Beindit’s Breakdown is a weekly post from BTPowerhouse Manager Thomas Beindit, where he addresses the hottest Big Ten topics that are on his mind. The post will run weekly and will touch a varying number of topics.
With Big Ten play nearly the halfway point, I thought it would be a good time to check in on some broader points about the conference. Specifically, I want to dive into the league’s postseason hopes and what fans should hope for in the coming weeks.
Let’s jump right in.
1. Big Ten fans should expect four NCAA Tournament bids, until further notice.
In this week’s BTPowerhouse roundtable discussion, one of the questions posed to our group was what they saw coming for the league heading into the postseason. Specifically, we asked how many teams they saw making it on Selection Sunday. Picks generally ranged between four and six, with a wide variety of Big Ten teams discussed.
However, until something changes, fans should only expect four Big Ten teams to hear their names called for this season’s NCAA Tournament.
Does that seem premature?
Maybe, but let me talk about why I believe this.
For context, please note that I am using Bracket Matrix and TRank for my analysis here. There’s a lot of debate about who has the best bracket projections, but these are the ones I am using. Maybe you think those aren’t worthy selections. Either way, you can at least see where I am coming from when I talk about things.
As of Thursday morning, here’s how things are projected:
1/17 Big Ten NCAA Teams By Bracket Matrix (By Seed):
- #1 - Purdue
- #4 - Michigan State
- #6 - Michigan
- #6 - Ohio State
- First Four Out: Maryland
- ORV: Minnesota, Penn State
1/18 Big Ten NCAA Teams By TRank (By Seed):
- #1 - Purdue
- #6 - Michigan State
- #6 - Michigan
- #7 - Ohio State
- First Teams Out: Maryland (7th), Minnesota (17th)
Now, before you start ranting about how Bracket Matrix and TRank hate your favorite team, remember how these sites base their projections. Bracket Matrix looks at every major bracketology site and TRank projects based on a KenPom-lite formula. This is a lot more than just the “eye test” of some media talking head.
So, what should fans take away from that list?
Well, the first point should be obvious. Four Big Ten teams are securely in the field at the moment. These are Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Purdue. Barring an absolute collapse, expect all of those teams to hear their names called. In fact, the least likely of those four to make the field, per TRank, is Michigan and it still has a 98.3 percent chance to quality. So, yeah, it would take an absolute collapse.
But the more important takeaway comes next. Neither of these sites has any other Big Ten team projected to make the field.
And, frankly, I only expect those projections to get worse.
The biggest reason why I’m so pessimistic about a fifth Big Ten team making the field comes from the underwhelming play from Maryland and Minnesota over the last few weeks. Per both sites, those are currently the Big Ten’s best bets for a fifth bid and neither appears to be playing all that well right now.
To start, Maryland has lost three of its last four games and has looked noticeably weaker without Ivan Bender and Justin Jackson on the floor. In fact, the Terps have dropped from 30th on KenPom to 38th over the last two weeks. Maryland nearly beat Michigan on Monday night, but I think that performance had a lot more to do with the Wolverines than the Terps. Michigan looked dead after a quick turnaround.
Similarly, Minnesota has been in a tailspin since Amir Coffey and Reggie Lynch has vanished from the lineup. The Gophers lost three-in-a-row and then were forced into overtime by Penn State on Monday. And Minnesota has also seen some major regression on KenPom, dropping from 41st to 62nd since the start of the year.
Simply put, neither of these teams seem headed in the right direction.
Things don’t look all that encouraging beyond these two, either. Nebraska is still among the top 70 in RPI, but everybody else is now outside the top 100. While many will say it’s “too early” to look at RPI, that couldn’t be further from the truth. We’re nearly halfway through Big Ten play. It’s late January. Those measures are meaningful and half the league isn’t even in the stratosphere of consideration.
Perhaps the lone wildcard here is Indiana. Not because the Hoosiers have done anything substantial so far, but because the team has a plethora of marquee opportunities down the stretch. Indiana gets Purdue at home and faces Michigan State and Ohio State twice during the remainder of the regular season. Add in at least one Big Ten Tournament games and there’s a lot of meat left on the bone for the Hoosiers.
But even if the opportunity is there, that’s quite a longshot. The Hoosiers are not only underdogs in all five matchups described above, but the team also figures to be an underdog in five (!!!) other games. Simply put, the odds of such a run are minuscule.
All told, we are left with four teams solidly in the field, two that are teetering on the bubble, and two wildcards in Indiana and Nebraska. However, the major caveat here is that all of these teams still have to play a number of games against each other.
For perspective, just look at the next week. Maryland plays Minnesota on Thursday and Indiana faces Maryland on Monday. Meanwhile, Nebraska faces Michigan on Thursday and Ohio State on Monday. All four of these teams could suffer huge resume blows by the start of next week.
The Big Ten certainly has a shot to put more than four teams into this year’s NCAA Tournament. However, with how Maryland and Minnesota are trending and the upcoming schedules, don’t expect it.
2. No, Michigan State is not getting a one seed.
Perhaps some of the most ludicrous talking points I continue to see revolve around Michigan State’s potential seeding this season. Many continue to talk about how the Spartans are projected for a one seed heading into March.
Don’t listen to these people.
While I certainly think the Spartans are in play for a great seed in March, the race for a one seed is over. It would take an incredible finish to the season accompanied by several elite teams collapsing for Michigan State to even have a chance.
Let’s talk about why this is the case.
To start, let’s look at what Michigan State has accomplished to date. The Spartans are 16-3 overall and 4-2 in Big Ten play. There’s no denying those are impressive marks. Michigan State also got a really impressive early season win over North Carolina.
However, when one delves deeper into Michigan State’s resume, it’s far less impressive. Just take a look at the team’s best wins this season by RPI:
- #2 - North Carolina (neutral)
- #52 - Maryland (home)
- #58 - Notre Dame (home)
- #69 - Nebraska (home)
- #93 - Connecticut (neutral)
That’s it for top 100 wins for Michigan State at the moment. Admittedly, it’s still early and the Spartans have time to build on that, but how many one seeds are out there with a single win over a top 50 opponent? Not many.
Perhaps the most concerning part about Michigan State’s resume is that the upcoming schedule doesn’t do the team any favors. Outside of a game against Purdue on February 10th, there simply aren’t many opportunities for quality wins. Michigan State gets Maryland and Minnesota on the road, but that’s about it, otherwise. And, as mentioned above, both of those teams are fading quickly.
Another concern about Michigan State’s current resume is that some of those non-conference wins could also look weaker than they appear right now. For instance, Notre Dame has suffered some major injuries and is trending down and UConn is projected to finish the regular season at 14-17 overall. That’s not good news for a team trying to compare its resume to elite teams.
The moral to the story here is simple. Michigan State may end up having a great seed on Selection Sunday, but, unless something massive changes, it won’t be a one seed. The Spartans scheduled too many garbage opponents in non-conference play.