Handicapping Big Ten Basketball Bubble Teams

SchmolikCorrespondent IIFebruary 22, 2011

Handicapping Big Ten Basketball Bubble Teams

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    Will DeMetri McCamey's Illini be on the right side of the bubble in 2011?Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Hello, college basketball fans!

    I'm here to handicap the Big Ten Conference's bubble teams.

    I think Ohio State, Purdue, and Wisconsin are locks for the 2011 NCAA Tournament. You figure the Big Ten will have more than three teams in the NCAA's, but the question is, how many and which additional team(s) will make the Big Dance?

    I will discuss their record and performance so far and then discuss their remaining regular season schedule to see what kind of chances they have to make the NCAA Tournament.

    Update (March 3, 2011): Minnesota has been removed from bubble consideration after three consecutive losses (two at home). They have to win the Big Ten Tournament (or at least make the final) to go dancing now.

Big Ten Tournament Projected Seedings

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    Back to back Final Fours to NIT?Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Current Big Ten Standings

    Illinois : 9-9

    Michigan : 9-9

    Michigan State: 9-9

    Penn State : 8-9

    If Penn State loses to Minnesota

    There would be a three way tie between Illinois, Michigan, and Michigan State, the head to heads between the three are Illinois (2-1), Michigan (2-1), Michigan State (1-3). That means Illinois and Michigan would be in the 4-5 game and Michigan State would be seeded sixth and have to play in the opening round game vs. Indiana (who would want to play Indiana in Indianapolis and know a loss could be a severe blow to your NCAA chances?) Penn State would play Iowa. Wisconsin or Purdue await Michigan State and/or Penn State in the second round.

    If Penn State beats Minnesota

    There would be a four way tie for 9-9 in conference. The head to heads would be Michigan (4-1), Illinois (3-2), Michigan State (2-4), Penn State (2-4). Michigan's sweep of Penn State gives them the 4 seed. Illinois, Michigan State, and Penn State would be next in order with all three 1-1 vs. the other two. After head to head, the next tiebreak would be record against the top seeded team and then each team in descending order. In this scenario, Illinois did not lose to Michigan (PSU and MSU were swept by them) so the Illini would be seeded into the 4-5 game. Penn State would be 6th because they did not lose to Iowa! That's how far it would go down between PSU and MSU.

    1st Round Matchups:

    No. 6 Michigan State or Penn State vs. No. 11 Indiana (If Penn State beats Minnesota, they are the No. 6 seed, otherwise Michigan State is).

    No. 7 Michigan State or Penn State vs. No. 10 Iowa

    No. 8 vs. No. 9: Minnesota vs Northwestern (seeding irrelevant except for uniform colors)

    2nd Round Matchups:

    No. 4 vs. No. 5: Michigan vs. Illinois (seeding irrelevant except for uniform colors)

    No. 1 Ohio State vs. Minnesota/Northwestern winner

    No. 2 Purdue or Wisconsin vs. No. 7/No. 10 Winner (If Wisconsin beats Ohio State, they are the No. 2 seed, otherwise Purdue is)

    No. 3 Purdue or Wisconsin vs. No. 6/No. 11 Winner

Illinois

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    Mike Davis and the Illini hope there's no repeat NIT performance.Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Final Big Ten Record:  9-9

    Head to Heads:

    Won only meeting with Michigan (home)

    Split with Michigan State

    Split with Penn State

    Wins over top three teams: Wisconsin

    Losses against bottom three teams: at Northwestern, at Indiana

    Outlook

    The Illini are projected to be the No. 4 or No. 5 seed in the Big Ten Tournament and play Michigan. A win should put them into the NCAA Tournament for sure. A loss and they still probably would be OK. The only worry would be if Michigan State or Penn State pull an upset (or two) in Indianapolis and pass Illinois in the Big Ten pecking order.

    Last year, you can argue Illinois was in the NCAA Tournament until Minnesota upset Purdue to pass them in the Big Ten pecking order. Could history repeat itself? As an Illini, let's remove all doubt and beat Michigan to be sure.

Michigan

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    Michigan seems to be getting hot at the right timeJonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Final Big Ten Record: 9-9

    Head to Heads:

    Lost only meeting with Illinois (away)

    Swept Michigan State

    Swept Penn State

    Wins over top three teams: None

    Losses against bottom three teams: at Northwestern, at Indiana

    Outlook:

    Michigan is projected to be the No. 4 or No. 5 seed in the Big Ten Tournament and play Illinois.

