Safe to say, the Big Ten is not having the greatest of seasons. Outside of the terrific seasons Wisconsin and Maryland are having, the remaining teams are having difficulty separating themselves from the pack.
The Big Ten failed to capitalize on the non-conference portion of the schedule and, again, outside of Wisconsin and Maryland and to some degree Ohio State, no team has done much to overly impress the selection committee. After all, they are the only ranked teams at the moment.
With the forth best conference RPI according to RPIRatings.com, the Big Team is no slouch, though. According to KenPom.com, the conference has six teams in the top-50. It should still be a well-represented conference come tourney time, but there is a feeling the Big Ten could have had a much better season.
Considering Selection Sunday is nearly a month away, it’s not too early to evaluate some of the Big Ten’s bubble teams. So what follows is how each team stands in regards to its NCAA Tournament hopes.
Stone Cold Locks: Wisconsin, Maryland and Ohio State.
Not a lock, but firmly in at the moment: Michigan State and Indiana
Out barring a miracle or winning the conference tournament: Northwestern, Rutgers, Penn State and Michigan (injuries likely too much to overcome for the hard-luck Wolverines).
Still might have work to do:
Purdue: 15-8, 7-3 KenPom RPI: 58
There is perhaps no hotter team in the Big Ten right now than the Boilermakers. Purdue is a winner of four straight and is coming off three-straight victories over ranked teams. Most recently it beat Ohio State on Wednesday.
You can read more about the Boilermakers’ resume here, but to recap they now have four top-50 wins, are tied for second place in the Big Ten and their RPI has risen to 58. Even Joe Lunardi of ESPN has them in. The only drawbacks are their horrible non-conference losses to North Florida and Gardner-Webb.
Iowa: 14-8, 5-4 KenPom RPI: 32
After some recent struggles while losing three games in a row, the Hawkeyes got back on the winning track with a huge win Thursday on the road at Michigan.
With a stellar RPI, a solid record and now a winning record in conference, Iowa would surely have to get in at this moment. Do remember it has a quality win on the road at North Carolina while owning a sweep of Ohio State.
So, if the Hawkeyes have a solid finish, they should feel comfortable about getting in.
Nebraska: 13-9, 5-5 KenPom RPI: 105
The Cornhuskers are a team with a lot of work to do.
With a 100+ RPI and a .500 conference record, suffice to say Nebraska would not be in the tournament at this moment. The Cornhuskers do have good wins over Cincinnati and Michigan State. However, they lost to Incarnate Word and that one’s going to leave a mark.
If this team can get hot, and the Cornhuskers have two great scorers in Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields to do so, it can crash the party like it did last year. A game next week at home against Wisconsin will present a chance for Nebraska to open up some eyes.
Illinois: 15-8, 5-5 KenPom RPI: 72
We know the selection committee factors in injuries, and the injury to Rayvonte Rice has loomed large for the Illini this season as they are 5-3 without him. That’s not bad, but maybe they could have pulled off a win or two with him (maybe against Minnesota or Nebraska?). It’s not just Rice as Aaron Cosby has missed some time too, and that led to Illinois activating a team manager to the squad.
Regardless, with a non-conference win over Baylor and conference wins over Maryland and Purdue, the Illini are clearly not dead. With Rice and Cosby coming back soon, the Illini have a chance to build on their resume.
Minnesota: 14-9, 3-7 KenPom RPI: 45
Clearly holding on by a thread, the only thing working in Minnesota’s favor is their solid RPI of 45.
After winning the NIT last season, the Golden Gophers were supposed to take the next step this season, but Richard Pitino’s squad has struggled this year and now sports a losing record in conference. That said, it does own wins over Georgia (RPI:31) and Illinois.
If the Golden Gophers can string together a few quality wins and get close to .500 while keeping a sub-50 RPI, they can possibly sneak in. However, looking at their schedule (vs. Purdue, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Penn State and at Iowa, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan State), that may be too tall a task. Still, they have a shot, albeit a long one.