We’re now only two days from flipping the calendar to March. That means a lot of different things to Big Ten basketball fans.
Some are screaming for Selection Sunday to hurry up and get here before their team makes a mistake it can’t reverse. Others are longing for an extra couple of weeks before the final project is due.
This past week did little to quell those emotions. The Big Ten is as bubbly as it gets, and the list of teams on the cusp of either glory or disappointment is growing more unsure by the minute.
We’ll do our best to break it down.
Purdue (23-6, 12-4)
The Boilermakers had won six straight prior to a slip-up Saturday in Ann Arbor. While that 82-70 loss will sting, Purdue still came out the other side of the weekend controlling its path to the Big Ten regular-season championship. In his most recent Bracketology, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi had the Boilermakers on the four line. Nothing to see here.
Minnesota (22-7, 10-6)
How did we get here? Well, seven straight wins in February will do the trick. Two more wins to close out the regular season and Richard Pitino’s squad might even be looking at a top-five seed in his first NCAA Tournament appearance. Yes, really. The Golden Gophers are hot at the right time.
Wisconsin (22-7, 11-5)
It feels like the sky is falling, but Badgers fans should realize that it could be a lot worse. Wisconsin will still be dancing, just maybe not with the same moves it envisioned a month ago. Considering the committee had the Badgers below the four line before this skid, losing four out of five has this team on a dangerous precipice. Right the ship and a five or six seed is still within reach. Lose out, and an eight or nine isn’t unreasonable.
Should be in
Maryland (21-7, 10-6)
Look, I want to lock up the Terrapins. I really do. But that Rutgers game on Tuesday screams trap. Just beat the worst team in the conference, and Maryland will have bubble immunity. Even if it has now lost five of seven.
Northwestern (20-9, 9-7)
Come on, Wildcats. Don’t do this. Not now. We started getting poetic about Northwestern’s first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance two weeks ago when it beat Wisconsin, and somehow it’s still not a lock. Two home games to close (Michigan and Purdue), and only one more win is necessary. Make it happen.
Michigan State (18-11, 10-6)
Let’s do this, Zombie Spartans. Could there be anything more Tom Izzo than this team making the Sweet 16? It’s a team that has now lost three players (Eron Harris, Gavin Schilling and Ben Carter) to season-ending knee injuries, yet it finally grabbed that elusive marquee win over Wisconsin on Sunday. Good luck figuring out what to do with the Spartans on the bracket.
Work to do
Michigan (19-10, 9-7)
Another team that picked up a huge win over the weekend by beating Purdue. Why aren’t the Wolverines in the “should be in” category? A 4-7 record against the RPI top 50 still sticks out like a sore thumb, and back-to-back road games against Northwestern and Nebraska could be tricky. They probably only need to win one, though, to feel confident heading to the Big Ten Tournament.
Indiana (16-13, 6-10)
Somehow, this isn’t over. This funhouse of a basketball season taking place in Bloomington could still end in the NCAA Tournament. How? The Hoosiers stopped a five-game skid by pulling off a last-minute miracle win over Northwestern (see below). Remember, this team still has wins over potential No. 1 seeds Kansas and North Carolina that no one else can match. It can add Purdue to that list on Tuesday.
— Josh Margolis (@MargolisNews) February 26, 2017
Illinois (16-12, 7-9)
The Illini have come out of the woodwork and are likely to find themselves in the “first four out” category of a few bracket projections. They’ve now won four out of five including two wins over rival Northwestern. Illinois fans have to thank former coach Bruce Weber, though. Kansas State’s late-season slide is opening that door just a tiny bit wider.
Illinois is suddenly back on the NCAAT bubble, but more importantly, they're 11 wins away from a National Title #AlternativeFacts
— Jim Vainisi (@JimVainisi) February 27, 2017