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Big 10 at 10 2.18.2013: Still Trying for Eight

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Will the Big 10 get eight teams into the NCAA tournament?

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

As we reach the final weeks of the Big Ten regular season the question continues to be: will this be an eight team league? The standings as of February 17th answer a few questions:

|------CONFERENCE-------|

|--------OVERALL--------|

STANDINGS

W-L

Pct

W-L

Pct

1. Indiana

11-2

.846

23-3

.885

Michigan State

11-2

.846

22-4

.846

3. Michigan

9-4

.692

22-4

.846

Wisconsin

9-4

.692

18-8

.692

5. Ohio State

8-5

.615

18-7

.720

6. Illinois

6-7

.462

19-8

.704

Minnesota

6-7

.462

18-8

.692

Iowa

6-7

.462

17-9

.654

9. Purdue

5-8

.385

12-14

.462

10. Northwestern

4-9

.308

13-13

.500

11. Nebraska

3-10

.231

12-14

.462

12. Penn State

0-13

.000

8-17

.320

We know that five teams are locks: Indiana, Michigan State, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio State. We also know that four teams are all but eliminated from consideration: Purdue, Northwestern, Nebraska and Penn State. That leaves Illinois, Minnesota and Iowa as the "bubble" teams in the Big Ten. What are their chances? Not bad, actually.

Illinois is a tale of two teams. Awful in January, fantastic in February, the Fighting Illini sit at 6-7 in conference with five games remaining. Of those five games, two are against the worst teams in the Big Ten (Nebraska, Penn State) and one is against the best (Michigan). Unfortunately, the Fighting Illini have to close out the regular season with road trips to Iowa City and Columbus, so there’s that. Best case scenario is that the Fighting Illini go 4-1, with their only loss coming to Michigan and finish up at 23-9 (10-8). Worst case is going 2-3, finishing up at 21-11 (8-10), which will likely eliminate them from tournament consideration. Realistically, they go 3-2 and finish 9-9 in conference. That CAN get them into the tournament and with their resume in January they’ve got a good case.

Like the Fighting Illini, Minnesota has two tough games remaining against the best team in the conference (Indiana) and a difficult road trip to Columbus. Fortunately, they close out with Penn State, Nebraska and Purdue. Worst case is going 2-3, losing to Purdue, Ohio State and Indiana and finishing 20-11 (8-10). Best case is going 4-1, losing to Indiana and finishing 23-9 (10-8). Similar to Illinois the realistic scenario is 3-2 with a final 9-9 conference record. That should get them into the dance.

Finally, there’s Iowa. Of their five remaining games, only two are against teams with winning records (Indiana and Illinois). Like everyone else the best case scenario is going 4-1, only losing to Indiana in Bloomington and finishing up at 21-10 (10-8). Worst case is going 2-3, losing to Nebraska in Lincoln, Indiana and Illinois. Realistic scenario (homer alert) is Iowa going 4-1 with their only loss coming against the Hoosiers.

Should the realistic scenario play out for each team they’ve each got a good chance to make the NCAA Tournament. On the other hand, they could totally poop the bed (see Illinois vs. Northwestern, Minnesota @ Northwestern and Iowa @ Purdue) and only five or six teams could go. We don’t want that, do we?