The 2015 Big Ten Basketball Tournament field is set and play will begin at the United Center in Chicago this Wednesday. We already showed you the bracket and broke down who is in the most favorable (or not) positions. Here's the bracket again. Now, it's time to find out what the Off Tackle Empire staff thinks about which teams have the best chance to upset Wisconsin and improve their NCAA Tournament seeding.
Who is winning this thing: Wisconsin or the field?
babaoreally: Wisconsin. They just seem unstoppable at this point.
Aaron Yorke: The Badgers seem like a juggernaut, but I'm going to go with the field. Upsets always happen in these things and there is a bracket full of teams more desperate than Wisconsin. Maryland is entering play on a seven-game winning streak (including a home victory over the Badgers), while No. 4 seed Purdue is in the strange position of having a double-bye but also feeling like a loss could knock it out of the big dance.
Jesse Collins: Wisconsin still because I feel like they are legitimately the best team in the field and are tournament capable. They have such a perfectly tuned offense, and while they aren't without faults, I think it would be dumb to bet against them.
Candystripes for Breakfast: I'm taking the field, but only because I think winning three games in three days is a difficult task for just about any team. I still believe Wisconsin has the best chance of being tournament champions as well, but it's so easy for them not to be that I have to take the field.
Which team outside the top four has the best chance of going all the way?
babaoreally: Ohio State.
Aaron Yorke: Back in November, I picked Iowa to finish second in the conference. That didn't work out very well, but they are playing well headed into Chicago. The Hawkeyes have won six in a row (albeit against relatively soft competition) and don't rely on outside shooting as much as some other teams in the field. Poor three-point percentages are not something to be proud of in today's spread-out game, but Iowa still has a lot of players who know how to put the ball in the hoop. Fran McCaffery's team could rebound and defend its way past the Badgers if Wisconsin fails to put the Hawkeyes away from the perimeter.
Jesse Collins: Iowa? I mean, sure, it's easy to pick the "almost four seed" team as the best bet to win the whole thing, but Iowa's play as of late makes me think they could go on a run. They have lapses in defense at times, and I'd be remiss to ignore some truly awful losses this season, but as a whole, this team can give almost anyone a run for their money.
Candystripes for Breakfast: This is going to sound terribly Homersota of me, but I gotta go with Indiana. The Hoosiers' potential road to their first Big Ten Tournament title: Northwestern, Maryland, either Ohio State or Michigan State (most likely), and then Wisconsin or whoever showed they could beat Wisconsin. Not exactly the easiest path, but of teams outside the top 4, it's hard to find an easier path (maybe Iowa's is slightly easier?). Of course, to accomplish this, Indiana is going to have to revert back to the team that shot lights out against Maryland and Minnesota, so even beating Northwestern might be a chore, but if it can be done by anybody, I still think this team could do it.
Are there any bottom-four teams that can make it to the quarterfinals? Semifinals?
babaoreally: I think Northwestern could make the quarters, but I don't think any of them will make the semis.
Aaron Yorke: Nebraska and Rutgers have combined for one win since January ended, and Penn State is potentially matched up against my Iowa darlings in the second round. That makes Minnesota my Cinderella pick by default, and I don't even feel that terrible about it. With scoring guards like Andre Hollins and DeAndre Mathieu as well as a big man as talented as Maurice Walker, the Gophers have all the pieces they need to be a scary offensive team. If Richard Pitino can just manage to piece some stops together, Minnesota might be in for an exciting run.
Jesse Collins: Quarters? Sure, anybody can make a run to the quarters with one huge game against Ohio State or Iowa. It's not likely, but would you bet on everything going chalk? Not likely. Of those teams, do I see any in the semis this year? No. They can't shoot and very often they're terrible at defense.
Candystripes for Breakfast: I think Nebraska has the best chance of it, but I don't think any of the bottom four will make it to the quarterfinals.
Who has most to gain/lose from a Bracketology standpoint?
babaoreally: Indiana has the most to gain or lose. They are right on the edge of making it according to projections. A bad loss or a decent win can get them in or keep them out.
Aaron Yorke: Purdue is still on the bubble thanks to a weak non-conference showing, but it's going to be tough for the selection committee to rule out a club that finished fourth in the Big Ten. Will the Boilers really be penalized for earning a double-bye and then being knocked out by a tough Iowa team? I think Indiana has a lot more to lose considering how it has played in February and March. The Hoosiers are considered to be in worse shape than Purdue where the big dance is concerned, and they could be passed over if they lose to Northwestern for the second straight time.
Jesse Collins: Illinois. Sitting at 19 wins, I think they need one and would be securely in with two wins. It would help immensely if they could beat Wisconsin for that second win, but I wouldn't expect that to happen.
Candystripes for Breakfast: Amazingly, I think the teams with the most potential gain available are everyone from Purdue on down, with the possible exception of Iowa. Of those teams, you've basically got two groups: those looking to solidify their place in the field, and those trying to make the deep run to snag the auto-bid. The teams with the most to lose are the two Indiana-based schools, as I think Indiana needs at least one win to not get bounced to the NIT, and Purdue also probably needs a win to ensure people stop scrutinizing their pre-conference mess as closely.
Also, pretty much every Big Ten fan whose team isn't named Wisconsin, Maryland, and Michigan State is rooting for the smaller conference tournaments to have as few upsets as possible, so that more at-large bids aren't needed for those teams.