Everyone in the Big Ten now has one game left in league play before the conference tournament begins next week in Indianapolis. Two very tight groupings make it difficult to predict any of the matchups the way things stand now. The nice thing is that with seven (eight?) Big Ten teams getting into the NCAA Tournament it should make for some good basketball. Here is where that situation stands going into the weekend:
Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan State, Purdue, Wisconsin
Michigan, Ohio State
Need the Automatic Bid:
Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Penn State, Rutgers
Michigan and Ohio State could both use a win or two, especially if they drop their regular season finales to Iowa and Michigan State, respectively. Michigan is also in better shape, but not by much.
Now, onto the seeding scenarios:
Seeds Locked In:
Indiana - The Hoosiers are the outright Big Ten champion and will be the No. 1 seed playing at noon on Friday against the 8/9 winner.
Minnesota - The Golden Gophers will finish, at best, 3-15. They cannot catch Illinois and Rutgers cannot catch them, so Minnesota will be the 13 seed playing at 4:30pm on Wednesday against the 12 seed. Right now, that is Illinois.
Rutgers - The Scarlet Knights can finish 1-17 at best and cannot catch Minnesota. For the second year in a row they are the 14 seed and will play at approximately 7pm Wednesday against the 11 seed. As of right now, it appears that will be Penn State, Nebraska, or Northwestern.
Michigan - After going through the possible scenarios the Wolverines are locked into the 8 seed unless they get into a three-way tie with Purdue and Iowa. This is possible, as it would take a Michigan win and a Purdue loss to happen, but if Ohio State loses to make it a 4-way tie it knocks Michigan back to the 8 seed. The highest they can get is a 7 in exactly one scenario: a win over Iowa, a Purdue loss to Wisconsin, and an Ohio State win over Michigan State. This is also the only scenario that gives Purdue the 8 seed. Regardless, Michigan cannot fall to Wednesday or rise to Friday, and will be the 7 or 8 seed.
Illinois - The Illini are locked into playing on Wednesday regardless of what happens this weekend. They will be the 11 or the 12 seed depending on their finale with Penn State and the Northwestern-Nebraska game, but even though they can tie for the 10 spot at 6-12, they would lose on tiebreakers and can't avoid Wednesday.
So that makes five teams where we know where they will be playing. The Illini will be playing Rutgers or Minnesota on Wednesday, and the fourth Wednesday team will be Penn State, Northwestern, or Nebraska depending on the weekend games.
Now, onto the other nine teams:
Maryland - The Terrapins are locked into a double-bye even with a loss to Indiana. There are various scenarios where they can tie with 1-to 5-teams, but in alls scenarios the Terrapins can go no lower than the 4 seed. Because of the giant cluster of six teams that can all, in some way, finish tied for second, you can't pick Maryland's seed, but they can't go lower than 4th.
Michigan State - The Spartans can finish with anywhere from the 6 seed to the 2 seed, but they are most likely locked into a double bye because there are few scenarios that have them falling to Thursday: Purdue, Ohio State, Iowa, and Indiana all winning to create a six-way tie for second place. After all the tiebreakers it would be: 2. Maryland, 3. Purdue, 4. Iowa, 5. Wisconsin, 6. Michigan State, 7. Ohio State. In all other scenarios Michigan State gets a double bye to Friday. There is even one scenario where Michigan State falls all way to the 7 seed if they lose while Maryland, Purdue, and Iowa all win. That is because they would then be 2-5 against Iowa, Purdue, Ohio State, and Wisconsin.
Wisconsin - The Badgers are the only other team that does not need any help for the double bye. Like Michigan State, if they win they are off until Friday. With a loss at Purdue they cannot get higher than the 5 seed, and can go as low as the 7. They have a ton on the line Sunday as a result. They can go as high as the 2 seed if they win and both Michigan State and Maryland lose.
Purdue - Like Wisconsin, Purdue cannot get a double bye with a loss. Unlike Wisconsin, even if they win they still need help. As pointed out earlier, they need a loss by Michigan State or Maryland or Iowa. If Purdue wins and all three lose, the Boilers are the 2 seed. If just two lose and Purdue wins, the Boilers are the 3. If just one loses and Purdue wins, Purdue is the 4 seed. A Purdue loss sends Purdue to the 6 or lower seed.
Iowa - It once looked like a double by was a foregone conclusion for the Hawkeyes. Now they need to beat Michigan and get some help. Fortunately, going 4-0 against Purdue and Michigan State is a huge trump card here. On the other side of the coin, a Purdue win makes things difficult for them even with the direct tiebreaker because it assures Wisconsin would be brought into said tie, and Purdue's then 2-0 record against the Badgers would help the Boilers and offset he two losses to Wisconsin. As far as I can tell, the Hawkeyes need a win and a loss by Michigan State to get only as high as the 4 seed because they don't have the tiebreaker with Maryland or Wisconsin. As long as Michigan State wins, Iowa is playing on Thursday.
Ohio State - Somehow, the Buckeyes can still finish second. Unfortunately, their very poor record among the other top teams puts them in a very rough spot. Even if they beat Michigan State, the Spartans have the tiebreaker directly because they beat Indiana and OSU did not. In any multi-team tie Buckeyes would not fare well, as they did not beat Purdue, Wisconsin, or Maryland (x2). The Buckeyes are locked into the 5-7 range.
Northwestern - After beating Penn State last night the Wildcats are in great shape to avoid Wednesday. They cannot catch Michigan for the 8th seed, but a win over Nebraska locks them into the 9 seed and gives them a 20-win season for only the third time ever. That's not bad.
Nebraska and Penn State - The teams go into the weekend tied at 6-11 a game ahead of Illinois. They also split their regular season meetings, but Penn State has the direct tiebreaker because they beat first place Indiana. That means Nebraska has to beat Northwestern and have Penn State lose to Illinois. Not only does that keep the Cornhuskers from playing on Wednesday, it knocks Penn State all the way down to 12 behind the Illini. If Penn State, Nebraska, and Northwestern finish in a three-way tie (both Penn State and Nebraska win this weekend) all three teams will be 2-2 against each other. Penn State's win over Indiana then moves them to the 9 seed, and Nebraska gets the 10 and avoids Wednesday because they beat Michigan State.