As the Big Ten Tournament unfolds, the conference’s top teams are battling in a war of attrition to secure better standing in the tournament field.
Lucky for the other five power conferences, they won’t have to experience this high-quality bruiser basketball until the tournament.
But being the elite conference in college basketball, though, does have its perks. All of the conference’s top 25 teams will be a No. 5 seed or better, and likely will win debates in the selection committee room by virtue of their strength of schedule.
Where do the Big Ten’s finest stand headed into Conference Tournament Saturday? Let’s take a look.
Indiana: No. 1 Seed
The Hoosiers have been the best performer in college basketball’s toughest conference, which warrants a No. 1 seed in itself.
In the meantime, though, Indiana could get some more style points to separate itself from Michigan, another No. 1 seed contender. They started with revenge on Illinois, vanquishing the Fighting Illini by double digits in the B1G quarterfinals. It was their ninth win over a Top-50 opponent.
Here’s what Hoosiers coach Tom Crean said about his team’s bid for a No. 1 seed (via Gary Parrish of CBS Sports):
"I think when you have the league the way that it is and win it outright the way that we did, and I think one of the bigger things is the way we played on the road. The only home losses that Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State have [in the Big Ten] are to us. That says a lot because those are also good teams that could win a national championship. So I would hope that we have earned [a No. 1 seed]."
The Hoosiers can boast a neutral court win over Georgetown and sweeps of both Michigan and Michigan State this season, among others. Their eighth-overall strength of schedule combined with being a Big Ten team is enough to justify a top seed.
Michigan: No. 3 Seed
After going down to Wisconsin in the Big Ten Tournament, the Wolverines left a No. 2 seed opening for one of the hopeful teams still playing on their conference tournament.
Florida, Georgetown and Miami threaten from outside their conference, but Michigan State could leapfrog them by conquering the Big Ten.
In this case, I’ll take the field to hop Michigan and leave them at a No. 3 spot. They failed to pass the "What Have You Done For Me Lately Test" with a 5-6 record down the stretch.
Ohio State: No. 3 Seed
Ohio State is the hottest team in the Big Ten at this point, but their early to mid-season struggles will prevent them from a No. 2 seed or higher.
That is, if you believe they won’t win the Big Ten tournament. It’s been a nice run Aaron Craft and Co., but I don’t see Lenzelle Smith Jr. and Shannon Scott sustaining this offensive production.
Nevertheless, No. 3 seed is still a prime spot to make a Final Four run.
Mike Shiekman is a Breaking News Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow his sports musings and random life observations on Twitter.