It’s almost February and it occurred to me that there are a lot of burning questions in Big Ten basketball. From NCAA Tournament bids to surprises and disappointments, we’re running through the ‘just past midseason’ phase of conference play. Note, every team is mentioned but one. It sort of feels right.
With somewhere between 10 and 11 games through the season finished, we are in the stretch run of Big Ten basketball. As of right now, most analysts see this as a four, MAYBE five, bid league to the NCAA tournament with the Purdue Boilermakers, Michigan State Spartans, Ohio State Buckeyes, and Michigan Wolverines fairly secure. However, there might be some true bubble teams suddenly with the Nebraska Cornhuskers and Maryland Terrapins trying their best to get some resume building wins. How do you see the race to March playing out? Does the B1G get a 1 seed?
Candystripes: If Purdue continues to win as they have, they might have a shot. Michigan State would have been my pick about a month ago, but losses have probably knocked them off the top line.
Boilerman31: There are some interesting storylines building as we head towards March. Right now, Nebby and Maryland are on the outside. Both need to protect home court and pick up good Tier 1 wins to be in the conversation. Purdue is obviously the front runner for a B1G 1-seed. The big thing for them is no bad losses down the stretch. The Big XII keeps cannibalizing itself, so that gives Purdue some wiggle room, but more than one loss going down the stretch and they’ll get bumped.
MNW: Hey, what about the Northwestern Wildcats? ...oh, right. Yeah. Uh…
I think the book’s kind of been written on the B1G this year, barring Nebrasketball taking a scalp and really becoming a sexy bubble pick. Four teams, with two of them (Purdue and MSU) being serious contenders and the other two nice stories or whatever who will be the standard “7-seed loses to 2-seed; puts up a good fight” NCAA Tournament story.
And yep, Purdue sure looks like a 1-seed right now, and this “new” (for whatever that’s worth) look to the Boilers--where they actually just murder teams and don’t play with their food before eating it--might be what helps them get there.
Beez: Easier question first: Purdue gets a 1 barring a major upset down the stretch, I think regardless of what they do at MSG. Can MSU win out through the BTT and get a 1? ….I honestly don’t know. So much turmoil at the top of CBB makes it seem possible, but the conference isn’t doing them any favors.
As far as how the B1G will fare on Selection Sunday? It’s easy to say “lolB1G” and only award 4-5 bids, but the teams have to come from somewhere. All I know is THIS is the year that surely has the weakest bubble in recent memory, even weaker than last year’s and the year before‘s and
Stew: If Izzo can find some February magic, MSU may be able to eek out a 1 seed, and maybe the conference title, though, right now, it’s Purdue’s to lose, obviously. And while OSU has looked impressive most of the year, their depth is a concern, and they could fade a bit down the stretch. UNL is going to have to get in by sheer quantity of wins, as they don’t have much opportunity for getting quality wins. Still, I can’t see both UNL and Maryland getting in without a lot of chaos. Ultimately 5 go, and I give the inside track to UNL.
BRT: As a Nebrasketball fan, 1-seeds are a topic that has never interested me. Whatever, probably Purdue.
More interesting prediction--something happens and Nebrasketball gets into the tourney. I told my co-writers after beating Minnesota that Nebraska would win seven conference games. I was, you could say, met with skepticism. But as of last night, they’ve done that. So now I’m going to take another leap and predict that they somehow sneak into the tourney. Why not? (I mean, I know why not. Because your teams all suck and beating you doesn’t count for shit. Also, we don’t rebound worth a damn.) But I’m throwing it out there anyway--dance, Huskers.
Jesse: Oh look, I’m going to go ahead and answer my own questions today. I promise I didn’t lead them directly to my goal for them. Anyhow, I think the Big Ten gets five teams because - as it has been noted - it’s not like there’s a lot of runaway teams nationally. Nebraska - and/or Maryland I suppose - need to win a lot of games down the stretch, but the schedule is kind to the Cornhuskers, so perhaps things work out? I don’t know. Survive Monday - and what was 4 games in 8 days with three road trips - and I think Nebraska is on its way to the tournament. As for the top line? I’m giving Purdue one and MSU gets a 2 seed in a better location.
WSR: As of today, I think Purdue would be our 1 seed, and we’d get 5 in with Nebrasketball making the cut. But that’s today. We’ve still got plenty of time to have more weird things happen.
