With the Big Ten Tournament wrapping up on Sunday and the full reveal of the 2022 NCAA Tournament bracket coming just a few minutes later, it’s time to turn our focus away from the Big Ten season and onto the postseason. It’s that special time of year again.
But before we dive into the bracket and how things might shake out, let’s make sure to take a quick look at the bracket itself. Here it is below.
2022 NCAA Tournament Bracket:
Big Ten Seeding Situation:
- No. 3 - Purdue
- No. 3 - Wisconsin
- No. 4 - Illinois
- No. 5 - Iowa
- No. 7 - Michigan State
- No. 7 - Ohio State
- No. 11 - Michigan
- No. 11 - Indiana (First Four - Play In)
- No. 11 - Rutgers (First Four - Play In)
1. The Big Ten had a tremendous year, but it comes with a catch.
Before we dive into individual teams, the Big Ten’s performance here needs to be recognized. For the second year in a row, the league sent a record-setting nine teams to the NCAA Tournament. The only league ever to send more in a single postseason was the Big East, who sent 11 teams to the Big Dance in 2011.
Obviously, that’s an incredible accomplishment and speaks volumes about the league’s depth. Despite the constant rotation of rosters and coaching staffs, the Big Ten keeps finding ways to get the job done and putting teams into the postseason.
However, that seeding situation also comes with a catch. While the league put a ton of teams into the postseason, few (if any) will be favored to make it deep this year. Five of the teams are seven seeds or lower and two of those have to win to even get into the Round of 64. And even the high seeds have hurdles ahead. Wisconsin will likely have to make it through Auburn or USC to make the Elite Eight, Purdue landed with Kentucky, and Illinois has a scary first round matchup.
The entire outlook is really a microcosm of what’s gone wrong for the Big Ten over the last two decades. The league’s depth is its undoing. Just look at teams like Wisconsin and Ohio State, who were both in the picture for elite seeds just a few weeks ago. If they played in weaker leagues, they likely would have coasted into Selection Sunday. Instead, they got knocked around by some of the Big Ten’s weaker teams. And those type of results set up the league for another postseason yet again. It’s up to somebody to overperform.
2. Iowa is criminally underseeded.
We often hear rumblings about how Committee generally ignores the Big Ten Tournament title game when making its bracket. It’s a rumor that seems to grow each year.
And let’s just say the Committee did little to squash the rumors this year.
Despite an incredible run to the Big Ten Tournament title, Iowa landed as a five seed in the Midwest, slated to face Richmond in the first round and likely Providence in the Round of 32. It’s a shameful display. The Hawkeyes have done more than enough to warrant a higher seed. The team is 26-9 overall and is 12-2 over its last 14 games, including nine wins against top 100 opponents. For perspective, Providence (seeded above Iowa in its region) only had 12 such wins all season. Iowa basically replicated Providence’s resume in 14 games and ended up as the lower seed in the Midwest. It’s ridiculous and sets up the Hawkeyes for quite a challenging path.
3. The bubble drama ended up playing out well for the league.
With three Big Ten teams (Indiana, Michigan, and Rutgers) squarely on the bubble heading into Selection Sunday, nobody knew quite what to expect. Would the Committee take a skeptical approach toward the league, thereby knocking out all three teams? Or would a boost to one end up pushing all three into the field? It was a situation we haven’t seen in recent years for the Big Ten, so it was hard to know what to expect.
All told, all three teams ended up making the cut. Indiana and Rutgers landed in the First Four, meaning they’ll both have to win games to make the Round of 64, but it was still a delight to fans to see them make the cut. Wolverine fans were also excited to see Michigan come in and avoid the First Four games altogether, landing as an 11 seed against Colorado State.
Whether any of these three teams will end up making noise remains to be seen, but these are all program building appearances. Indiana snapped its NCAA skid dating back to 2016, Rutgers made two straight NCAA Tournaments for the first time since 1976, and Michigan made its sixth straight, giving it one of the longest streaks in the country.
4. Looks like we could be getting another Tom Izzo and Coach K showdown.
Coach K’s pending retirement was always going to be one of the biggest storylines in this year’s March Madness and it looks like that narrative might even cross over into the Big Ten as well, as Michigan State landed in the same pod as Duke. The Spartans will open up with Davidson, but will likely face the Blue Devils with a win.
The battles between K and Izzo over the years have been legendary, including one in the Elite Eight just a few years ago where the Spartans came out on top. Many will be picking Duke to go deep in this year’s field, but can Michigan State flip the narrative? It’d be quite fitting to see these two battle it out once more.
5. Things look tricky for Purdue.
It’s still a little too early to feel like we have an educated guess on how some of these matchups are going to go. After all, we need significantly more analysis on matchups and players to watch. However, if first glances tell us anything, it’s that Purdue has one tough route ahead of it this year.
The Boilermakers landed as a three seed in the East and project to have an incredibly difficult path to the Elite Eight, let alone the Final Four. Purdue gets a feisty Yale team in the opening round, a Texas team coached by Chris Beard or red hot Virginia Tech in the Round of 32, and then would likely face Kentucky in the Sweet 16. Add in one seed Baylor sitting on the other side and it’s hard to feel great about Purdue’s chances to make some noise.
6. Illinois has a path, it just requires a soft step.
Perhaps no Big Ten team has a more unusual path than Illinois this year. The team landed as a four seed in the South and is set to face Chattanooga in the opening game and either Houston or UAB in the Round of 32. What’s bizarre is it feels equally likely Illinois will lose its opener or end up in the Sweet 16. We’ll have to wait and see what happens, but getting past that first game is going to be quite a challenge. Chattanooga is a legit team.
7. Ohio State could be in trouble.
A few months ago, Buckeye fans were confident in the team’s ability to make a run this season. The Buckeyes were rolling and were in the midst of a Big Ten title run. Unfortunately, the wheels fell off a few weeks ago and fans watched a projected three or four seed turn into a seven. And, even worse, Ohio State now faces a Loyola (Chicago) team with an incredible recent NCAA history and lofty computer numbers. In fact, KenPom actually has Ohio State as an underdog, despite being the higher seeded team.
The Buckeyes will be highly motivated to win this one and put last year’s Oral Roberts loss to bed. However, it’s not gonna be easy. Loyola (Chicago) could be one of the most underseeded teams in the field.