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March Madness Bracket Watch: First Edition

Each week leading up to Selection Sunday, Gianna Marshall will take a look at which teams should make the tournament and which teams should not.

NCAA Basketball: DePaul at Michigan State Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to March Madness Bracketology. Before we know it, March will be here and we will all be rooting for our favorite teams to take home the National Championship trophy.

Until then, the only thing we can do is predict. To save you from making your own predictions, we’re here to help you figure out where your team will land come March.

Obviously, in non-conference play, it is a bit more difficult, but with conference games being played this week, we’ll get a sneak peek at what competition in the Big Ten will look like this year.

For now, we’ve got three parts: Teams in the tournament, the sleepers, and teams out of the tournament.

Let’s take a look.

Dancing in March

Michigan State

The Spartans are good and despite a loss to Duke on Grayson Allen’s career night, the Spartans are looking great. The team has a lot of depth, and some of their growing pains in non-conference play involve working with their talented bench. Tom Izzo has plenty of numbers he can call to make plays. The strategy in non-conference play is to play with those match-ups and work with the team to figure out who plays best together and how they can all balance each other out on the court.

The Spartans will face a tough test in Notre Dame this week before playing Nebraska and Rutgers in their December conference slate.

At best, they’ll be a one-seed. At worst, a low two.

Minnesota

While they almost lost to a three-person team in Alabama over the weekend, Richard Pitino has a strong team in his Gophers. They are 7-0 in conference play with Miami, Rutgers and Nebraska coming up this week. The trick for the Gophers here is to keep up the momentum and stay consistent.

They should be between a four-seed and a seven-seed on Selection Sunday.

Purdue

Many counted out Purdue after the departure of Caleb Swanigan. The Boilermakers have lost two tough games to Tennessee and Western Kentucky in non-conference play, but don’t count them out yet. They’ve got a strong backcourt and plenty of time to make a run in Big Ten play. They’re in the midst of a tough week ahead, knocking off Louisville yesterday and now set to face Maryland and Northwestern, who are all potential tournament teams.

They should be between a four-seed and seven-seed on Selection Sunday

Maryland

The Trimble-less Terrapins are doing well in College Park. The Terps have beat Butler, but lost a close game to St. Bonaventure. They are a young team, but Anthony Cowan is good.

The Terps may be a lower seed, between a six and 11, but that doesn’t discredit their ability as a team. They’ll face New Mexico, Syracuse, Purdue and Illinois before December 3rd. This will test them as a team.

The Sleepers

Northwestern

The Wildcats are off to a rough start. After being ranked in the Preseason AP Poll, they’ve lost to Creighton and Texas Tech. Aaron Falzon has been in and out with injuries, and the Wildcats are missing Sanjay Lumpkin’s guarding on the wings. While Northwestern still has time, the Wildcats need to have urgency and start becoming the veteran team we know they can be.

Northwestern suffered another setback with a bad loss to Georgia Tech last night. Now they’ll start off conference play against Illinois and Purdue before December 3rd. The ‘Cats would be a low seed at best, but they probably would be out as of right now.

Penn State

Penn State has an easy non-conference slate, but Tony Carr is one of the best guards in the Big Ten. With his play leading the way, the Nittany Lions could sneak in to the tournament if they play well in conference play. More likely, they are NIT bound. However, they have impressed so far.

Michigan

Last year, the Wolverines were counted out of the tournament until they made a run in February. This year, they are younger, but don’t count this team out quite yet. North Carolina will be a big test for the team this week. If the Wolverines are aggressive in conference play, they’ll need just a few upsets to hear their name called in March.

Out

Iowa

Iowa has lost to Louisiana, South Dakota State and Virginia Tech in non-conference play so far. Penn State and Indiana are ahead. Depending on how the Hawkeyes play, this could change. For now, it looks like they’ll have to wait until 2019.

Rutgers

Rutgers is improving and will be more competitive this year. Corey Sanders looks great, but the Scarlet Knights will need a few more years. The Knights had a chance for a nice win against Florida State, but ultimately fell 73-78.

Indiana

The Archie Miller era began with a beat down by Indiana State. The Hoosiers are in a rebuild, and will really be tested this week against Duke, Michigan and Iowa.

Wisconsin

Wisconsin lost four of its five starters. Ethan Happ is good and there is talent there, but they’ve lost to UCLA, Baylor and Xavier. Earlier this week they were held to 37 points in a loss against Virginia.

Nebraska

Tim Miles may be coaching his last season in Lincoln. The Huskers lost Tai Webster to graduation and Michael Jacobson to the transfer market. The Huskers will face an uphill battle this season.

Ohio State

Chris Holtmann has a depleted roster and just lost to his former team, Butler. The Buckeyes will need to wait their turn.

Illinois

This could be the last year for a long time Illinois doesn’t make the tournament. With recruiting on an upswing, talent is coming to Champaign, but this year’s team isn’t quite there yet.