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2021 NCAA Tournament: Where the Big Ten Stands on February 18

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Maybe we should just cancel the Big Ten Tournament.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan State at Purdue Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

We’re less than a month from Selection Sunday and the Big Ten still stands a very good chance of earning its highest number of bids ever to the NCAA Tournament. It won’t be a single conference record, however. In 2011 the old bloated Big East got 11 teams in. Our beloved conference has gotten eight before, and getting that many seems likely again this year. The dream of 12 or 13 teams making it is dead, however. As expected, we have seen some teams fade, while others may have a good computer profile, but they are under .500 overall (looking at you, Penn State).

With 11 teams in the top 52 there is still quite a race to make it. Let’s see where the B1G bubble is.

Definitely out:

Nebraska – 4-14, 1-11 – KenPom: 114, NET: 142 – As I mentioned yesterday, Nebraska now serves one purpose: go around the Midwest for the next two and a half weeks and donate as many wins as they can get scheduled for other teams. They have been competitive at least in their marathon, but at some point fatigue is going to overwhelm them. For Purdue, we just need to avoid the “bad loss” in the one or two games we end up playing them. What Purdue needs to do vs. them: Sweep

Northwestern – 5-13, 3-12 – KenPom: 70, NET: 89 – If you needed further proof that God Hates Northwestern Basketball just look at what has happened this year. The Wildcats reached the top 25, then lost 12 straight and counting. They somehow have a win over projected 1 seed Ohio State, but their finishing kick in the double OT loss to Indiana last week was brutal. They won’t make the tourney, but they could trip up Maryland or Minnesota. What Purdue Needs to do vs. them: Already won only matchup

On Life Support (and they are calling in a priest for the Last Rites)

Michigan State – 10-9, 4-9 – KenPom 71, NET 93 – I was a junior in high school the last time Michigan State missed the NCAA Tournament. Gas was under $1 a gallon, the Final Four was played in the old RCA Dome, and Matt Painter was not that far from when he drove a forklift to pay his rent. Yes, 1997 was a weird time (but Live’s Secret Samadhi album ripped). If the tournament started today Michigan State’s streak of 22 straight appearances, third longest active behind Kansas (30) and Duke (24, which also may go down) would be over. If all of their COVID-postponed games get rescheduled the Spartans have 7 left before the Big Ten Tournament. Of those games they would have to play Michigan, Ohio State, and Illinois each at least once, plus Indiana twice and at Maryland. They can get some monster wins there, obviously, but would they need to win five of those 7 games with those terrible computer numbers? Have we seen anything that makes you even think they could pull it off? What Purdue needs to do vs. them: Sweep secured

A LOT of work to do

Penn State – 7-10, 4-9 – KenPom: 38, NET: 38 – Penn State has the opposite problem of Michigan State. Their computer numbers are great, but they just need wins to get over .500. They did themselves no favors by losing at home to last place Nebraska on Sunday. That was just crippling because instead of being just under .500 at 8-9 overall they now need to win at least 5 of their last 7 to get to .500 before the B1G tournament. That includes tonight against Ohio State. Their last two games were losses by 3 total points and they have a two point overtime loss at Indiana already. They are kind of like Purdue last year with the computer numbers, even if this year some of the numbers are wonky (COLGATE of all teams is ranked 10th in the NET). This is still a dangerous team that can beat anyone. What Purdue needs to do vs. them: Split secured, can earn sweep next Friday in the Mausoleum

My body’s too bubblicious for you, babe

Minnesota – 13-9, 6-9 – KenPom: 42, NET: 57 - Minnesota would be fine if they could win a road game. They are 3-7 in their last ten, with the escape win over Purdue keeping them afloat. As the only team in America that has beaten Michigan they have another excellent win in their favor, but 13-1 at home means nothing when you’re 0-8 on the road. Last night they picked a terrible time to run the “stop scoring” offense, as a five minute field goal drought turned a 55-55 tie into a win for Indiana going away. They have to go to Penn State in what is pretty much a must-win for both teams. What Purdue needs to do vs. them: Already split season series

Indiana – 12-9, 7-7 – KenPom: 28, NET: 42 – If the season ended today the Hoosiers would be fine. Their win over Minnesota last night and survival at Northwestern last week prevented them from suffering two crippling blows. The Hoosiers keep playing with fire though. They have played five overtime games and won two of them. They have six games left: twice each against Michigan State and Michigan plus at Rutgers and at Purdue. What they do against the Spartans will likely decide their fate. I doubt they beat Michigan. Rutgers already beat them by 4 in Bloomington and if Matt Painter dominated Archie Miller any more he would have to walk him around on a leash in a gimp suit. I am still incredibly wary of Indiana in a rivalry game, and Trayce Jackson-Davis terrifies me if they get any three-point shooting whatsoever. What Purdue needs to do vs. them: Secure the sweep and end their season

