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2019 NCAA Tournament: How Comfortable Is Each Big Ten Team?

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It’s no surprise to anyone watching college basketball this season that the Big Ten is expected to send upwards of 8-10 teams to the tournament but how comfortable should each team feel?

NCAA Basketball: Final Four-Features Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

It’s halfway through the conference slate and about time to start looking at tournament projections. I mean really, are any of us actually trying to do work otherwise? Something I’ve wanted to do was revive an article I remember seeing a while back in college on ESPN that I hasn’t run for a while (so, all credit, ESPN template). Let’s take a look at who is a lock and who still has work to do:

Teams that are a lock barring an absolute meltdown:

The first two are easy here: both Michigan teams are contending for a one seed right now in the tournament and have almost no way to fall out of the tournament barring only winning three of their remaining games and losing Game 1 of the conference tournament. Locked.

Teams that still have work to do:

So, first things first: If the tournament started today these four teams would be comfortably in the tournament. Right now, all four of these teams have definite tournament resumes but they’re also at risk of falling off. Iowa is notable for their second half meltdowns. Nebraska, Purdue, and Wisconsin are all loved by NET and Kenpom but losses matter so there is a slimmer margin of error. Purdue is in the best shape because their losses were all Quadrant 1 losses while Nebraska and Wisconsin have some pretty bad ones (really? rutger?). They definitely need to win the 50/50 games they have down the stretch to keep themselves feeling good.

Well, I had to move Maryland here. They were a lock and then they went and lost to Illinois. I knew I was being too optimistic with them. Turgeon refused to get his team to play transition defense in the second half and Illinois dealt Maryland a really bad loss.

Teams currently on the bubble:

I’m not really sure what’s happened to Ohio State and Indiana the last few weeks but they’ve really played themselves off their safety for the tournament and straight onto the bubble. Another week like their last two weeks and they’ll be on the outside looking in. Minnesota can look like they can beat teams like Michigan at times and at other times look like they would struggle to, or in some cases actually lose, beat teams like Illinois. They’ll need to consistently win down the stretch if they want to get safety into 8-10 seed status because they’re squarely on the bubble right now, likely the wrong side of it. All three of these teams are actively hoping that the Pac-12 only sends one team to the tournament for the additional slots to be available.

On the outside looking in:

No, I don’t think I’m crazy. Northwestern, even though 12-7 (3-5) record has a path to the tournament. They have two Quadrant 2 losses and right now only one looks suspect (Fresno State). They need to pick up some unlikely wins along the way to make this a thing but they are right on the heels of Minnesota from a bubble watch perspective. They have flaws — what team doesn’t? — but they also have an above average big man in Dererk Pardon and a wing in Vic Law that can keep them in games. They have the ability to hang with very good teams late so I’m not ready to completely throw them out yet but they’re likely an NIT team.

Sorry, you’re not even making the NIT:

I mean really, what you’re playing for right now is the opportunity to knock off a good team, preferably at home to whatever fans are still coming to the games. This isn’t to say that any of these teams are bad but all of these teams have one thing in common: There is not more than one or two — or in Rutgers case zero — offensive threats that can push them to any sort of consistency. Sure, you will grab a win here or there but the lack of offense and depth has done you in.

Poll

How many Big Ten teams ultimately get in?

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    6
    (16 votes)
  • 29%
    7
    (80 votes)
  • 43%
    8
    (118 votes)
  • 21%
    9
    (60 votes)
274 votes total Vote Now