With three weeks to go until the Big Ten Tournament and another week or so after that until tournament selections (thanks, rutger), let’s take a look at who is a lock for the tournament, who is in but needs to keep it up, and who has work to do.
Locks for the NCAA Tournament
Not only are these three teams locks for the tournament, MSU and Purdue are in play for 1 seeds while OSU could improve its way all the way up to the 2 line if they win out or win the conference title. Purdue and MSU are built to make longer runs into the tournament with their solid guard play from their starters but I have the feeling that OSU is the team this year that grabs a 3-4 seed and flames out before the Sweet 16. Bates-Diop has that “it” factor to him to be the man to carry the team but if he gets into foul trouble or is held in check, I don’t know who else steps up.
Should Be In
Michigan is very close to a lock, and arguably could be, but the loss to Northwestern earlier this week keeps them from lock status for a week. Michigan could make noise in the tournament with their 3 point shooting and defense but are also one of those teams in the 6-7 seed area that lose the first game because they come out cold shooting from deep and can’t adjust on the fly (see: Northwestern game).
Surprise! Nebraska should be in the tournament, all things considered. Are we surprised? YES, but there is no denying a team in a Power 5 conference with only 4 conference losses defintely should be in. Nebraska still has work to do to secure their bid and finishing out the regular season strong is a must. Not being a Power 5 school, it’s easy to start discounting them as a bubble team if they go .500 to end the season and drop their first conference tournament game.
Can Nebraska lock it up and make the tournament?
This poll is closed
Have Work To Do
Penn State has a defining win against Top 25 opponent Ohio State on its resume, which bolsters its 18-9, 8-6 record into the bubble category. Combine that with another quality win over Maryland, albeit at home, and Penn State suddenly doesn’t have an awful resume when giving a blind test. Penn State has a littany of questionable to outright bad losses to overcome, so finishing the season strong is a must and it probably needs a Big Ten Tournament semi-finals run to get in. The problem: Penn State finishes the season with Ohio State, Purdue, Michigan, and Nebraska, who are 4 of the top 5 teams in the conference. While that is solid from a “If I win” standpoint, the likelihood is they’re dropping at least 3 if not all 4 of these games to end the season.
Maryland has the opposite issue as Penn State with no glaring losses other than St. Bonaventure and Indiana with a solid win over Butler but has otherwise missed all other chances at signature wins this season. Maryland is still on the bubble by most calculations but has the easiest way to not make it in. They close the season with Nebraska, rutger, Northwestern, and Michigan, so winning all four of those would put them perhaps back into the Last 4 in, First 4 out area. My prediction here is Maryland wins out and then loses a first round BTT game to someone like Iowa or Wisconsin to be as thoroughly deflating as possible.
Do either Maryland or Penn State make the tournament?
This poll is closed
Both (report yourself in the comments)