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March Madness Bracket Watch: Third Edition

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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: Savannah State at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to March Madness Bracket Watch. With conference play beginning again, the third set of rankings has arrived.

This week provides a bit of a shake-up in the rankings.

Ready to see where your team projects way too early in the season?

Here. We. Go.

Dancing in March

Michigan State

The Spartans are the favorite to win the Big Ten. Given what we’ve seen so far from them, as well as the rest of the Big Ten, it’s clear to see why they are the favorites. Miles Bridges is helping his draft stock increase daily. Michigan State’s depth presents a nightmare for any opposing team in the Big Ten, as well as most of the country. What is their ceiling exactly? We’ll find out as we get closer to March.

Minnesota

Nate Mason’s injury has been manageable for the final games of non-conference play, but with conference play resuming again, the Gophers will need Nate Mason to finish top-3 in the Big Ten. With his return hopefully coming soon, the Gophers will still need to find a way to win without him. Given the down year in the Big Ten, Minnesota has to win all the games they are supposed to win.

Purdue

Purdue is the team in the Big Ten that no one is talking about but should be talking about. The Caleb Swanigan-less Boilermakers are doing just fine in West Lafayette and are poised to make a top-three finish in the Big Ten if they continue to play at the pace that they are.

Sleepers

Northwestern

You’re probably wondering why Northwestern is still here. The Wildcats have one bad loss in Georgia Tech and a lot to still figure out on the floor. However, January is the make-or-break month for Northwestern. They have to start off the stretch of conference play on the right foot. Bryant McIntosh’s right knee injury is not severe, but getting him back will be critical for Northwestern.

Michigan

The Wolverines are competitive and their bench depth is starting to become more consistent. If the bench can continue to provide a boost, Michigan could be dancing in March.

Ohio State

Chris Holtmann is quietly making this thin Ohio State team a competitive one. They’re 11-2 with a win over Michigan. If anyone from this group is likely to make a jump, its the Buckeyes.

Penn State

Penn State is a wild sleeper here. Pat Chambers has cooked up a good team in Happy Valley, but a one-point loss to Rider change the feelings on this team. Penn State will have opportunities this season to show they have made significant improvement, but an NIT is more likely than an NCAA Tournament for the Nittany Lions this March.

Out

Maryland

Maryland was poised to make a run and make the NCAA Tournament again. That was, until this week when Mark Turgeon announced that Ivan Bender and Justin Jackson will miss the remainder of the season due to injuries. We’ll know more about the Terps after they play Penn State.

Rutgers

RUTGERS BEAT SETON HALL!

Then they lost to Stony Brook and Hartford. The Scarlet Knights will probably give teams a run for their money in the Big Ten this year, but not enough to make noise for the postseason.

Illinois

The Illini beat Missouri, but they are struggling with depth and consistency. Brad Underwood’s team is young, and that is showing on the court.

Iowa

Fran McCaffery’s team is all over the place. The Hawkeye’s have shown fight in them but there hasn’t been consistency on this team.