With just eight days left until March, the desperation of bubble teams nationwide will shift into overdrive for the next couple of weeks. And the Big Ten sure does have a bevy of teams squarely on the bubble, perhaps more than any other conference.
So, with the intensity about to heat up with teams doing their best to impress the selection committee, it’s high time we do another Big Ten bubble watch.
Stone Cold Locks: Wisconsin and Maryland
Not a lock, but firmly in at the moment: Ohio State and Michigan State
Out barring a miracle or winning the conference tournament: Rutgers, Northwestern, Penn State, Nebraska and Michigan.
Still might have work to do:
All RPI’s courtesy of KenPom.com
Minnesota 16-11, 5-9 RPI: 64
Actually, you should put the Golden Gophers in another sub-category called “lots of work to do.” Coming off a home loss to Northwestern, the bubble might have proverbially just popped for Minnesota.
They are hanging on, if only by a thread, but they do have a respectable RPI of 64 and have wins over Georgia, Illinois, Purdue and Iowa on their resume. Their chances are running out, though. If they can somehow get a win over Wisconsin in their next game (Saturday), then they will have their hat in the ring.
That’s unlikely, though, and it seems the Golden Gophers only chance to dance is to win the Big Ten Tournament.
Illinois 17-9, 7-6 RPI: 58
I went more in-depth about the Illini’s chances here, but to recap, Illinois has two top-25 wins (Baylor and Michigan State, the ladder on the road), one top-50 win (Maryland) and an additional three top-100 wins (Purdue, Michigan and Penn State).
The Illini have won five out of their last seven games. They also played nine games without their leading scorer Rayvonte Rice. Now that Rice is back, the selection committee will be looking for how the Illini finish with him in the lineup. With an RPI of 58, Illinois could use a strong finish, though.
Iowa 16-10, 7-6 RPI:31
As I said in this week’s Big Ten power rankings, Iowa is the ultimate enigma. One day they can look like a Sweet 16 contender and then the next day look like an NIT team.
That said, it’s hard to argue with a RPI of 31. With a winning conference record, a sweep of Ohio State and a road win at North Carolina, the Hawkeyes are on the right side of the bubble at the moment.
The thing is though, it would be prudent for Iowa to keep piling up wins and take the mystery out of their candidacy. Iowa most recently rebounded from a bad loss at Northwestern to earn an easy win over Rutgers on Thursday.
Purdue 18-9, 10-4 RPI:44
The Boilermakers’ chances for at-large consideration got a big boost with their huge road win at Indiana on Thursday.
Purdue has won three in a row and seven out of their last eight. Purdue’s RPI is now at 44 and they are streaking at the most opportune time. The Boilermakers have six top-50 wins (BYU, NC State, Iowa, Indiana (2x) and Ohio State) and an additional three top-100 victories (Minnesota, Michigan and Penn State).
Purdue is certainly raising a lot of eyebrows lately. Plus they easily pass the eyeball test. Simply put, Purdue is definitely one of the best 68 teams in the country.
Indiana 18-9, 8-6 RPI:49
Just as their intra-state rivals Purdue are surging, the Hoosiers are flat lining at the moment, as they have not won back-to-back games since January 22.
Still, the Hoosiers do have a quality resume to be proud of. Indiana has a solid RPI of 49 and does possess some nice wins over SMU, Pittsburgh, Butler, Ohio State, Illinois and Maryland. So, it looks like they got enough going for them.
A good finish to the season could be beneficial for Indiana, though, and as good as their resume looks, it’s certainly not bulletproof.