Maryland – 12-10, 7-9 – KenPom: 34, NET: 35 – Maryland is the first beneficiary of what the Big Ten is doing to Nebraska. They needed raw wins to get them above .500 and they got two of them this week. If that is enough to get the Terrapins into the tournament (and thus another TV share or two) the Big Ten’s plan to make the Cornhuskers the Washington Generals for a few weeks will be a success. The Terps have four games left: at Rutgers and Northwestern and home against Michigan State and Penn State. If they win three of those they will be fine. It would be nice if they got their NET 5 spots higher so our home win over them moves to tier 1. What Purdue needs to do vs. them: Already split season series

Probably fine barring a complete collapse

Rutgers – 12-7, 8-7 – KenPom: 26, NET: 28 – Rutgers overcame a midseason 5 loss swoon and has now won 5 of their last 6. That includes a nice win at Indiana in there. Tonight they go to Michigan, then have four games left against Maryland, Indiana, Nebraska, and Minnesota. If they hold serve at home against Indiana and Maryland they will be fine. What Purdue needs to do vs. them: Purdue lost only season meeting

Purdue – 14-8, 9-6 – KenPom: 22, NET: 27 – I am moving us to “lock” if we win one more game, regardless of opponent. If it comes Sunday at Nebraska we avoid our last scheduled chance for a “bad loss”. If it comes against pretty much anyone else on the slate it is a tier 1 or tier 2 win and just pads our profile. I have always said a 10-10 record in this year’s Big Ten would be more than enough, and we’re 90% of the way there. The only way we miss now is by losing the last 5 (including a hypothetical make-up game to Nebraska, which would mean 0-2 against the Cornhuskers) and by adding a first round B1G tournament loss. While the Maryland and Minnesota losses hurt in terms of seeding, the Big Ten may thank us because it is keeping those two Bubble teams alive with tier 1 home wins.

Wisconsin – 15-7, 9-6 – KenPom: 14, NET: 19 – Yeah, I am probably being overly cautious by not locking the Badgers, but they have lost three of their last five and in the unlikely, but somewhat possible event they drop their last five (Iowa, at Northwestern, Illinois, at Purdue, at Iowa) they could be in some trouble coming to the B1G tourney. They are like Purdue: one more win will likely be enough, and even if they don’t get it they are in decent shape. What Purdue needs to do vs. them: Beating them in Mackey would be very nice.

NCAA Locks

Iowa – 15-6, 9-5 – KenPom: 4, NET: 7 – The Hawkeyes were a little wobbly there with a 1-4 stretch that included two losses to Indiana, but given their finishing slate they are more than fine. They have a makeup game against Nebraska to get in and consecutive games at Ohio State and Michigan, but even if they drop all 6 I think they have probably done enough given their computer numbers and who they have left. What Purdue needs to do vs. them: Purdue lost only season meeting

Ohio State – 17-4, 11-4 – KenPom: 6, NET: 6 – Much like their football team when the game is in Ross-Ade, their weakness is Purdue. They have won six in a row since they got Jaden Ivey’d and are playing like a team on a mission. If not for the Purdue home loss and trip up in Evanston they could probably chase down Michigan, too. They get Michigan and Illinois at home among their last five games and are playing for a #1 seed. In any other season if Purdue had sweeps of Michigan State and Ohio State I would be asking how many games we were up in the Big Ten on everyone. What Purdue needs to do vs. them: Sweep Secured

Illinois – 15-5, 11-3 – KenPom: 7, NET: 4 – The Illini are doing great and might be the only team that can chase down Michigan. They have a game they need rescheduled with the Wolverines, which would be a huge one. The one downside they have is that 5 of the last 6 are on the road, with the only home game coming against Nebraska. The Illini are looking for a #1 seed and can get it with wins at Michigan and Ohio State. What Purdue needs to do vs. them: Purdue lost only season meeting

Michigan 14-1, 9-1 – KenPom: 3, NET: 3 – Michigan faces a larger problem than Nebraska. The Cornhuskers need to get in 8 games in the next two weeks or so. Michigan needs to get in 10, starting tonight against Rutgers. I am not sure how they will do it, plus how do you decide the conference champ if, say, Illinois goes 16-3 and Michigan goes 15-1, but doesn’t play Illinois or their second game against Ohio State? They have some potential doubleheaders coming up with Michigan State and Indiana and could get worn down if they are forced to pay all 10. What Purdue needs to do vs. them: Purdue lost only season meeting