The latest AP poll had 4 B1G teams ranked, with the Purdue Boilermakers even earning a first place vote. The computers, or more accurately the formula that makes up the RPI isn’t so kind. As of January 18th, the Ohio State Buckeyes join Purdue in the top 25. That’s it for the conference. The next highest ranked team is Michigan State, all the way down at 30. Michigan appears at 37, with Maryland cracking the top 50 at 47. Nebraska and Minnesota are in the 60s. That’s it for top 100 teams out of the Big Ten.
Going by those numbers, that’s 5 solid picks for the NCAA tournament, with 2 bubble teams. Quite frankly, 2 bubble teams that need to avoid any sort of late season slump.
It would be easy to predict gloom and doom for the conference, but there is still a lot of basketball that needs played. Michigan State looked like an unstoppable machine earlier in the season, but is slumping at the moment. They certainly might pick up the pace and still could move into a number 1 seed. Other teams also could bounce back from bad starts in conference play.
And that’s exactly what I think is going to happen. The Spartans still have the tools to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament. Maryland and Indiana have shown some promise at points in the season. In this case, the overall weakness of the conference could actually prove to be a strength. Gaudy win-loss records trump the RPI for a conference with the reputation of the Big Ten. It wouldn’t shock me if 8 teams finish with more than 20 wins overall, and depending on which of those teams have big wins or makes a decent run in the Big Ten tournament, the conference might even get 8 teams into the Big Dance. I think the usual 7 is a pretty solid prediction.