With only two weeks left in the regular season, it's time to project how the Big Ten teams will finish heading into the Big Ten tournament.
Indiana is making a statement with a two-game lead on the rest of the conference. Four teams are fighting for the three remaining first-round byes. Pulling out a road victory against any of the top nine teams is extremely difficult.
The Big Ten is the top ranked conference according to the RPI, and with five teams currently ranked in the Top 20, the Big Ten tournament semifinals could easily have the feeling of a Final Four.
Better yet, the semifinals could have four teams that combine for a higher ranking than the 2013 Final Four.
This is how the Big Ten will shake out over the next two weeks and what seeds each team will earn going into Chicago.
Current Big Ten Record: 0-14
Remaining Schedule: No. 4 Michigan, at Minnesota, at Northwestern, No. 17 Wisconsin
For a team that still hasn't won a Big Ten game, Penn State deserves a lot of credit for putting up a good fight down the stretch.
In their last three games, the Nittany Lions only lost by two to Iowa, played Michigan tight for 40 minutes in Ann Arbor and came within three points in the final seconds at Illinois.
Even though Penn State's schedule doesn't look ideal, the Nittany Lions will get a win at Northwestern before heading to Chicago.
Current Big Ten Record: 4-11
Remaining Schedule: No. 16 Ohio State, Penn State, at No. 9 Michigan State
The end of the regular season has been brutal for Northwestern.
After dismantling Purdue 75-60 to begin February, the Wildcats have lost five straight by an average of 20.8 points per game.
Through the beginning of the Big Ten season, the Wildcats had occasional games against good competition (at Illinois, Minnesota) where they could run their Princeton offense effectively and slow the pace of the game down.
Now they look like the worst team in the conference.
Northwestern and Nebraska are in a battle for the No. 10 seed, as the Huskers are up a half game at 4-10. However, the Wildcats are playing uninspired basketball and will lose the tie breaker from the Huskers' head-to-head win in late January.
Current Big Ten Record: 4-10
Remaining Schedule: at No. 17 Wisconsin, at Illinois, Minnesota, at Iowa
There haven't been many highlights for Nebraska this season, but the Cornhuskers did pull off a 19-point comeback against Iowa last weekend.
Other than the Hawkeyes, the only other RPI Top 100 win for Nebraska came against Valparaiso (68th).
The Huskers—much like Northwestern—have struggled, mustering enough offense when trying to slow down the pace of the game.
Realistically, Minnesota is the best chance for Nebraska to get one more win. Wisconsin is 180-17 under Bo Ryan. Illinois has won five of its last six and Iowa is a tough place to play, especially with payback on its mind.
Either way, Nebraska is no real threat to catch the No. 9 seed. If the Cornhuskers get one more win, they will basically have the No. 10 seed locked up.
Current Big Ten Record: 6-8
Remaining Schedule: at Iowa, at No. 17 Wisconsin, No. 4 Michigan, Minnesota
This is where things get interesting.
Right now Illinois is sitting at 7-8, with Purdue, Minnesota and Iowa all at 6-8.
How this four-team cluster turns out is crucial. The No. 8 and No. 9 seeds will have to play each other in a tough first-round game before having to likely square off with Indiana.
The No. 6 and No. 7 seeds will have a much easier time advancing to the second round and building some confidence.
Purdue has the toughest schedule remaining of the four squads. The Boilermakers only have two wins inside the RPI Top 100 and two wins outside of West Lafayette.
After losing five of its last seven (the two wins were Northwestern and at Penn State), Purdue will have trouble finding a groove on the road versus Iowa or Wisconsin. After that, the Michigan guards should be able to wear down the Boilermakers before the home finale against Minnesota.
With as poorly as Minnesota has played as of late, Purdue will ride its home crowd to a victory, but will only get the No. 9 seed.
Current Big Ten Record: 6-8
Remaining Schedule: No. 1 Indiana, Penn State, at Nebraska, at Purdue
Minnesota looked like a national title contender the first two months of the season. The last two months the Golden Gophers have tried to build as big of a hole in the ground as possible.
They have lost eight of their last 11 and haven't won away from Minneapolis since January 9.
