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Big Ten Bracketology and Mid-Week Previews

Some experts see as many as 9 Big Ten teams dancing come March. Why that's unrealistic, plus previews of the week's games.

Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Lots of intriguing matchups and some curious Bracketology happening in the B1G, so let's hop to it.

Ratings and Bracketology FanSided (1/9) Jerry Palm (1/6) Joe Lunardi (1/5)
Team KP Sag. RPI # Reg. Opponent # Reg. Opponent # Reg. Opponent
Purdue 12 11 29 5 E Nevada 6 S TCU 6 W UNC-Wilmington
wisconsin 11 12 45 6 W Michigan/NCSU 6 MW S. Carolina/VCU 5 W Vermont
Minnesota 31 30 5 6 S VCU 4 MW Vermont 7 MW Wichita State
Indiana 27 25 98 8 MW South Carolina 9 W UT-Arlington 9 S South Carolina
Maryland 55 51 34 8 W Arkansas 8 MW Dayton 10 E USC
Northwestern 40 42 48 9 S Pittsburgh 8 S Rhode Island 11 S Cincinnati
Michigan St 47 43 36 10 W Virginia Tech 8 E Texas Tech 9 MW Miami
Michigan 39 35 74 11* W NC State 11* W Houston 9 E Arkansas
Illinois 72 73 41 11* MW Rhode Island 10 W Pittsburgh 11* E Rhode Island
Nebraska 88 86 46 - - - - - First Four Out - - Next Four Out
Ohio State 48 50 77 - - - - - - - - Next Four Out
Iowa 78 75 116 lol
Penn State 85 80 63
rutger 137 131 115

It's striking to me how many Big Ten teams are actually projected for the Dance—despite the weakness of the conference overall, the glut of mediocre teams is still masquerading as depth in bracket projections. Can this actually hold out?

A few more losses to the Penn States of the world may finally bounce Michigan State, and unless Illinois can put together a complete game they’re not long for the world, so I don’t see it.


Indiana (11-5, 1-2 B1G) at Maryland (14-2, 2-1)

8pm CT || ESPN

DJ: Maryland should open up as the firm underdog in this game and with three starting freshmen in the lineup, that makes sense. Maryland will need the Melo Trimble that can shoot the ball, not the one that goes 5-15 from the field to show up on Tuesday night in order to keep things close and pull out the win. Maryland is still banged up on the inside, so they will frequently show lineups of Damonte Dodd on the inside with Justin Jackson (SF/PF) or go small ball entirely with Jackson and graduate transfer L.G. Gill in order to keep things going.

Jared Nickens hasn’t shot well for Maryland but is having a resurgence of late, going 4-4 from 3 against Michigan and shooting well in the two previous games as well. If he can continue that production from the bench, things all a sudden look much better. Anthony Cowan is shooting better from deep as well and Justin Jackson is a very efficient scorer who will quietly rack up points from all over the court. That being said, Indiana’s guard oriented team is going to give Maryland fits and it’s not something I think they matchup well with. Thomas Bryant is too athletic for Damonte Dodd to guard but too big for someone like Justin Jackson or L.G. Gill to guard all game. If Indiana can get him going early and not go cold from three point range, Maryland will only keep this one close by looking at the final result.

Prediction: Indiana 83, Maryland 74


#24 Minnesota (15-2, 3-1) at Michigan State (11-6, 3-1)

6pm || BTN

Andrew K: Preview? This team is too scattershot for that

They could win by 10, go to 3OT, or get run out of the gym against most opponents in the conference.

MNW: Against Minnesota God only knows which it’ll be, but the action will come in the second half, where Minnesota has been good for a lapse or two per game. Here’s hoping for a repeat of the excitement in Minneapolis, where the two went to overtime.

Pick: Minnesota, 74-71

Michigan (11-5, 1-2) at Illinois (11-5, 1-2)

8pm || BTN

DJ: Thump has officially checked out of basketball viewing of Illinois, so I’ll take this one for him. Michigan is going to roll Illinois, perhaps as bad as Maryland did. Michigan matches up well against Illinois in all facets and the multiple open three’s they create on each possession is going to destroy the lackluster Illinois defense if they just shoot at an average rate. John Groce hasn’t exactly shown adjustments to try to stop the bleeding, so I’m not really seeing a reason why the decline won’t continue.

