an outside chance at a one seed. They also should end up with a double bye in Indianapolis, meaning the Spartans should have a short path to playing for a Big Ten Tournament title once again. Anything less would definitely be disappointing, but Izzo has Michigan State looking like one of the most dangerous teams heading towards the tournament.

Maryland

This Week: Illinois, at Indiana
Last Week: at Purdue 79-83 L
Avg. Seed Prediction: 3 (3.39)

Unless you're really good at spinning things, the 2015-16 regular season has to be considered a disappointment for the Terrapins. Heading into the season they were more or less the consensus favorite to win the Big Ten and were considered one of the top teams in the nation. Heading into the last week the Terrapins are going to need quite a bit of work just to earn a share of the Big Ten regular season title and that would likely mean a tie for the top spot with a Spartans team that beat them in their only matchup. Early in the season Maryland struggled with some questionable opposition, but the team didn't have any bad losses and could play it off as just playing down to their competition. That being said, losing to a bad Minnesota team and then dropping games to Wisconsin and Purdue show that Maryland is definitely not the superior team they were predicted to be earlier in the fall and shows the Terps might have definitely benefited from a favorable schedule.

Of course there's a ton of good wins scattered throughout the season, thanks to playing in the Big Ten. Outside of conference play the two best wins for Maryland have came against Princeton and Connecticut, both of which are solid wins but not exactly game changers. Now Maryland is predicted to be a three seed and assuming they at least win against Illinois, that seed should remain the same regardless of if they can win in Bloomington this weekend. There's a chance Maryland, with a deep Big Ten Tournament run, could sneak up to a two seed, but there's also enough room to fade to a four spot (or worst case scenario, a five seed if they bow out early in Indianapolis). The fact that Maryland will likely miss out on a regular season title, struggled to close out the season and will likely not win the Big Ten Tournament are all disappointing realizations considering the talent at hand and how good this team was projected to be.

That being said, a strong showing in the NCAA Tournament would make all of this completely irrelevant. However, the way Maryland has played this year one has to wonder if they could be one of the teams on upset alert opening weekend depending on who they draw.

Iowa

This Week: Indiana, at Michigan
Last Week: Wisconsin 59-67, at Ohio State 64-68 L
Avg. Seed Prediction: 4 (4.23)

A few weeks ago the Hawkeyes were in good position to win the Big Ten regular season title and possibly secure a top seed, with a two seed seemingly the worst case scenario. Things have changed down the stretch, though, with the Hawkeyes going 1-4 over their last five games, with the lone win being an ugly four point win at home against an eight win Minnesota program. While the losses to Indiana and Wisconsin aren't terrible, they did put Iowa in a tough spot in the Big Ten race and killed any chance of a one or two seed. Mix that with dreadful losses to Penn State and Ohio State and now Iowa is sitting at 20-8 as they head in to a very difficult week with Indiana and Michigan on the schedule.

If Iowa wants a share of the Big Ten they'll need to win out this week and hope Indiana gets taken out in their finale against Maryland, meaning there's a strong possibility Iowa will somehow miss out on what seemed like a likely Big Ten regular season title. Even more problematic is Iowa is currently penciled in at a four seed, with two more losses this week possibly dropping them to a six or even a seven seed depending on how they fare in Indianapolis. With Indiana coming up first and a trip to Ann Arbor to close, Iowa is going to need to turn things around in a hurry if they want to find a 21st win before the Big Ten Tournament. Even if Iowa can split this week, they're going to need a strong conference tournament showing to make sure they aren't still sliding as they head into the NCAA Tournament. If Iowa can regain their earlier form they could sneak back up to a three seed, but there's definitely a chance the recent slide will continue for Iowa as the schedule won't get any easier from here on out.

Wisconsin

This Week: at Minnesota, at Purdue
Last Week: at Iowa 67-59 W, Michigan 68-57 W
Avg. Seed Prediction: 7 (7.51)

In all likelihood Wisconsin have played their way into the NCAA Tournament. The only reason why it's not a 100% lock already is if the Badgers were to lose out, that would mean a dreadful loss at Minnesota and what would likely be another poor loss to whoever they draw in their first game in Indianapolis. That, mixed with losses to five teams outside of the top 100, would put them in a tough spot, especially if Michigan and Ohio State add enough wins down the stretch. That being said, though, what are the chances of that happening? If I had to guess I'd say it would take a whole lot of bad luck and a massive collapse for Wisconsin to miss out now.

