With each week of the Big Ten schedule, BTPowerhouse will highlight the teams in the conference and project where they will fall come March. This series will take into account a teams performance both out of conference and in the Big Ten, as well as where other conferences may fall in order to give readers our most accurate predictions of how Big Ten teams will be seeded for the NCAA Tournament.
With January coming to a close teams are beginning to separate themselves. After teams in the Big Ten all beating each other to kick off conference play, it seems the hierarchy is taking shape. With approximately five weeks to go in conference play here is how the Big Ten could be seeded come selection Sunday.
1/23 Big Ten Bracketology:
- #5 - Wisconsin, Purdue
- #6 - Maryland
- #7 - Northwestern, Indiana
- #9 - Minnesota
- First Four In (#12) - Michigan
- Teams on the outside looking in - Michigan State, Penn State, Iowa
Looking first at the teams on the outside looking in. It seems like the only team which seems to have a chance at this point of those three candidates is Michigan State. Despite losing their only game of the week on the road at Indiana, the Spartans battled back to make it a closer game than many expected.
The most common phrase uttered about Michigan State this season all reffered to Tom Izzo teams getting it done in February and March. Well, that time is now. The Spartans play a pair of home games against likely tournament teams in Purdue and Michigan this week. A perfect week not only gives them the signature wins they need, but also moves Michigan State into a low seed in the big dance.
The Michigan Wolverines have not been able to get over the twelve seed play-in game hump. After losing three of their first four Big Ten games, the Wolverines dropped out of NCAA Tournament contention. As a result, some fans began calling for coach John Beilein’s job, siting poor defense as cause for dismissal. Since then Michigan is 2-1 in Big Ten play and has looked better defensively. A win on the road against Wisconsin would have been their best win of the season and boosted their resume immensely.
The good news for the Wolverines is they could be in line to upset someone and get the resume building conference victory needed to make a solid tournament case. The bad news: They play Indiana twice, Michigan State twice, and Wisconsin and Ohio State once each over their next six games. It is make or break time for Michigan.
Next is Minnesota, who has come down for their scorching hot start. It seems like this is not the Big Ten title contender they once appeared to be. After losing three games, the most recent an overtime loss against Wisconsin, the Golden Gophers are approaching an important but winnable stretch.
It is important to mention the sky is not falling in Minneapolis. Minnesota is losing closing games, with their last two defeats coming by a total of four points. Though the play of Amir Coffey and Nate Mason has fluctuated during this losing streak this still looks like a quality tournament team.
Jumping to the top seeded teams, we again see Wisconsin and Purdue atop the list of Big Ten teams. What separates them? Not much. Although Maryland appears ahead of Purdue in the BTPowerhouse power rankings, I have placed the Boilermakers ahead of the Terrapins due to resume. Wins against Notre Dame and Wisconsin gives Purdue the slight edge of Maryland in my eyes, although all three teams, including Wisconsin, are near locks to make it to March.
The seven seeds are the most interesting teams to me, which is why they were left for last. The Indiana Hoosiers looked like national title contenders during the first week of the season. That was a a couple upset loses and a key injury ago.
After falling out of the AP Top-25 the Hoosiers have discovered they will be without OG Anunoby for the remainder of the season. It is hard to see a team with Thomas Bryant and James Blackmon Jr to slip out of contention but Indiana’s schedule is not easy from here on out. They play only one game against a team not on our tournament contention list, their final game against the always tough Ohio State Buckeyes.
Finally, lets talk records. On the back of Bryant McIntosh and company, it looks like the Northwestern Wildcats could finally get into the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history. Although many of the national pundits are jumping on board, the Wildcats’ schedule is not easy moving forward.
During their four game winning streak, Northwestern defeated only one of the teams on this list, Iowa. Coming up are road games against Indiana, Purdue and Wisconsin. If the Wildcats can keep a respectable record while also upsetting a team like Indiana or Purdue when they make the trip to Evanston, IL would make a great case for Northwestern to make history. The NIT will surely miss the Wildcats.