Saturday marked an unprecedented day in the history of college basketball. The NCAA Men’s Basketball selection committee took a page out of football’s book and announced the top 16 teams are where they would be seeded if the NCAA Tournament started today.
This takes a little work out of what I have to do. However my job has not been eliminated. Ranking the top 16 teams only identifies the top four seeds in each region. There are 36 at-large bids to be had. Assuming a team listed in the top 16 wins one of the six conferences represented, that leaves plenty of at-large bids to be had, any of which could be claimed by a Big Ten team.
Of the six conferences represented, the Big Ten was not one of them. The selection committee made one thing very clear, everyone beating each other only hurts your teams resumes and none of the Big Ten schools have amazing resume wins.
Lets take a look at where the Big Ten could rank come selection Sunday.
- #5 - Purdue
- #6 - Maryland, Wisconsin
- #8 - Northwestern
- #10 - Minnesota
- Last four in - Michigan, Michigan State
It may seem like a long shot that the Big Ten gets seven of the available at-large bids, but somebody has to play in this thing. The most I can see them getting is seven, mostly because Indiana is spiraling out of control into a dark pit of nothingness, an area where not many coaches make it out of.
The lowest amount of teams that should be allowed into the tournament would be four. This would require sub-par performances from both Michigan and Michigan State and a February collapse from either Minnesota or Northwestern. At this point, it would take a lot for Wisconsin, Purdue and Maryland to fail at even backing into March.
First looking at my far-fetched idea which includes two Big Ten power schools being one of the final teams allowed into the tournament and earning an opening round trip to Dayton. This sounds illogical at first sure, but the NCAA saw the same thing fans who were in Dayton last season saw. The arena was littered with Michigan fans when the Wolverines took on Tulane last season, enough to make it feel like a home game. We know money drives everything in the sports world and the Michigan game had the most butts in seats.
It is not like Michigan and Michigan States performances to this point do not warrant having to play an extra game, both having up and down seasons filled with inconsistency. The teams went 1-1 against each other this season, Michigan State taking the worse of the two defeats in Ann Arbor Tuesday. Michigan just played maybe the two most complete games of their season, riding the back of 20+ point performances by Derrick Walton Jr. If they can keep it up, they may earn themselves a spot in the round of 64. The key word being IF.
Minnesota remains a 10 seed this week after winning games they were expected to win. It appears coach Richard Pitino is going to get his team past the 20 win threshold this season, needing only two more victories to do so. The Golden Gophers need to build resume wins from here on out in order to make it to the big dance. They have the opportunity to completely derail Indiana this week, but a win against Michigan, Maryland, Wisconsin or Nebraska to close out the season would boost their case.
It was just last night we saw the Northwestern Wildcats get their biggest win of the season, an upset victory over the Wisconsin Badgers. Signs of a classic epic collapse began for the Wildcats when they suffered a bad loss to Illinois. The schedule was not favorable for Northwestern. They still had to play the conferences top three teams. The first rung off that later was knocked off with the Wisconsin win. Avoiding a losing record over the next six games will be key for the Wildcats.
The top three teams all had cases to make it into the top 16 seeds Saturday. None were included. This leads me to believe Wisconsin and Purdue both nearly missed the cut, putting them at high seeds still. Fans had a legitimate gripe with the lack of Big Ten teams in the top 16 before Wisconsin’s upset loss this weekend. The Badgers were a top ten team nationally according to the polls. They had done everything right and before Saturday had yet to take a bad loss.
The committee is sending a message. They do not believe in the Big Ten. The lack of reputable wins hurts Wisconsin, which also weakens Purdue’s case, which therefore hurts the entire conference. Everyone beating each other has done the league no good.