Step one is complete. Purdue has won at least a share of the Big Ten championship. If any one of three games (Iowa at Wisconsin tomorrow Minnesota at Wisconsin Sunday, or Purdue at Northwestern Sunday) goes its way it will be an outright championship. We could have it locked up before even taking the floor Sunday afternoon in Evanston. Now we’re on to the next step. What will our Big Ten Tournament look like? Pulling off the double is hard. Here are the teams that have done it in the first 19 years of the Big Ten Tournament:
1999: Michigan State
2000: Michigan State
2002: Ohio State (OSU had to vacate both, and the regular season was shared with Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin)
2007: Ohio State
2010: Ohio State (Shared regular season with Michigan State and Purdue)
2011: Ohio State
2012: Michigan State (Shared regular season with Michigan and Ohio State)
Purdue will have to win three games in three days now, and has the preferential path to the title.
14 Seed – Rutgers – As mentioned previously, Rutgers has locked up the 14 seed at 2-15 going into its final game. It is a full four games behind everyone else.
11-13 Seeds – Nebraska, Indiana, and Penn State – Prior to tomorrow night’s Nebraska game at Minnesota these three are in the unenviable position of needing to play on Wednesday. Should Nebraska lose, all three teams will be tied for 11th at 6-11 going into the final games. That would mean if all three lost their last games (Indiana at Ohio State, Michigan at Nebraska, Penn State at Iowa) they would all be playing on Wednesday. In this case Indiana would be the 11 based on a 2-1 record against the other two, Nebraska would be the 12 at 1-1, and Penn State would be the 13 at 0-3.
As it stands right now, Penn state and Indiana are tied at 6-11, but Indiana has the advantage, having gone 2-0 vs. Penn State.
10 Seed – Ohio State – The Buckeyes have won two in a row and if they beat Indiana on Saturday they will assure that they will avoid Wednesday. A win also opens the door ever so slightly to a Big Ten Tournament run and potential at large bid. Sure, they would likely have to get to the title game to have a shot, but it is better than nothing.
9 Seed – Illinois – The Fighting Illini are also making a late push and a win over Michigan State tonight or a win Saturday at Rutgers locks them away from Wednesday. They could get as high as the 6 seed if they win both and Northwestern and Michigan lose both of their remaining games, plus an Iowa loss.
8 Seed – Iowa – Don’t look now, but Purdue’s first opponent in DC could be Iowa. The Hawkeyes beat Purdue in Iowa City and have won two in a row to get to 8-8 in the league. They have raised their RPI to 92 to get off the “bad loss” radar and with Peter Jok they could be dangerous. A split in their last two games (at Wisconsin Thursday, home for Penn State) can lock them into the 8/9 game or the 7/10 game. They could get into a 5-way cluster at 10-8 for third place, but their tiebreaker scenario is not good.
6-7 Seeds – The Michigan-Northwestern – These two teams are tied at 9-7 right now for 6th place, so tonight’s game not only has NCAA implications, but B1G tourney tiebreaker implications. The advantage to getting the 6 Seed is that you get a team that has already played a game on Wednesday. I think Northwestern needs one more win period to feel completely safe, while Michigan is in better shape. The winner tonight not only has an edge in B1G tourney seeding, it likely locks up an NCAA bid.
5 Seed – Minnesota – The Golden Gophers are the hottest team in the conference with 7 straight wins, but Michigan State’s 2-0 record against them has them bumped into the last Wednesday spot against the 12/13 winner. Since Purdue would play the 4/5 winner on Saturday it could mean games against Iowa, then Minnesota just to get to the final.
4 Seed – Michigan State – Michigan State at Minnesota are tied at 10-6 heading into their last two games, but MSU owns the tiebreaker. Assuming Minnesota gets at least a split with Penn State and at Wisconsin it means Michigan State must get a win against Illinois tonight or at Maryland. A loss in either opens the door for Minnesota and would knock the Spartans to the 5/12 game.
3 Seed – Maryland – Last night’s win at Rutgers put the brakes on the skid for the Terrapins and assures they can finish no lower than the 5 seed. They have the tiebreakers over Michigan and Northwestern. Maryland is currently 11-6 and can finish, at worst, 11-7. They need to win this weekend against Michigan State, however, to avoid falling out of a double-bye. Minnesota has the tiebreaker over them (1-1 head-to-head, but since Minnesota beat Purdue that gives them an edge). They can get the two seed if they beat Michigan State and Wisconsin loses to both Iowa and Minnesota.
2 Seed – Wisconsin – The Badgers have not yet clinched a double-bye, but they are the only team that can tie Purdue for the regular season crown. If Wisconsin loses its last two Michigan State, Minnesota, and Maryland can all pass them. Even a win tomorrow against Iowa doesn’t clinch it, as there is still the possibility of a 4-way tie for second, and Wisconsin would only be 2-2 against that grouping. They are still in good shape, however.
1 Seed – Purdue – For the first time ever Purdue will be the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. Only Wisconsin can catch us and Purdue owns the tiebreaker by beating the Badgers in our only meeting. Purdue will play at noon on Friday, March 10 in the quarterfinals against Thursday’s 8/9 game winner. Right now, that would be Illinois vs. Iowa. A win puts Purdue into the first semifinal on Saturday at 1pm against the 4/5-12 winner (right now, Michigan State, Minnesota, or Indiana).
As a final note, Purdue has officially clinched an automatic bid to the NIT, but we do not need such lesser things.
Let’s beat Northwestern on Sunday to win this thing outright.