After almost a month of conference play, the Big Ten bubble has become much clearer. A few teams have separated themselves at the top, as many others fight for positioning on the bubble. As conference play heats up, here is where each team resides in the quest for March Madness.
Big Ten Bubble Report: Who’s In and Who’s Out
The Boilermakers are the only Big Ten team not on the bubble. They are ranked second in the country and have only lost two games all season. They have great players, including the likely national player of the year Zach Edey. Barring something crazy, Purdue will make the tournament and likely be a first or second-seed.
Likely In: Wisconsin, Illinois
Both of these teams are currently fighting for the top of the Big Ten. Illinois is currently 14-4 and had an excellent win against FAU. The team has a ton of talent, including Marcus Domask and Coleman Hawkins. But they recently got their most important player, Terrence Shannon Jr., back from suspension. The Illini are in good shape to make March Madness.
Wisconsin has been a bit of a surprise this season. While the Badgers were expected to be solid, nobody thought they would be challenging for the Big Ten Title. Wisconsin has been led by transfer guard AJ Storr, who was a much-needed boost for a team that typically plays slow and methodically. After a strong start to the season, Wisconsin is nearly a lock to make it.
On the Right Track: Michigan State, Nebraska, Northwestern
After an abysmal start to the season, Michigan State has found itself back on track. Although the Spartans may not be as good as the preseason hype, they are still a very good team. They have an elite player in Tyson Walker and one of the country’s best coaches, Tom Izzo. The Spartans have a questionable resume. But they still play Wisconsin, Illinois, and Purdue, which would all help their resume. Although they still need some help, Michigan State is trending towards the right side of the bubble come Selection Sunday.
Nebraska and Northwestern are very similar teams. They have almost the same record, are toward the top of the conference, and have a win over Purdue. The main difference between the two is that Nebraska has no bad losses, and Northwestern has losses against DePaul and Chicago State. Nonetheless, both schools are in a good position to be on the right side of the bubble this season.
Needs Some Work: Minnesota, Indiana, Ohio State
These three schools are in very unique situations. Minnesota was not expected to be very good this season but has found itself on the bubble. The Gophers’ resume is not amazing, but they don’t really have a bad loss. They also have a favorable schedule down the stretch. Although they may need to pull off an upset against Purdue or Illinois, Minnesota can find a way into the bubble conversation.
Indiana has had stretches of brilliance and head-scratchers this season. The Hoosiers currently have no resume-building wins but have a few chances to pick some up, starting with Illinois this weekend. Fortunately for the Hoosiers, there are no crushing losses on their record. If the team can find some magic, they might be able to make the tournament.
Ohio State has the problem of not being able to play on the road. The Buckeyes have lost to Michigan, Nebraska, and Indiana on the road this season, all winnable games. The one saving grace was the win against Alabama. Fortunately for the Buckeyes, their schedule is pretty easy for the rest of the season, and they should be able to string a few wins together.
Do You Believe in Miracles?: Maryland, Rutgers, Iowa
After an abysmal 1-3 start with losses to Davidson and UAB. Maryland appeared to turn things around after stringing together a few wins, including one on the road against Illinois. The Terps followed this up with close losses to Northwestern and Michigan State. While you can’t completely write the Terps off at this point, they can only afford one or two losses the rest of the season if they want to end on the right side of the bubble.
Rutgers is in a very similar spot to Maryland. The Scarlet Knights have had a few confusing losses to Wake Forest and Princeton, but they have had solid wins against Seton Hall and Mississippi State. If Rutgers can beat Purdue at home this weekend, some hope remains in the season. If not, the season is all but done.
Iowa is an interesting case. The Hawkeyes don’t have a bad loss. Each loss has come to a power five team, and many of them ranked. The problem is the lack of wins. The only really good opponent that Iowa has beat is Seton Hall. Other than that, the Hawkeyes don’t have any impressive wins. Iowa can only afford a handful of losses the rest of the season, but the Hawkeyes don’t seem physical enough to compete in the Big Ten.
Better Luck Next Year: Michigan, Penn State
At the start of the season, many expected Penn State to struggle. They lost most of their talent and their coach. Mike Rhoades came in from VCU and created a solid lineup around Ace Baldwin Jr. But there clearly was not enough talent to win at a high level. Rhoades is a good coach and should have the Nittany Lions competing in the near future, but for now, they are almost certainly missing the tournament.
On the other hand, expectations were not the same for Michigan. Although they lost star center Hunter Dickinson, hopes were still somewhat high for Juwan Howard’s squad. Flash forward a few months, and the Wolverines are in complete disaster mode. Star guard Dug McDaniel has had an academic suspension, and Howard finds himself in the hot seat. At this point, even if Michigan goes undefeated the rest of the season, it would still be hard for them to make the tournament. This team has almost no hope, and the program is going in the wrong direction.