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2021 NCAA Tournament: Where the Big Ten Stands on March 9

The path to nine is narrow, but we’re definitely getting 8.

Indiana v Purdue Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

The Big Ten Tournament starts tomorrow, but really gets going in earnest on Friday. The two games on Wednesday are pretty much inconsequential, and Thursday has a handful of games where teams need some help to get into the field. It is a safe bet that at least eight teams from the conference can get into the tourney, but can we get nine? Friday’s first game will go a long way in determining that.

Here is where the league stands heading to Indy.

Definitely Out (Barring a Big Ten Tournament title)

Nebraska - 7-19, 3-16 – NET: 127, KenPom: 92 – What Nebraska did in winning three games during their marathon February was admirable, and they came very close to getting both Illinois and Northwestern as well. Only four games ended up being lost over the entire season. Michigan had three lost and the Purdue-Nebraska game in West Lafayette was the fourth. Since they are in the top 135 Purdue does have a tier 2 NET win over the Cornhuskers, and it seems unlikely they will drop with a Penn State loss.

Minnesota – 13-14, 6-14 – NET: 79, KenPom: 62 – I know there were injuries, but goodness did Minnesota fall apart after beating Purdue. I mean, losing at Indiana and making Archie look competent for an evening? My God… The Gophers could have been an NCAA team, but 0-10 on the road was a major reason they aren’t.

Northwestern - 8-14, 6-13 - NET: 89, KenPom: 69 – Northwestern is feeling frisky with three straight wins and they did beat Ohio State once already. If they make a run to Friday Purdue will be right there waiting, too. They had a nice bookended seas with a 3-0 start and a 3-0 finish in conference play, but don’t ask about the middle.

Get that full handful of straws

Indiana – 12-14, 7-12 – NET: 61, KenPom: 39 – There is still time to save Archie! The home overtime win over Penn State gives IU a tiebreaker, and it is tough to lose to a team three times in one season, so they have Rutgers right where they want them. Then it is just beat Illinois (took them to overtime) and Iowa (forget that talk of beating a team 3 times!) and the Hoosiers are back on the happy side of .500 where… they could run into Purdue. Since the only way Painter could dominate Archie more is if Miller had to coach on a leash in a gimp suit with a ball gag that means the autobid would be gone, but get that contract extension with a last minute NCAA bid at 15-15.

Penn State - 10-13, 7-12 – NET: 40, KenPom: 34 – It is an extreme longshot, but what if Penn State makes it to Sunday and loses? They would pick up three pretty good wins over Wisconsin, Iowa, and likely Illinois, plus insure they could at least finish at .500 overall. The computer numbers would be in the high 30s as well. It isn’t going to happen, but imagine if it did, especially since they did close with two decent wins.

The “Loser Leaves Town” Match

Michigan State – 15-11, 9-11 – NET: 65, KenPom: 55

Maryland – 14-12, 9-11 – NET: 34, KenPom: 29

Michigan State has popped out of the coffin like the Undertaker. Maryland took the whole “One more win needed” and decided to lose consecutive games to teams that have to play on Wednesday. Maryland’s computer profile is decent, but they would feel a lot better if they got a win over Michigan State. The Spartans have three of the best wins you can ask for in the last few weeks, but is it enough? I think the winner of this game is in and the loser is sweating.

NCAA Locks

Rutgers – 14-10, 10-10 – NET: 37, KenPom: 33– I was worried about Rutgers when they lost at Nebraska, but they (barely) got that one more win they needed by beating Minnesota in overtime. They should be fine, and beating Indiana makes it academic.

Wisconsin – 16-11, 10-10 – NET: 26, KenPom: 11 – Still the 3.6 roentgen of Big Ten teams. They went 0-8 against the five teams ahead of them in the standings, but are still solidly in the field.

Ohio State – 18-8, 12-8 – NET: 9, KenPom: 7 – Joe Lunardi is still trying to convince me that Ohio State is a 2 seed, but that doesn’t mean he is right. They have lost four straight (against excellent teams, but still), finished two games behind Purdue (we know Purdue would have beaten Nebraska in Mackey), got swept by the Boilers. Are 12-8 against the top two NET tiers to Purdue’s 13-7, and again, GOT SWEPT BY PURDUE! Yet they are still a 2 seed and Purdue is a 4.

Purdue – 18-8, 13-6 – NET: 20, KenPom: 13 – The sign of a really good team is when you are a great win to help another teams’ profile. Rutgers, Clemson, and Maryland are really damn glad they beat Purdue, as those wins are keeping them on the happy side of the Bubble. As long as Purdue doesn’t lose to Northwestern or Minnesota in Indy it is a 4 seed. If we beat Ohio State again we had damn well better be a 3 seed or even take their 2 seed.

Iowa – 20-7, 14-6 – NET: 6, KenPom: 4 – Iowa is now hoping for a Baylor stumble to get a No. 1 seed, and that is unlikely. The Hawkeyes finished the conference strong even if Bo Boroski handed them a win over Wisconsin. Fran, just don’t embarrass us all with a 15 over 2 loss, please.

Michigan – 19-3, 14-3 – NET: 3, KenPom: 3 – The Champs, but with a wobble at the end thanks to losses against Illinois and Michigan State. I am sure Wolverine fans love knowing they won a conference title via the Ohio State football rule. Yeah, they probably beat Penn State, Indiana, and Northwestern in their three cancelled games, but we all know the Mausoleum does weird things to ranked teams. Michigan gets credit for being the only team to win in Mackey though, and seniors CJ Baird, Eli Brooks, Austin Davis, Isaiah Livers, and Luke Wilson joined a wealth of Purdue players plus Peter Jok as guys that competed the Delaney Dozen in their careers.

Illinois – 20-6, 16-4 – NET: 5, KenPom: 5 – The People’s Champ. I think Illinois is the best top to bottom team in the league and what they did without Ayo Dosunmu to Michigan in Ann Arbor was appalling. They are primed and ready for a run.