Furthermore, Minnesota hasn't shot over 40 percent from the field since its comeback win against Iowa on February 3.
The Gophers are struggling on both ends of the floor, but offense is a bigger issue—averaging 51.4 points in their last five games. It's on the perimeter and it's in the paint. No one can get jump start this Minnesota team.
Other than the Penn State game, the rest of the schedule doesn't exactly look easy anymore. Minnesota will fall to Indiana and Purdue, eventually losing the tie breaker for the No. 7 seed to...
Current Big Ten Record: 7-8
Remaining Schedule: Nebraska, at Iowa, at No. 16 Ohio State
It's been a season of stretches for Illinois.
The Fighting Illini started 12-0, lost eight of their next 11 and has now won five of their last six.
Illinois got back on track by reducing the turnovers (9.2 per game in its five-game winning streak) and being more effective in transition. Beating No. 1 Indiana at the buzzer helps too.
The jump shots continue to fly in the half court, but when the Illini bring their A-game, they can beat anyone. Just ask Gonzaga afer Illinois went into Spokane and whipped the Bulldogs 85-74.
After Illinois beats Nebraska, going on the road to Iowa and Ohio State will be a grueling task. The Hawkeyes haven't lost at home since January 10 against Michigan State. Ohio State's only home losses are to Kansas and Indiana.
The Illini will come up empty in the final week, but they will win the tie breaker with Minnesota.
Both teams split the head-to-head matches, though the next tie breaker is the record against the No. 1 team in the Big Ten standings. Assuming Indiana takes that spot and beats Minnesota for the second time, the Illini's buzzer beater against the Hoosiers will give them the No. 7 seed.
Current Big Ten Record: 6-8
Remaining Schedule: Purdue, at No. 1 Indiana, Illinois, Nebraska
If college basketball games were 39 minutes, the Iowa Hawkeyes would literally have a chance to win the Big Ten.
Six of Iowa's Big Ten losses have been by four points or less, four of which the Hawkeyes had a lead with 1:04 or less remaining. That doesn't even include the 19-point blown lead at Nebraska.
Despite not being able to finish games and having a slim chance at making the NCAA tournament, the schedule sets up favorably for the Hawks.
Three of their last four games are in Iowa City. Iowa has only lost twice at home all year, which happened against Indiana and Michigan State in early January.
The Hawkeyes blew out Minnesota by 21 in their last home game and beat Wisconsin earlier in the year by building as much as an 18-point lead.
While the road game against Indiana should result in a loss, Iowa will protect its home floor the rest of the way and grab the No. 6 seed.
Current Big Ten Record: 10-5
Remaining Schedule: at Northwestern, at No. 1 Indiana, Illinois
Here is the next logjam.
Ohio State sits at 10-5, Wisconsin and Michigan are both 10-4 and Michigan State is 11-4.
Of the remaining teams, the Buckeyes are the weakest. While Ohio State can play defense and play like a No. 1 seed in Columbus, the inconsistency on offense and rebounding has been a glaring issue periodically.
Outside of Deshaun Thomas, there isn't another player that the Buckeyes can rely on for offensive production. Lenzelle Smith is averaging just over nine points a game in the Big Ten and has struggled against the better teams.
Also, as good as Aaron Craft is on the defensive end, the Buckeyes are better off when he doesn't have to be the second scorer. Granted it worked in the last game against Michigan State, but Ohio State is only 3-3 in the Big Ten when Craft takes 10 or more shots and is shooting a season-low 40.1 percent from the field.
Nonetheless, Ohio State will easily take care of Northwestern on the road, but they don't have enough scoring power to scare Indiana in Bloomington. Ohio State's defense will prevail in its home finish against Illinois and the Buckeyes will just miss out on a first-round bye.
Current Big Ten Record: 10-4
Remaining Schedule: Nebraska, Purdue, at No. 9 Michigan State, at Penn State
It's another classic year developing for Wisconsin. The Badgers protect their home floor for the most part, they beat a handful of Top 25 teams and hit a bump in the road in the middle of conference play.
They continue to slow the pace down, they continue to rebound and they continue to defend.
What's also helping this Wisconsin team is that they have balance.