This year, College Basketball seems to be trying its best to be a poorly played game of Survivor and the Big Ten is playing its part. Case in point? The MIchigan State Spartans have managed to only lose two conference games this season, but anyone paying close attention would quickly point out that they are inconsistent - especially on the road. Is Izzo’s team setting itself up for a deep run or is this a paper tiger?
Boilerman31: The old saying is, ‘Never bet against Izzo come March.’. And for the most part, that tends to be true. The problem for Sparty is turnovers. They’ve avoided some issues by shooting their way out of it, but that’s not a guarantee come tourney time. Right now, they’re mortal (like everyone else). Given the number of upsets we’ve seen this year, that doesn’t bode well for them.
MNW: Not going out of my way to watch Sparty much (for like, myriad reasons now), I was pretty surprised watching the wisconsin game and seeing how undisciplined the offense still gets. I’d lean toward “paper tiger” at this point; the kind of 3-seed that gets a dangerous 6-seed lurking in its bracket and lose.
Beez: Is MSU maybe bored? Or inexperienced and prone to playing like they’re bored? It’s an actually talented team with a great coach in a year without much CBB dominance outside of UVA’s D and that dude from Oklahoma, so the Izzo-believer in me thinks a deep run is coming
Stew: Seems like MSU goes through a bit of a slump most Januaries, only to get it together late. The issue this year is there’s the accelerated conference schedule due to going to fucking New York (fuck rutger, go the hell away). Not sure MSU has the time left to pull it all together.
BRT: It seems this convo happens every year. MSU does dumb stuff during the season (often, it’s losing to Nebraska), and causes much hand-wringing. Then they’re fine in March. I expect the same this year.
Jesse: I keep expecting the Spartans to snap out of whatever it is has happened to them lately, but then again, I’m sort of thinking the mess at the University and the reality that Izzo is probably not above reproach means this team could be a little unfocused. Still, they feel like the most talented team in the conference and March will have a way of getting them somewhere. I see them getting to the Elite 8 and losing a nailbiter they should have put away early.
WSR: I’m someone that typically gets my bracket and writes Sparty in through the Elite Eight, but something just doesn’t feel right here at all. Maybe it’s lucky for the that everyone seems flawed right now. I think that if Izzo’s still their coach come tourney time they should be OK enough, but that seems to be a pretty interesting “if right now.
On the other side of the spectrum, the bottom of the conference is not good. The Illinois Fighting Illini have played the part of ‘almost not awful’, the Iowa Hawkeyes cannot play defense, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights are better than last year but that’s a really low bar, the Minnesota Golden Gophers are a disaster, and the Wisconsin Badgers are doing whatever it is they are doing right now. If you had to pick just one tire fire, which would be the biggest right now? Points for showing your work.
Boilerman31: Minnesota, hands down. They were a virtual lock for the tourney and a dark horse candidate to challenge for the league crown. Now, losing Lynch to expulsion and Coffey to injury absolutely crushed them. This doesn’t look good on paper or their little slimeball of a coach.
MNW: Minnesota, for the reasons Boilerman listed, but we need to take a minute to note how close Iowa is. The bottom fell out on the Hawkeyes (a team many of us were picking to be bubblicious pre-season), and the only thing different between them and the Gophers is that Iowa players appear to actually request consent.
Now, though, with Dochterman (right?) over at Land of 10 writing about how shitty Fran’s contract is for the university (Gary Barta...THE. FUCK.) and results on the court not backing it up, Iowa basketball is the purest basketball-only tire fire.
Beez: Minnesota for the reasons above, especially for the enormous delta between expectations and results. Secretly I think Wisconsin would be the correct answer had two starters not been lost for the season so early (giving us an “injuries!!!”excuse and masking how awful this team was going to be anyway), as this team was always gonna be worse than even homerish Me expected.
Stew: Biggest tire fire? Probably wisconsin. Because fuck wisconsin.
But really it’s probably Minnesota. Pitino gonna Pitino.
BRT: I don’t know which is biggest, but they’re all glorious, aren’t they? Wisconsin’s might be most satisfying, given how far they’ve fallen, and how fast. It’s just so beautiful. Iowa didn’t fall from the same heights, but the profundity of their struggle is a thing of absolute beauty. I don’t generally hate Minnesota, but their coach has always squicked me out, so I am not too sad about that one either. As usual, I have zero thoughts, feelings, or impressions about Illinois athletics, the cipher of the Big Ten.
