WASHINGTON — Barring a wild Indiana Hoosiers run this weekend, the Big Ten is a bubble-free zone. And about the only drama left when it comes to Selection Sunday looks to be … well, seeding.
According to longtime CBS Sports bracketologist Jerry Palm, the team charging hardest from the back of the pack to try to snatch a golden ticket to the NCAA Tournament, Iowa (18-14, Ratings Percentage Index rank: 79), can probably kiss its latent at-large dreams goodbye after getting stomped by the aforementioned Hoosiers in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament.
“Iowa,” Palm told Land of 10, “is pretty much done.”
The seventh-seeded Hawkeyes were sandblasted by 10th-seeded Indiana, 95-73, in the third of four league tourney contests Thursday at Verizon Arena.
Among the 17 teams Palm tracks as “On The Bubble,” only Marquette (eight), Providence (six) and Syracuse (six) have more victories over teams in the RPI top 50 than Iowa’s five. But the Hawkeyes weren’t helped by the fact that fellow fence-sitters Kansas State (RPI: 55) and California (RPI: 54) keep picking up conference tourney wins in the Big 12 and Pac-12 brackets, respectively.
Nor did they do themselves any favors Thursday night.
As of early Friday morning, Palm projected the Big Ten to land seven teams in the field of 68, led by Purdue (25-6, RPI: 18) as a 4 seed, followed by Minnesota (23-8, RPI: 20) as a 4; Maryland (24-7, RPI: 27) as a 5; Wisconsin (23-8, RPI: 37) as a 7; Northwestern (22-10, RPI: 52) as a 7; Michigan (21-11, RPI: 44) as an 8; and Michigan State (19-13, RPI: 48) as a 9.
Among the foursome of Purdue, Minnesota, Maryland and Northwestern, all of which are mortal locks, which squad is the one another team would least like to see waiting for them in their respective pods come Sunday?
“Purdue,” Palm replied. “Too many ways to beat you.”
And as for some of the rest of the Big Ten’s Big Dance hopefuls:
Michigan (21-11), RPI: 44
What’s the ceiling for Michigan coming out of D.C.? The 8th-seeded Wolverines take on top-seeded Purdue in the first quarterfinal Friday after turning up in practice jerseys Thursday morning and crushing Illinois, 75-55.
“If Michigan wins the tournament, they’re a top-25 team,” Palm noted, “so that’s a minimum (seed) of 7.”
Michigan State (19-13), RPI: 48
The Spartans took care of business Thursday with a decisive 78-51 stomping of Penn State. But it’s only the Spartans’ fifth win away from East Lansing — as opposed to 11 losses — and it came at the hands of the No. 89 school in the KenPom.com power rankings.
“Michigan State,” Palm said, “is no better than the middle of the bracket.”
Indiana (18-14), RPI: 76
And what of the Hoosiers, who still own the league’s best two non-conference wins with victories over Kansas (RPI: 2) and North Carolina (RPI: 3) but stepped on rake after rake after rake (7-11 conference) in league play?
“Indiana,” Palm said, “has to win the league.”
Wisconsin (23-8), RPI: 37
That said, what’s the impact for the mercurial Badgers if they would slip against a hot Hoosiers bunch Friday in the quarterfinals?
“Hard to say exactly how far Wisconsin could fall,” Palm said. “Seeding is never about what one team does. But not below an 8.”