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March Madness Bracket Watch: 7th Edition

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As we enter the final month of Big Ten play, this stretch of games will determine a lot for seeding implications and bubble teams.

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Northwestern Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to March Madness Bracket Watch. After a brief hiatus, I’ve got a fresh set of rankings for you. We have some shake-ups since the last set of rankings was released. I’m optimistic, and there’s a huge slate of games coming up this week, so I’ve extended the bubble just a bit.

Dancing In March

Purdue

Still a firm believer that Purdue isn’t quite getting the national attention they deserve. However, the Boilermakers are poised for a one-seed in the NCAA Tournament. This week, however, is the biggest week for this team. They’ve won 19 straight, but two big games this week will decide their seeding at the Big Ten Tournament, and potentially have an effect on their seat at the dance. Cancel your plans for Wednesday at 8:30 pm ET and Saturday at 4:00 pm ET. Purdue hosts Ohio State Wednesday and travels to East Lansing on Saturday.

Ohio State

Kam Williams is suspended from the team as of Sunday, but with Keita Bates-Diop leading Chris Holtmann’s team, the Buckeyes are ready to dance. The Buckeyes lost a close one to Penn State at home, but they’re still cruising. Regardless of the outcome at Purdue this week, Ohio State will still be dancing in March. However, if they beat Purdue, and Purdue loses to Michigan State, they’ll be Big Ten Champs and take the one-seed at The Garden.

Michigan State

Three words: versus Purdue Saturday.

Michigan State hasn’t quite done as well as everyone expected them to, but Saturday will be telling as to where they belong in March. Obviously, this team is worthy of going to the dance, but the outcome of the game verses Purdue on Saturday could effect exactly where they’ll land in the field of 68.

Michigan

Michigan is beating the teams they need to beat. They’ve got a bit of a test this week with an angry Northwestern team in Rosemont, Illinois. As long as they win four of their last six, they’ll be safe.

On the Bubble

Nebraska

Husker fans should be happy. Nebraska is at 8-4 with a big win against Michigan. Nebraska still has quite a ways to go before they get to the dance, but they’re on the heels of it. They have to beat Illinois, as well as three of Indiana, Penn State, Minnesota and Maryland in order to keep themselves in the conversation. Tim Miles was on the hot seat entering in to this season, but if he can continue to push this team the way he has, that seat will keep getting cooler.

Penn State

The Nittany Lions have bounced around like crazy this season. Their win against Ohio State at home puts them back on the bubble. The bad losses are bad, and the worst part of their season is on the horizon. They’ll host Maryland, Ohio State and Michigan, while going on the road to face Nebraska and Purdue. This is by no means going to be easy, and those non-conference losses don’t look good, but they’re at least a little bit in the conversation.

Maryland

Maryland is the one team I can’t make up my mind about. They’ve beat every team they were supposed to, but haven’t had a signature Big Ten win against one of the top teams in the league yet. Because of that, they’re squarely on the bubble. Last year, I would have said at this point in the season they’d be fine because the Big Ten was a better league. But with the weaker league this year, they’ve got a tough case. I’d say they have to win every game but one of Michigan/ Nebraska to keep themselves here.

Northwestern

Yes, they’re back. Here’s why. Four of their last seven games are at home, with realistic opportunities for wins. That starts Tuesday when the angry Wildcats will play a revenge game against Michigan. They’ve also got Maryland twice, Rutgers, Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan State. They’re on the wrong side of the bubble now, but if they can string wins together and play like they did at Wisconsin, this team has a chance.

Better Luck Next Year

Indiana

Indiana just lost to Michigan State in a very close game. They also lost to Purdue, Ohio State, and Illinois. They were on the bubble, but the Illinois loss pushes them back on the wrong side.

Minnesota

Minnesota looks a lot different without Reggie Lynch. The Golden Gophers are 3-9 in conference play, and a smooth ending is unlikely. The combination of Purdue, Nebraska, and Michigan State as part of closing the season out will make this tougher.

Iowa

Iowa is being very Iowa this season. They beat Minnesota but got blow out at Penn State. Their next four games are vs. Michigan State, at Ohio State, at Michigan and vs. Indiana. Yikes.

Wisconsin

The Streak of 19 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances is going to come to an end. Ethan Happ is great, but injuries and youth have plagued this team.

Rutgers

Rutgers is playing teams close and improving, but they can’t seem to get over the hump. They’ll try again next year.

Illinois

So many close games, so many tough losses. Brad Underwood is the right fit, now he just needs time.