The Big Ten Tournament: Analyzing The Seeds

 

The biggest week for this blog is here, as we now know the seeds and matchups for the Big Ten Tourrnament. Like last year, I will be courtside as credentialed media for all 10 games, and it is going to be awesome. Each game has some great storylines and postseason implications. There are still only three stone cold locks from the conference, and as many as four other teams can get an at large bid. There is also the auto-bid that can come into play for a surprise team. Iowa is the only team that has ever won from the first day, but teams regularly make the championship from day 1. If it is going to happen again this is a good year for it. So let's look at the field:

Ohio State Buckeyes - #1 seed - 29-2, 16-2

NCAA chances: 100%

Likely NCAA seed: 1

What is there to play for - Ohio State is probably the only team with nothing to play for. They have just two losses and will likely be the #1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. They will play close to home in Cleveland, they won the league by two full games, and thrashed the two teams in Columbus that beat them on the road. The Buckeyes just want to avoid injury. They have three conference tournament championships, but no one has gone back-to-back since Michigan State in 1999-2000. They have also reached the championship game in two straight seasons.

Purdue Boilermakers - #2 seed - 25-6, 14-4

NCAA chances: 100%

Likely NCAA Seed: 2/3

What is there to play for - I don't see the Boilers falling below a 3 seed unless they lose their first game on Friday badly. The overall profile is still good enough for a top 3 seed, as their worst loss (Iowa) is no worse than North Carolina or Florida's worst loss. Had Purdue not lost to Iowa yesterday they would have a chance at a #1 seed, but now they will likely go to OSU, Kansas, Pitt/Notre Dame, and Duke. Purdue is fighting for a #2 seed with Wisconsin, the Pitt/ND loser, San Diego State, North Carolina, and BYU. The potential Wisconsin-Purdue semifinal could be huge, as the winner likely gets the second protected seed in Chicago with Notre Dame. Purdue absolutely need to win one game to have a chance at Chicago, and they should be fine if they reach the final.

Wisconsin Badgers - #3 seed - 23-7, 13-5

NCAA chances: 100%

Likely NCAA seed: 3/4

What is there to play for - I thought the Badgers still had a chance at the two seed if they won the tournament, but after getting their ass handed to them by Jon Diebler and Ohio State today I don't think that is as possible. I do think they can still get a preferred placement in Chicago over Purdue. Wisconsin's problem is that they are not nearly as good away from the Kohl Center. All seven losses came away from home, and in seven of nine conference road games they either lost, won in overtime, or won on a miracle banked-in shot. Wisconsin's toughest game could come against a feisty Penn State team in the 3/6 game. Also, what hurt more: Purdue having a very off day and losing by 2 at Iowa, or Wisconsin getting drilled by OSU?

Michigan Wolverines - #4 seed - 19-12, 9-9

NCAA chances: 60%

Likely NCAA seed: 11/12

What is there to play for - Michigan is probably the most unlikely team to ever get a bye in the Big Ten Tournament. Not only was little expected of them, they started 1-6 in league play and got drilled by last place Indiana. The thing is, this team could be solidly in the NCAA Tournament right now if not for agonizingly close losses to Ohio State, Kansas, Syracuse, and Wisconsin. Their RPI is a little weak at 53, but I would say they are on the happy side of the Bubble right now. Their best win is over #36 Harvard, who should be an at large team too (yes, I said it). If Michigan can be on the Bubble with this low of an RPI, why does Harvard have no chance? I think Michigan locks up a bid with one win.

Illinois Fighting Illini - #5 seed - 19-12, 9-9

NCAA chances: 75%

Likely NCAA seed 8/9

What is there to play for - I think the Fighting Illini are safe, but I thought that last year too. They could be a very dangerous 8/9 seed if they play to their potential. If they want to remove all doubt they'll beat Michigan. Wins over North Carolina and Wisconsin are solid, while Michigan State is also a top 50 win. I think they cancel out the bad loss at Indiana and awful loss to Illinois-Chicago. Illinois is probably playing for a seed unless they look really bad in a loss to Michigan. This team is a threat to win the tournament, but I don't know if they can beat Ohio State in a semi-final matchup.

