Conference play this season is easily turning in to fun bad basketball. Outside of Purdue and Michigan State, no other teams have been consistent. That was, until Ohio State took down the Spartans in a Sunday Showdown.
How does fun bad basketball affect our rankings? We’ve got four teams, FOUR Big Ten Teams projected to go to the tournament. While this is ONLY January and this could change a little bit, I think the most the Big Ten gets this year is five. Perhaps they get six if Northwestern can pull off a March miracle and Minnesota figures things out.
You’ll notice a bit of a difference in the rankings this week. First, not only are the teams ranked in three groups, but they are now ranked within the group as well. The best teams are at the top of each section and the worst ones at the bottom.
You’ll also notice a new name “The Sleepers” has been renamed to “On the Bubble” for our teams that are on the bubble in conference play. This section is ranked in the order I see teams moving up and in to tournament projections.
Alas, without further ado, here’s the fourth edition of our March Madness Bracket Watch:
Dancing in March
The Boilermakers have Final Four potential. They’re 4-0 in conference play, and so far, the only team that’s given them a little trouble is Northwestern. The strength of this team will be tested when the Boilermakers travel to Ann Arbor this week to play a red hot Wolverine squad.
The Spartans had quite a week. They started the week ranked number one in the AP Top 25 before getting blown out of the gym by Ohio State in Columbus. Tom Izzo did not look happy for most of the game and it looks like the number one spot won’t last long.
Yes, that’s right, the Buckeyes have arrived. The Buckeyes are quietly having a great season. They’re 4-0 in conference play, beating Iowa and taking down Michigan State at home this week.
It’s amazing to see what Chris Holtmann has done with a depleted roster. From a new coach’s perspective, it doesn’t look like it will take much time for Holtmann to rebuild what Thad Matta left with. The Buckeyes ran Michigan State out of the gym. With Keita Bates-Diop leading the way, no bad non-conference losses, and now a marquee win, the Buckeyes are on their way to earning a ticket to the Big Dance.
Welcome to the top, Wolverines! The Wolverines are 3-1 in conference play, with their only loss coming to Ohio State. Sure, losing Derrick Walton was not easy for this team. However, they have been known to pull together in February to make a run. This year, with the Big Ten being weak, Michigan is making their NCAA case early.
The Wolverines will have a tough test with Purdue and Michigan State this week. Don’t be surprised if they squeak out a win against the Boilermakers at home. They have a strong home court advantage.
On the Bubble
The Gophers have dropped out of my tournament projections. After Reggie Lynch’s suspension earlier this week, and now and injury to Amir Coffey, this team is headed downward.
While Bakary Konante was able to help on the defensive end, this team looked completely different playing Indiana on Saturday. The “get Nate Mason the ball” offense isn’t going to work every game. They’ll travel to a hungry Northwestern team on Wednesday, where it will be a must-win for both teams.
I’ve bumped them back up this week. The Terps beat Penn State, but got ran out of the gym at Michigan State this week. Maryland has a tough road ahead without Justin Jackson, but with a down year in the Big Ten, there is a little hope left.
You’re probably still wondering why the ‘Cats are in this section. Here’s why. Yes, this team lost to Nebraska without Bryant McIntosh. Yes, they lost to Penn State on the road Friday. Yes, the defense looks awful. But something tells me there is fight left in this team. If they lose to Minnesota this week, the tournament will be virtually out of reach. But, don’t count the ‘Cats out yet.
Better Luck Next Year
Indiana had an impressive win over Minnesota given that De’Ron Davis is probably out for the year. Justin Smith started and scored 28 points in the win. Indiana will need him big time down the stretch if in fact De’Ron Davis doesn’t play.
Penn State is an athletic team. They beat Northwestern on Friday, but lost to a depleted Maryland roster earlier in the week. Pat Chambers is on the hot seat and will need to do something this season to take himself off.
Nebraska has athleticism this year. But the team goes as Glynn Watson Jr. goes. Tim Miles has a tough road ahead, but the win at Northwestern on Wednesday is a start.
Although Wisconsin is having a tough time, the Kohl Center continues to be a tough place to play. Wisconsin followed up their win against Indiana with a loss to Rutgers on the road. This team may lose their NCAA Tournament streak.
The Scarlet Knights protected home court with a win against the Badgers at home. This season will still be an uphill climb for them.
The Hawkeyes put up a fight against Michigan, but they haven’t won a game in Big Ten play yet.
Winless Big Ten play so far for first year coach Brad Underwood. The Fighting Illini have the talent, but their youth is showing.