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.
The first week on Big Ten conference play is under way and already we have witnessed some closely contested games. A few early upsets look to confirm the early opinions of the Big Ten, there is no dominant team. After the first set of games here is where I seeded Big Ten teams vying for a spot in the NCAA Tournament:
1/9 Big Ten Bracketology:
- #4 - Purdue
- #6 - Wisconsin, Indiana
- #8 - Minnesota
- #9 - Maryland
- #10 - Northwestern
- #11 - Michigan (First Four)
- #12 - Ohio State (First Four)
- Tournament teams on the outside looking in - Michigan State, Illinois, Iowa
A few early takeaways from the season have led me to believe there is no team in this conference deserving of anything higher than a four seed. Even if a team dominated conference play, there is no clear-cut leader at this point.
Lets start from the bottom and go up.
I left out Michigan State. Right now, they look like a top seed in the NIT Tournament without Miles Bridges. Fortunately for the Spartans, Bridges is on the way back.
They need to run the table and dominate like Tom Izzo teams do down the stretch. So far the Spartans have lost every big test they have faced and have needed OT to escape what looks like a good Minnesota team. A loss to an athletic but undersized Penn State team at Palestria gave the impression that this team might not have what it takes to make it to March this year.
Another team left out was Iowa. The Hawkeyes are coming off a loss to Nebraska and an unimpressive win over Rutgers. Fran McCaffery’s team lacked a big win early in the season and could be a victim of a having an average record at the end of the year.
The good news is Petr Jok is playing great and their three big upcoming games (Purdue, Maryland and Ohio State) are all in Iowa City. Victories in those games could move them into a last four in spot in the weeks to come.
The Michigan Wolverines and the Ohio State Buckeyes have a lot of similarities, which lands them in Dayton for an opening round play-in game. Both played the UCLA Bruins tough but came up with losses. Both
The Wolverines are no stranger to play in games as they found their way to Dayton last season. The Buckeyes, who did not make the tournament last season would likely relish any opportunity to play in March.
As for the teams currently playing like the deserve to make it to March, no one team stands out. Wisconsin currently has the best resume, losing difficult non-conference games to North Carolina and Creighton. Their wins are not against push over teams either. The Badgers defeated Tennessee, Georgetown, Syracuse, Oklahoma and Marquette in non-conference play. After going on the road an defeating Indiana it looking like Wisconsin could have been the team to beat in the conference, but then they were.
A dominant performance by Purdue in a win over the Badgers Sunday night means the Boilermakers are now top dog in the Big Ten. Caleb Swanigan looks to be the front runner for Big Ten Player of the Year and Issac Haas is much more productive when coming off the bench. It has always been a mystery to me how Purdue has not dominated the Big Ten with the size they have. They seemingly could miss in their defeat of Wisconsin, shooting 52 percent from the field and 46 percent from three, earning them the highest seed in this weeks predictions.
The Golden Gophers are the most interesting team for me. Many people thought this could have been a make or break year for head coach Richard Pitino who had vastly under performed until this point. They are the only Big Ten team to defeat the top seeded Boilermakers. Minnesota was the first team left out of this weeks Associated Press poll and currently rank 11th in the RPI poll. They do not have any crazy difficult stretches in their schedule and should be able to manage some big wins coming up. They will get another crack at Michigan State, this time in East Lansing. The Gophers also play some of their toughest remaining games at home including Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan.
There may not be any front runner in the conference but there is no shortage of tournament teams. The most I see getting in right now is nine. Anything more than that would require a collapse from the other conferences. Luckily for the Big Ten the SEC does not look loaded with talent outside of Kentucky. Everything could change but a loaded Big 12 and ACC could leave the Big Ten with a minimum of six tournament teams.