Penn State Nittany Lions - #6 seed - 16-13, 9-9

NCAA chances: 20%

Likely NCAA seed: none

What is there to play for - Talor Battle may be one of the best players in league history to never play in the NCAA Tournament. He still has a chance though. I don't think Penn State has a prayer unless they reach the final, and if they get there they might as well win it to remove all doubt. Beating Indiana is necessary, but gives them no boost. They did split with Wisconsin and nearly beat Purdue, so it is not totally inconceivable they could reach the final. The Penn State-Wisconsin game could be a very, very good quarterfinal capper on Friday.

Michigan State Spartans - #7 seed - 17-13, 9-9

NCAA chances: 30%

Likely NCAA seed: Play-in game

What is there to play for - Well, it is put up or shut up time for a team many considered would be at least a 2 seed in this tournament. I think it is safe to say the Spartans may be the most disappointing team in the country. I wouldn't put them in the tourney if it started today, and if they lose to a now confident Iowa team on Thursday there is no way they should make the field. Iowa has already beaten them by 20 too. I think Michigan State has to at least beat Iowa and Purdue to feel anywhere close to safe. They are good enough to make the final, which would probably secure a bid. Even if they beat Iowa they can't feel confident facing a Purdue team that dominated them twice.

Northwestern Wildcats - #8 seed - 17-12, 7-11

NCAA chances: 1% (only if they win the auto-bid)

Likely NCAA seed: none

What is there to play for - Well, the Wildcats get a rematch of their last game, when they beat Minnesota by 11. They would then face Ohio State, whom they battled closely but lost to in the final seconds. Northwestern is just 5-13 all-time in this event, and one of those wins was over Indiana last year. They have never made it past a Friday of the tournament, either. If they were to shock OSU, an easier game against Michigan or Illinois could put them into the final and give them a small chance at an at large bid. I just don't see it happening though. Likely they can win one game and that would be it.

Minnesota Golden Gophers - #9 seed - 17-13, 6-12

NCAA chances: 2%

Likely NCAA seed: none

What is there to play for - I give Minnesota slightly better odds of making the tourney than Northwestern because their RPI and non-conference record are much better. Unfortunately, when you lose 11 of your last 12 games it tends to ruin one's profile. Somehow they still have an RPI of 62, just behind Penn State. This team hasn't been the same since Al Nolen got hurt. If he could somehow play I would like their chances of getting on a run, but since he probably won't suit up I think they will be one and done and headed to the NIT at best.

Iowa Hawkeyes - #10 seed - 11-19, 4-14

NCAA chances - Auto-bid or bust

Likely NCAA seed: none

What is there to play for - If you want a deep, deep sleeper to steal the auto-bid, pick Iowa. These kids are playing hard and they played the top 3 very well in Iowa City. Of course, we have the most recent memory of them upsetting Purdue. They open with a Michigan State team that will either come out fighting or will fold and wait for the season to mercifully end. They then could get a Purdue team they just upset, plus a Wisconsin team they took to overtime. They are a long shot, but if they play as well as they did against Purdue it is better than no shot.

Indiana Hoosiers - #11 seed - 12-19, 3-15

NCAA chances - Auto-bid or bust

Likely NCAA seed: none

What is there to play for - On December 27th Indiana was 9-3 and lost to Penn State. At the time, Hoosier fans thought it was a horrible loss and that they had given the Nittany Lions one of the very few wins they would get in conference. The Hoosiers have done little since. They looked impressive in dominating Michigan at Assembly Hall, but the victory over Illinois was more a result of Illinois losing it than Indiana winning it. Beating Minnesota was a victory over a team now clearly in freefall. The only way the Hoosiers are going anywhere is if they win the Big Ten tournament, and they have to break an eight game losing streak by beating a team that still has faint NCAA hopes. The Hoosiers are also 0-13 away from Assembly Hall this year, were 2-12 last year and were 1-15 the year before. That makes them 3-40 away from home under Tom Crean, with wins over Chaminade (a non Division I team), Pittsburgh, and Penn State.

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