This year's Badgers program is basically a mix of last year's Purdue team (ton of good wins with a lot of bad losses early in the year) and Nebraska's NCAA Tournament team (getting hot at the end of the season). The Badgers are 9-1 over the last ten games, knocked off another Big Ten bubble team (Michigan) and added a quality victory against Iowa. For what it's worth those five bad losses by the Badgers have came by a combined 20 points (10 of which from the Georgetown game) and the team has dropped single digit games to Maryland (3), Purdue (6) and Indiana (1). While Wisconsin's resume has a laundry list of flaws, beating four top 30 teams, 11 top 100 wins and the strong close to the season are more than enough to justify a bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Ohio State

This Week: at Michigan State
Last Week: Michigan State 62-81 L, Iowa 68-64
Avg. Seed Prediction: n/a

The Buckeyes continue to hang around the "under consideration" part of the bubble, somewhere they've been for at least a month or so. On one hand they have a chance for 12 Big Ten conference wins and a solid finish in the conference, something that historically would usually net a NCAA Tournament appearance. On the other hand, if they get that 12th win that would still only leave the Buckeyes with three wins against top 50 teams. As of right now a 2-7 record versus the top 50 isn't going to cut it, especially with only two additional wins against top 100 teams and one of those potentially set to fall off (Penn State).

That being said, the Buckeyes blew a huge opportunity at the beginning of last week when they got blown out by Michigan State. The loss itself isn't bad and was expected, but it was still a potential upset the Buckeyes needed to land. They saved face at the end of the week with a home win over Iowa, finally giving them a second top 50 win. Of course Iowa is sort of in free fall mode, but it's still a much needed quality victory to go alongside Kentucky. The problem is that outside of a home win against Michigan, there is absolutely nothing else on the resume to qualify Ohio State for anything more than a NIT appearance.

So why include them this week? Well there only game this week, a road trip to East Lansing, would be a huge win for Ohio State, give them a strong Big Ten finish and put them at 19 wins. While it wouldn't be enough to get into the tournament, it would set up Ohio State for the chance to play their way into the big dance at the Big Ten Tournament. If the Buckeyes can knock off the Spartans, add a few wins and advance to the Big Ten Tournament semifinals or finals (while adding another quality win or two) could they sneak in? Definitely. The chances of that happening, though, are still relatively slim.

Purdue

This Week: at Nebraska, Wisconsin
Last Week: Maryland 83-79 W
Avg. Seed Prediction: 5 (5.17)

Looking at Purdue's losses and it's a somewhat painful reminder of what could have been for the Boilermakers. Matt Painter's squad could have easily knocked off Maryland, Iowa and Michigan before second half woes cost them the games late. Even in their remaining four losses, Purdue could have won all of those games if not for poor stretches in the second half. At the end of the day if Purdue could simply maintain consistency from the first half to the second, they could have been contending for a Big Ten title. While there's some disappointment in the end result, Purdue still has six top 50 wins and this weekend's win over a top ten Maryland program could be a great starting point as the postseason quickly approaches.

This week Purdue will travel to Nebraska before hosting Wisconsin, both winnable games, with that Wisconsin game another chance for a quality victory. Winning out this week would give Purdue 24 wins, a 12-6 Big Ten record and likely put them in a decent spot for the Big Ten Tournament. With most people projecting the Boilers to earn a five seed, there's a strong chance Purdue could trend up to a four seed if they win out this week. If they win out and make some noise in Indianapolis, though, they could sneak up to a three seed. Unfortunately the clutter across the Big Ten makes it hard to project who they'll draw in Indianapolis, but if Purdue can build off their Maryland win they should be sitting pretty in a couple weeks.

Michigan

This Week: Iowa
Last Week: Northwestern 72-63 W, at Wisconsin 57-68 L
Avg. Seed Prediction: 11 (10.24) (only in 72 of 77 brackets)

A lot of people have Michigan in the tournament and if the season ended today I think they'd be fine. However, Michigan has at least two games remaining and that's why things could get interesting depending on how the other teams on the bubble close out the season. This week the Wolverines will only play one game, hosting an Iowa team that previously beat them by 11 points. Losing to Iowa on paper isn't bad, and would probably be expected if it weren't for the recent Hawkeyes losing streak. The problem is Michigan really needs to add a win to solidify their tournament bid and Iowa, struggling or not, is not going to be an easy win. If Michigan loses they'll fall to 10-8 in the conference and end the regular season with 11 losses, not exactly the prettiest numbers. Even more so as the Wolverines only have three top 50 wins and if Penn State falls three spots the Wolverines could end up with only three top 100 wins. Three top 100 wins, a 10-8 record in a down Big Ten, 12 losses (Big Ten Tournament loss would be #12) and a laundry list of blow out defeats would create plenty of reasons to keep Michigan out of the big dance.

That holds even more true if Michigan draws a so-so team early in the Big Ten Tournament and loses, something that would be highly detrimental to their postseason odds. Michigan could lose out and sneak into the tournament if things play out perfectly, but the reality is Michigan probably needs a win sometime before selection Sunday if they want to feel a whole lot better about their chances.