MNW: In fact, let’s show the conversation between Thump and Graham when we requested an Illinois preview:

Thump: we blow. we are terrible at defense, and i have no idea who's running the ship. the good news is, groce would have to lose every remaining game on the schedule to break last year's record for losses in a season.

groce has beaten michigan just once since coming to illinois, which is funny because he was hired on the strength of a sweet 16 run with ohio that saw him knock off 4-seed michigan. beilein drinks his milkshake. he drinks it up. we'll follow that up by once again being televised on ESPN against maryland, which is a virtual guarantee that we'll be down 15 by the first tv timeout.

Graham: I agree with Thump. I'm guessing Michigan's dominance over Illinois is the difference between a good coaching system and a not cohesive Illinois offensive system.

Thump: yep.

that guy can coach.

our guy can spout empty platitudes that sound like things a coach would say

Graham: Michigan is...not great enough defensively to consistently compete with the Big Ten's best. Outlook downgraded to, say, 9-9. But they should beat Illinois.

Thanks for your help, lazy-asses.

DJ’s Pick: Michigan 86, Illinois 64


Ohio State (10-6, 0-3) at #18 wisconsin (13-3, 2-1)

6pm || ESPN2

DJ: Losing your big man is not a good way to enter your game against Flopsconsin. Much like Illinois, Ohio State is full of all the recruiting starz you think you’ll ever need but has not figured out how to turn that into on the court success. Wisconsin on the other hand is fresh off of a loss to Purdue and will be out to show they should be at the top of the Big Ten. I expect Ethan Happ will have a field day on the inside while Ohio State continues to try to find itself.

Pick: Wisconsin 76, Ohio State 61

Northwestern (13-4, 2-2) at rutger (11-6, 0-4)

8pm || ESPNU

MNW: Fresh off a win at Nebraska, the Wildcats travel to the RAC to take on a sputtering rutger club. After a strong 11-2 non-conference, the Scarlet Knights’ weak SOS has left them a bit exposed in conference play, though three of those four losses have come on the road.

Where Steve Pikiell’s club has struggled the most is shooting the ball—the Knights are 13th from deep (27.9%) and dead last from the field (37.2%). They lead the conference with 64 offensive rebounds, but allow opponents to get to the line (22.8 FTA/gm) and don’t clean up their own defensive glass with any notable prowess. CJ Gettys could cause some problems inside for the undersized ‘Cats front line, but his lack of athleticism means rutger will likely turn to Deshawn Freeman’s slashing and Mike Williams’ shooting to fend off Northwestern at home.

Northwestern, for its part, returns to the site of its historic 39-point beatdown of rutger in 2016. The ‘Cats have struggled with allowing opponents to get to the line (tied with rutger for 12th) and rank 11th in the conference in offensive rebounds allowed, but they shoot the ball somewhat efficiently and make the most of their trips to the line. I don’t think the Scarlet Knights have anyone who can contain the distributing ability of Bryant McIntosh (who had 13 assists at the RAC in 2016), and Scottie Lindsey and Vic Law match up nicely with Freeman and Williams. It might not be pretty if Northwestern is cold from deep, but unless the ‘Cats really struggle with the Knights’ size they should keep The Dream alive (though it’s not The Year).

Pick: Northwestern, 68-60

#17 Purdue (14-3, 3-1) at Iowa (10-7, 2-2)

8pm || ESPN2

DJ: This matches Purdue’s strength (inside play) vs. Iowa’s weakness. Considering that Iowa almost derped a game to rutger in what was their worst performance of the season, by far, I don’t think the Hawkeyes fair well here. In fact, this one could be in blowout status unless Jok decides he is going to carry the team with 40+ points and Iowa gets very hot from 3. Lots of things will need to go Iowa’s way to win this one.

Pick: Purdue 74, Iowa 58

As always, here's your thread for the mid-week slate of Big Ten games. Go nuts, usual rules apply.