Welcome back to March Madness Bracket Watch. These weeks in early December are slower and inconsistent in college basketball, due to student-athletes taking final exams for the fall.
Lucky for us, the Big Ten managed to get a few conference games in before the regular conference season begins in late December due to the Big Ten Tournament being moved up a week early.
Until we get further in to conference play, I’ll continue to rank the teams in three categories: Dancing, the Sleepers and Out.
Here’s a look at the second edition of rankings.
Dancing in March
The Spartans are one of the best teams in the country. Their two-point shooting defense is the top in the country right now, allowing opponents to only shoot 33.1% per game.
Although they almost lost to Rutgers earlier this week, Michigan State could be at the lowest a two-seed in March.
Minnesota lost to Nebraska this week, but the Golden Gophers are well on their way to dancing in March. Jordan Murphy has been doing everything right on the court, and the Gophers are emerging as one of the best teams in the Big Ten.
Purdue played a close game against Northwestern and almost lost to the Wildcats, but they survived. The Boilermakers are 2-0 in Big Ten play and after beating undefeated Valparasio, they have a chance for a top-2 finish in the Big Ten.
The Boilermakers should be between a 4-seed and 7-seed come March.
Maryland lost to Purdue and just made it past Illinois in overtime. The Terrapins have a freshman class that has come to play. Maryland lost to Syracuse and St. Bonaventure in non-conference play. Depending on how those teams plays out and how Maryland plays in conference play, the Terps may or may not be dancing in March.
Northwestern’s non-conference loses are not helping them on their resume to earn an NCAA Tournament berth for the second time in program history, so conference play is where they will need to pick up wins at every opportunity. The Wildcats beat Illinois in overtime and lost a close one to Purdue on a few controversial foul calls. Northwestern needs to beat Valparasio this week to keep their tournament hopes alive.
Michigan beat UCLA in overtime and the Wolverines continue to be on a roll in non-conference play. They did lose to Ohio State, who may be better than they were originally projected to be. Michigan State has weapons on the bench and they may be what pushes the Wolverines to the dance in March.
The Buckeyes were not supposed to be good this year. Chris Holtmann took over a depleted roster, but there is talent on this team. Ohio State is off to a 2-0 start in conference play, following victories against Michigan and Wisconsin. The biggest test for the Buckeyes will be when they face North Carolina in a few weeks. If they win there, they’ll add to their resume for March.
Penn State has been a fun team to watch. The Nittany Lions beat Iowa, but then followed that up with a one-point loss at Wisconsin. They are still in the picture, but need to pick up quality wins to stay in it as March gets closer.
The Hawkeyes have lost to Indiana and Penn State to open up conference play at 0-2. The upcoming game against the Cyclones is a must-win for any chances of making the postseason.
Archie Miller has started to turn things around. The Hoosiers played Louisville and Duke close this last week. They beat Iowa and lost to a Michigan team that is one of the best in the Big Ten. Notre Dame is ahead this week. Can Archie Miller finally win a close game? We hope so.
The Badgers just lost two of their best players for the season with injuries. The Badgers are off to their worst start in a long time and do not look like an NCAA Tournament team. Wisconsin also lost to Marquette, who now appears to be the best team in Wisconsin.
The Scarlet Knights have a great class of freshman and Corey Sanders. They lost to Michigan State and Minnesota, but they have improved from last season.
Brad Underwood may have his team 0-2 in conference play, but he is one heck of a coach and will make Illinois a competitive team again.
This tweet from one of our site managers, Thomas Beindit, sums up Nebraska basketball.
Looks like Nebraska’s getting its inexplicable three to five game run out of the way early this season.— Thomas Beindit (@tbeindit) December 9, 2017