As the season comes to a close, the NCAA Tourney discussion heats up. So let's talk about the Big Ten and specifically, how many teams will make it to the big dance?
Here's the standings as of this moment......
Ohio State -- 14-1 - 26-3
Wisconsin --- 12-3 - 26-4
Illinois ----- 9-6 - 21-9
Michigan State 8-6 - 21-8
Indiana ------ 8-6 - 18-9
Iowa --------- 8-6 - 16-12
Michigan ----- 7-7 - 19-10
Purdue ------- 7-7 - 18-10
Minnesota ---- 3-12 - 9-20
Northwestern - 2-12 - 13-15
Penn State --- 1-13 - 10-17
-Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan State are in. No doubt about it.
-Minnesota, Northwestern, and Penn State have no chance, aside from the incredible unlikely automatic bid given to the winner of the Big Ten Tournament.
-That leaves 5 teams which are "on the bubble", Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan and Purdue.
Illinois does not have a signature win, having lost to all 6 ranked teams they played. But it's hard to ignore 21 wins in the Big Ten, especially a third-place Big Ten team. I'm going to say they're in without much debate.
Indiana was once a lock to get in. They were ranked in the Top 20 and were holding a 16-5 record after knocking off #2 Wisconsin. they were headed towards the tourney at full speed. That was then. This is now. The Hoosiers have lost four of their last six games and are stumbling at every turn. However, I'm going to put them in the tourney, based on that Wisconsin win, along with wins against the aforementioned Illinois and Michigan State. You beat three Big Ten 20-win teams and you get in. Nuff said.
Iowa is tied for fourth place in the Big Ten with an 8-6 record. Fourth place usually gets you an invite, but this team is only 16-12 overall. Yes, they have wins over Michigan State and Indiana, but I don't think that's going to cut it. 16-12, man. That's a bitch. They still have one big game against Illinois after a road game in Happy Valley against lowly Penn State. Wins those two, and you're at 18 wins. Maybe two more wins in the Big Ten tourney would do it? They would have 20 wins then, but that also means they'll need to beat either Wisconsin or Ohio State to get there. In my honest opinion, Iowa is out unless they pull off another miracle in the Big Ten Tournament.
That leaves us with Michigan and Purdue. One will get in, both might get in. Both teams have two games left, and those two games will tell a lot.
Michigan has their two biggest rivals, Michigan State and Ohio State. Just one win will give the Wolverines their signature victory (and their 20th win). But those are two tough teams to knock off. Fortunately for Michigan, both contests are at home. But if both games end up in a loss, they will finish the Big Ten in the 8th slot, with a Big Ten tournament game against 9th-seed Minnesota. That game should give them their 20th victory (followed the next day by a likely defeat to #1 seed Ohio state). Will 20 wins and no signature victory be enough to propel the Wolverines? My gut says no. They need to beat Michigan State on Tuesday night, or they're in a world of hurt.
Purdue has a much easier road. 18 wins in the books and two home games left against cellar-dwellers Minnesota and Northwestern. They should have no trouble getting to 20, and a huge win over Michigan State will help get them in the dance. Follow that up with at least one win in the Big Ten tourney, and it's a lock.
So there's my take. Feel free to ridicule or agree in the comments.
Teams in the NCAAs (6)
Teams in the NIT (2)
Of course, I'd be happy to see Michigan beat MSU and make the Dance. We would actually have a legitimate shot at beating them four times in the same basketball season......