Predicting the NCAA Tournament Seeds for Qualifying Big Ten Teams
The Big Ten has shown time and time again why they are the top conference in the country. Any team can beat anyone on any given night. The conference depth stretched from top to bottom.
March Madness is approaching rapidly. With less than a month away till selection Sunday, teams are trying to bolster their tournament resume with wins to earn the best possible seed.
As of now, there are possible eight Big Ten teams that could make the tourney field. However, Iowa still has work to be done, if they are going to make the field. Things can always change these next few weeks with good wins and bad losses.
Here are my predictions for the NCAA tournament seeds for seven qualifying Big Ten teams:
No. 9 Seed: Illinois
Record: 19-8 (6-7 in Big Ten)
Key Wins: Indiana at home; Minnesota on the road; Ohio State at home; Butler at a neutral site and Gonzaga on the road.
Key Losses: Purdue on the road and Northwestern at home.
ESPN's Joe Lunardi has the Fighting Illini as a No. 10 seed in his latest Bracketology. Illinois could easily move up a seed because three of their last five games are against weaker Big Ten opponents like Penn State, Nebraska and Iowa. Also, they need to do a good job of playing well in the Big Ten tournament to set themselves up for a good seed in the tourney.
No. 7 Seed: Minnesota
Record: 18-8 (6-7 in Big Ten)
Key Wins: Memphis in Bahamas; Michigan State at home and Wisconsin at home.
Key Losses: Illinois at home; Iowa on the road and Northwestern on the home.
Minnesota is one of those Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde teams because you don't know if you are going to get the best or worst from them each night.
The Golden Gophers have the talent to be one of the best Big Ten teams, but they haven't always played like that this season. They scored 81 and 75 points consecutively against Indiana and Michigan, then only 48 points in a loss to Northwestern.
The Golden Gophers have some work to do, if they want to earn at least a No. 7 seed in the tourney.
No. 5 Seed: Ohio State
Record: 18-7 (8-5 in Big Ten)
Key Wins: Michigan at home and Wisconsin at home.
Key Losses: Illinois on the road.
Ohio State hasn't had many key wins or key losses either. A big win could’ve been defeating No. 1 Indiana at home, but the Buckeyes lost 81-68.
There are games that could help or hurt OSU's tournament resume to finish off the season. Getting wins against Minnesota, Michigan State and Illinois at home would really help. But, losses could prove detrimental to this team’s seed. Most likely, this team will be between a No. 4 and No. 6 seed come tournament time.
No. 4 Seed: Wisconsin
Record: 18-8 (9-4 in Big Ten)
Key Wins: Indiana on the road; Michigan at home and Ohio State at home.
Key Losses: Iowa on the road and Minnesota on the road.
Wisconsin has certainly raised their tournament stock with defeating Indiana on the road and Michigan at home. Head Coach Bo Ryan seems to always put together a team of hardworking players who play great defense.
Over the last three years, the Badgers have been a No. 4 seed in the tourney. This year won't be any different because they should be able to win four of their last five regular season games. They will be playing against the four worst Big Ten teams.
No. 2 Seed: Michigan
Record: 22-4 (9-4 in Big Ten)
Key Wins: Minnesota on the road; Pittsburgh and Kansas State on a neutral court and NC State at home.
Key Losses: Wisconsin and Ohio State on the road.
Michigan has had a rough couple of weeks in Big Ten play. They have lost three of their last five games on the road.
Luckily, going undefeated in non-conference play and getting big wins against Minnesota and Ohio State should help them in the long run. Their upcoming five games feature all winnable games. If the Wolverines can defeat Michigan State and Indiana at home, then they could be bumped up into a No. 1 seed.
No. 2 Seed: Indiana
Record: 23-3 (11-2 in Big Ten)
Key Wins: Michigan State and Michigan at home; and Ohio State on the road.
Key Losses: Wisconsin at home and Illinois on the road.
The Hoosiers have finally returned back to prominence, after being dismantled from the 2008 Kelvin Sampson scandal. This team has looked excellent all year long because of players like Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo and Christian Watford.
ESPN's Joe Lunardi has the Hoosiers as No. 1 seed in his latest Bracketology. But, IU could drop a spot because of the tough teams ahead. Tonight, Indiana will face Michigan State, who they haven't defeated in East Lansing, MI., since 1991. They face Michigan on the road in the season finale, which won't be easy. If the Hoosiers can win one or both of these games, then they will be in good shape for a No. 1 seed.
No. 1 Seed: Michigan State
Record: 22-4 (11-2 in Big Ten)
Key Wins: Michigan at home; Kansas at a neutral site, and Ohio State at home.
Key Losses: UConn at a neutral site and Minnesota on the road.
The Spartans started out the season in the top-15 and now they are ranked in the top five. Michigan State has depth throughout their squad from guards Gary Harris and Keith Appling to big men Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne. Their team has continued to mature and get better throughout the season.
These last five games will be pivotal for the Spartans' seed in the NCAA tournament. First, MSU has to get through No. 1 Indiana tonight. Then, Michigan State goes on the road to face Ohio State and Michigan.
The Spartans finish off the regular season with Wisconsin and Northwestern at home. These games will challenge MSU, but they are a talented team that can come out on top. If they don't win these final five games, then kiss the No. 1 seed goodbye.