    Overall RPI and non conference schedule favors the Spartans but the head to head sweep by the Wolverines will have to be taken into account. Unless Michigan State makes a deep run in the Big Ten Tournament, I can't see how Michigan State is taken over Michigan at this point. A head to head sweep over Penn State, also a bubble team, is also huge. A win over Illinois in the Big Ten Tournament should seal their dance card.

Michigan State

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    Michigan State is in danger of missing the NCAA's for the first time since 1997.Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Final Big Ten Record: 9-9

    Head to Heads:

    Split with Illinois

    Swept by Michigan

    Split with Penn State

    Wins over top three teams: Wisconsin

    Losses against bottom three teams:  at Iowa

    Outlook

    Michigan State is projected to be the No. 6 seed or No. 7 seed and play Indiana or Iowa in the first round. If they win, they would play either Wisconsin or Purdue in the second round.

    Michigan State's overall profile is still not bad but the sweep by Michigan could give the Selection Committee some doubt (I think it helps Michigan more than it hurts Michigan State). One problem is their first round Big Ten Tournament game vs. Indiana or Iowa. A loss would be a severe blow to their NCAA at large bid hopes. Ironically, I think Michigan State should hope Penn State wins over Minnesota to drop the Spartans to the No. 7 seed so they do not have to play Indiana in Indianapolis.

Penn State

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    Penn State is looking for their first NCAA bid since 2001.Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Big 10 Record (as of March 5, 2011): 8-9

    Head to Heads:

    Split with Illinois

    Swept by Michigan

    Split with Michigan State

    Wins over top three teams: Wisconsin

    Losses against bottom three teams: None

    Remaining Schedule (Projections):

    at Minnesota (L) 

    Projected record: 8-10

    Outlook

    Penn State is projected to be the No. 6 seed if they beat Minnesota (they would then play No. 11 Indiana in the first round) and the No. 7 seed if they lose (they would then play No. 10 Iowa)

    Penn State probably needs to win in Minneapolis to have a decent chance at an NCAA at large bid. The good news is Michigan State and Michigan won there last week. Even if Penn State finishes 9-9, Illinois's and Michigan State's RPI's are (as of March 5, 2011) well above Penn State's and Michigan swept them this season. The Lions are looking at seventh place in the Big Ten pecking order and will there be enough room for seven teams from the Big Ten in the NCAA's? Certainly Penn State can't lose their first game and I would think winning the first game would not be enough. They probably need to upset Purdue or Wisconsin to dance in the NCAA's.

Summary

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Projections By Team:

    Illinois - If they beat Michigan, they are in. If they lose, they are still in good shape but could be in trouble if Michigan State and/or Penn State makes a deep run.

    Michigan - If they beat Illinois, they are in. If they lose, they should be chosen ahead of Michigan State unless Michigan State pulls an upset over Purdue or Wisconsin.

    Michigan State - If they lose to Indiana or Iowa, their NCAA hopes would be on thin ice. A win and a loss to Purdue or Wisconsin puts them in decent shape. They might be better off cheering for Michigan to beat Illinois because the Spartans are virtually even with Illinois if they had to compare the two teams but were swept by Michigan.

    Penn State - A long shot. Probably needs to win at Minnesota and make the Big Ten semifinals (beating Purdue or Wisconsin in the process). If Penn State beats Minnesota and Indiana or Iowa but loses to Purdue or Wisconsin, the Nittany Lions would be in the bubble discussion but their NCAA hopes would be uncertain and hinge on whether or not the bubble shrinks due to upsets in other conferences.

    Overall: If you are a Big Ten fan, Michigan's win over Michigan State was great for the conference. It clearly helped Michigan's at large chances and Michigan State still is in decent shape. Had Michigan State won, Michigan probably would have been out without an upset in Indianapolis.

    I am predicting six Big Ten teams in: Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, and Michigan State. I think Penn State has a decent chance to make it seven if they win at Minnesota and avoid the first round upset. If Penn State does get in, you can also thank Minnesota for its collapse and strengthening the chances of Michigan State, Michigan, and Penn State.