First thing's first. For those looking for coverage of National Signing Day - forget about it. I am about as into college football recruiting as I am knitting. Talk to me in four years when we really can tell if these kids were worth all the hype.
In fact, Nick Saban said it best this week when he said, ""When you buy a puppy dog, you don't know if he's going to grow up to be the best hunting dog or not. That's like what recruiting is."
And that's all I have to say about that.
Well, except for, what the h-e-double hockey sticks is going on in Champaign?According to former MSU coach John L. Smith and now Notre Dame, something fishy.
It's a lot more fun and worthwhile to talk college basketball in February than college football. Besides, March Madness is much more objective. Some teams are "in". Many have no chance unless they pull off one of the annual miracles in their post-season conference tourney. Several are sitting right on the proverbial "bubble," including a handful of squads from the Big Ten.
Before I get to my current placement of Big Ten teams, let's take a look at where some of the nationally known bracket geeks have the conference slated:
ESPN.com's Joe Lunardi has four Big Ten teams in his latest bracket. Wisconsin is a 1, Ohio State is a 2, Indiana is a 5 and Michigan State is one of his last four in, an 11.
CSTV's Jerry Palm hasn't updated since last Friday (2/2), but then had six Big Ten teams in the dance. Wisconsin is a 1, Ohio State is a 2, Indiana is a 6, Michigan State is a 9, Illinois is an 11 and Purdue is a 12.
ESPN.com's Andy Glockner doesn't do a bracket, but has a great weekly take in his Bubble Watch column. His latest says many in the league still have work to do. He's right.
Better even than these weekly takes, however, was the experiment that 20 writers from the USBWA (U.S. Basketball Writers Association) got to take part in this week in Indianapolis. 20 writers paired up and each duo took on the role of one of the 10 members of the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee. It was their chance to get a look at what really goes on and to give the group a greater understanding of all the effort, pieces and parts that go on in five days in early March.
Now, what do I think? I know I have a new found respect for what happens in that conference room at the Westin. I think the Big Ten is looking at five, maybe six. Jerry Palm was maybe a little over generous in his Feb. 2 take. Lunardi maybe a little too stingy in his latest rendering.
First thing is first. Who's in? The Midwest's number 1 seed will go to the winner of the Ohio State - Wisconsin game later this month (of course assuming the teams take care of business prior to and after that - for the most part anyway). Given where that game is I have Ohio State as a 1 seed. Wisconsin will land a solid 2 but could still slide to a 3 if they drop two games and make an early exit in Chicago. Indiana should hold in the 6 or 7 range.
This is where it gets tricky. Michigan State, Illinois, Purdue and Iowa are fighting for the other two berths. Sorry Michigan fans but who have the Wolverines beaten this season? MSU and Illinois have the benefit of a better OOC resume but Purdue could make a nice run. Iowa needs to go 10-6 and win a game in the B10 Tourney to get in, IMO. At this point, I think Illinois slides in as an 8 seed and Michigan State sneaks in ahead of Purdue and Iowa as an 11 seed.
This is what each team in contention still has left, how they stand, and what I predict:
Ohio State: Purdue, Penn State and Wisconsin at home; Penn State, Minnesota and Michigan on the road. Currently 9-1, I see 14-2, a No. 1 seed in the B10 Tourney and in the NCAA Tournament.
Wisconsin: Iowa, Penn State and Michigan State at home; Minnesota, Ohio State and Michigan State on the road. Currently 9-1, I see 13-3, a No. 2 seed in the B1o Tourney and in the NCAA Tournament.
Indiana: Illinois, Minnesota and Penn State at home; Purdue, Michigan, Michigan State and Northwestern on the road. Currently 6-3, I see 11-5, a No. 3 seed in the B10 Tourney and a 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Illinois: Northwestern and Michigan at home; Indiana, Penn State and Iowa on the road. Currently 6-5, I see 9-7, a No. 4 seed in the B10 Tourney and an 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Iowa: Purdue, Northwestern and Illinois at home; Wisconsin, Michigan State and Penn State on the road. Currently 6-4, I see 9-7, a No. 5 seed in the B10 Tourney but not enough out of conference "goodness" to get them into the dance. One of the last teams out, NIT bound.
Purdue: Indiana, Minnesota and Northwestern at home; Ohio State, Iowa and Northwestern on the road. Currently 5-5, I see 9-7, a No. 6 seed in the B10 Tourney and pins and needles on Selection Sunday. Win two in Chicago and I think they slide in. Win one, and the bubble might burst. NIT bound, but don't be shocked to see the Boilers win the NIT.
Michigan State: Michigan, Iowa, Wisconsin and Indiana at home; Michigan and Wisconsin on the road. Currently 4-6, I see 8-8, a No. 7 seed in the B10 Tourney but a body of work in OOC play that included wins over several teams vying for their conference titles (BYU, Bradley, Texas, Oakland, Vermont, Loyola-Maryland). A "last team in", 11 seed in the NCAA Tourney for the Spartans.
Michigan: Minnesota, Indiana, Michigan State and Ohio State at home; Michigan State, Illinois and Minnesota on the road. Currently 4-5, I see 8-8, a No. 8 seed in the B10 Tourney and a return trip to the NIT.
The Big Ten could get four, or it could surprise and get as many as seven depending on how the conference tournament play out and how the last few weeks go in conference play. Sit down, buckle up and prepare yourself for a wild ride to the finish!