Jesse: Minnesota is the biggest disaster, yes.
But, I’d be remiss as a Nebraska fan to not point out that this Iowa team is a really sad, disappointing team. Oh, and as MNW pointed out, they extended the coach to unfireable wages back in the Fall, so that sounds juuuuust about right.
WSR: Ok, so we’re a mess. We were always an injury to Reggie Lynch away from being in this position anyway, I just didn’t realize that it was his humanity that would be damaged. That being said? Let’s take a look-see at wisconsin right now, eh? The best part about this year is that it’ll get Greg Gard more time to “coach” and “recruit” for them.
Since I’m writing the questions, let’s also talk about some surprise positives! Nebraska isn’t awful. For a team that was picked to be last or next-to-last in the conference, they’re doing exactly what a not awful team should do. Beat the bad teams, and play close to good teams with the hopes of what happened against Michigan to be replicated. Somewhat similarly, you look at what Ohio State is doing - with the only conference loss being a miracle game winner against the Penn State Nittany Lions - and they are outplaying expectations under first year coach Chris Holtmann. Who is the bigger nice surprise?
Boilerman31: I probably don’t give Nebrasketball enough credit. Miles has done an admirable job even getting the Huskers into the conversation. That said, what Holtmann has done at Ohio State is just flat out impressive. I expected Ohio State to be near the bottom of the league and this morning I heard them mentioned as a potential 2-seed in the dance! Simply amazing.
MNW: It’s Nebrasketball, for me. I enjoy the underdog story (hello, Northwestern fan) far more than the “resource-rich school with history of success turns it back around.” I still don’t actually know what Nebraska’s identity is (get it to James Palmer Jr.? play defense and pray? let Glynn Watson Jr. do his thing?), but they manage to win. And that’s all you need.
Stew: Probably UNL. OSU had talent, but it wasn’t coming through. UNL had Watson and ….??? Some transfers that were becoming eligible that no one knew how they’d pan out. Combine that with Miles’s history of “coaching” offense, and the fact that they’re boasting a top 100 offense is beyond surprising. Palmer and Copeland have been god sends for Miles’s career.
BRT: Definitely Nebrasketball! They were supposed to be last or close to it in the conference, and instead, they’re hanging out at #4? Who doesn’t love that? And yes, maybe it’s because the conference is so bad this year--but that meant every team had a chance to have some upward trajectory. Kudos to Nebraska for taking advantage of their opportunity.
Beez: OSU. First year with a new coach, and noted OSU “expert” trasch convinced me this year’s OSU b-ball team was going to be the basketball equivalent of this year’s OSU football vs. Iowa. While I don’t like seeing OSU succeed at anything, at least trasch looks dumb.
Jesse: Okay, I’m going to say Nebraska, but Ohio State being a ridiculous shot going in away from undefeated in league play under a new coach is pretty unreal. If the Cornhuskers make - and win a game - in the NCAA tournament, they still get the title of biggest surprise, but the Buckeyes should not be under-appreciated here.
WSR: Surprising positives? I’ve already talked about wisconsin being a disaster.
Alright, let’s fast forward a bit, who wins the following: B1G POTY, B1G Championship, NCAA bids, and furthest run from the B1G in the Big Dance.
Boilerman31: POTY: Keita Bates-Diop. B1G Champs: Purdue. NCAA bids: 5 (Someone will sneak in). Deepest Run: Purdue to San Antonio
MNW: Agreed with Boilerman on all accounts, save Purdue. They’ll somehow flame out in the Elite Eight.
Stew: I think Bridges could catch KBD if MSU surges and OSU starts to fade. Purdue wins the real (regular season) conference title. 5 NCAA bids, and Purdue.
BRT: I also agree with Boilerman, though I think MSU will make it further than Purdue.
Beez: No idea, Purdue, 6, MSU gets to San An while Painter Painters, but this time in the Elite 8!
Non-sequitor addendum: lol Turdg
Jesse: We’re not giving Miles Bridges nearly enough credit here... which means the KBD pick is probably right. Purdue wins the conference. 5 bids with the Cornhuskers in. B1G fizzles out in the Elite 8 with both MSU and Purdue failing to get it done.
WSR: Let’s get crazy and say that tOSU goes the furthest in the tournament because Purdue goes off the rails and Sparty cracks under the spotlight.
How many Big Ten teams make the 2018 NCAA Tournament?
This poll is closed