Jared Berggren and Ryan Evans average a combined 11.1 points and 7.6 rebounds a game. Ben Brust distributes and makes clutch three pointers. Sam Dekker continues to do a little bit of everything and Mike Bruesewitz does the dirty work and wins the loose balls.
The Badgers are through the worst part of their schedule and their only challenge left is at Michigan State. The Spartans escaped Madison with a 49-47 win in the first meeting and the rematch will decide who will get a higher seed in the Big Ten tournament.
While Wisconsin has proven it can win the big game away from home (won at Indiana), Tom Izzo always has his teams playing well in March. With the game in East Lansing, the Spartans will sweep the series, but Wisconsin will get a first-round bye at the No. 4 seed.
Current Big Ten Record: 11-4
Remaining Schedule: at No. 4 Michigan, No. 17 Wisconsin, Northwestern
Once again, Tom Izzo has positioned Michigan State for another great finish in the Big Ten and a potential No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
While Michigan State would prefer to play a game in the lower 60s with its short bench, the Spartans have also proven they can win a game in the upper 70s.
Even though most people talk about Michigan State's defense and Keith Appling's talent, it's the overall field goal percentage that really makes this team tough to beat. Between the Spartans' five starters and Denzel Valentine, all of them shoot a combined 50.03 percent from the field.
Michigan State is coming off back-to-back losses, but suffering those against Indiana and at Ohio State is nothing to raise a huge concern about.
Having said that, as much as Michigan State dominated Michigan in the first meeting, the Wolverines will control the tempo more effectively at home and defeat the Spartans. Then Michigan State will return to East Lansing and defeat both Wisconsin and Northwestern.
The series sweep of Wisconsin will give the Spartans the tie breaker for the No. 3 seed.
Current Big Ten Record: 10-4
Remaining Schedule: at Penn State, No. 9 Michigan State, at Purdue, No. 1 Indiana
There isn't a team facing a more critical finish to the regular season in the Big Ten than Michigan.
The Wolverines just landed the No. 4 ranking in the AP Top 25 Poll and are back in position to land a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Additionally, while it's unlikely, if Michigan runs the table and got some help from Indiana, it is possible the Wolverines could still earn the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten tournament.
John Beilein has composed the best backcourt in college basketball and the Wolverines are always one step ahead of the opponents in transition.
Michigan's weakness, though, is the size and depth of the frontcourt. Combining that with the inability to speed the game up away from home is the main reason why Michigan took a 56-53 loss at Ohio State and a 75-52 beating at Michigan State.
Luckily for the Wolverines, their two biggest games left are in Ann Arbor.
Being undefeated at home this season and having not fallen for any trap games on the road thus far, Michigan will win its final four games and snatch the No. 2 seed.
Current Big Ten Record: 12-2
Remaining Schedule: at Minnesota, Iowa, No. 16 Ohio State, at No. 4 Michigan
The best team in college basketball both on paper and on the court.
Indiana averages 82.5 points (second in NCAA), shoots 50 percent from the floor (fourth) and has a 9.1 rebounding margin advantage (fifth) per game.
The Hoosiers make a living in transition and have players at all positions that can run the floor. They can also play in the half court and beat teams like Michigan State and Ohio State.
Cody Zeller gets it done down low. Victor Oladipo, who is shooting at a remarkable 63.9 percent from the field and 51.1 percent from behind the arc, is also a shutdown defender on the perimeter and can jump out of the gym.
Jordan Hulls shares the wealth and has incredible range from the three-point line. Christian Watford continues to make Zeller's life easier in the post on both ends of the floor.
Indiana still hasn't lost to a team that was ranked at the time and has recently passed tough road tests against the Buckeyes and Spartans.
The Hoosiers won't have an issue beating a struggling Minnesota team. Iowa will give Indiana a good run but the Hoosiers will protect home court. Ohio State doesn't have enough scorers to keep up with the Indiana offense.
With Michigan climbing the ranks and pursuing a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, the Wolverines will do just enough to knock off the Hoosiers in Ann Arbor. Nonetheless, Indiana will have the No. 1 seed locked up in the Big Ten tournament by then and also earn a No. 1 seed in the dance.