On Thursday morning, ESPN updated its bracketology for the 2016-’17 college basketball season and eight Big Ten teams were fortunate enough to make the cut. Although the conference doesn’t appear to be as loaded at the top as it has been in recent years, it still showed up strongly in this projected NCAA field.
While Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Purdue, and Wisconsin were the only teams to make the cut, Nebraska also just missed the field. Perhaps the most interesting absence was Iowa, who made last year’s NCAA Tournament, but has seen an up and down season so far.
Here is how the Big Ten was projected.
Big Ten In 1/12 ESPN Bracketology By Seed:
- #5 - Purdue
- #6 - Minnesota, Wisconsin
- #8 - Maryland, Michigan State
- #9 - Indiana
- #11 - Illinois (First Four), Northwestern
- First Four Out: N/A
- Next Four Out - Nebraska
The Big Ten ranked second among conferences (behind the ACC) with eight teams in ESPN’s latest bracketology. However, as has been the consistent theme of these bracketology updates, the Big Ten continues to lack an elite seeded team.
To an outsider, the lack of a top rated team may not seem that significant, but failing to a land even one team within the bracket’s top 16 would be a crushing blow. Such a scenario would put the Big Ten in an uphill battle to even get a team or two to the second weekend or possibly worse.
The other significant change in this projection was Michigan dropping from inside the bracket to outside the first eight teams to miss the field. It was a massive drop, but is a pretty realistic outlook on where the Wolverines sit. It’s going to take some upsets to consider Michigan viable NCAA Tournament contender at this point.
Illinois and Nebraska are also teams to watch in the coming weeks and it can’t help that both lost their matchups on Saturday. If the Big Ten is going to end up with eight or more teams, it seems likely one of those two will need to make a run soon.
You can see the full field here.