Starting the March to Madness
Just in case you didn’t realize it, yesterday (Thursday) marked three weeks until the start of the greatest sports spectacle on earth – the NCAA Tournament. Since we last spoke about March Madness two weeks ago today, quite a bit has changed. Teams have risen and fallen – some even both – and the picture seems to be getting more clear.
Let me reiterate that… SEEMS to be getting more clear.
Before I get to my updated 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 finally has five Big Ten teams in his bracket. Trouble is, one of his “last four in” on 2/21 was Purdue, who got hammered at Iowa. Maybe Illinois slides in that place as they were in his “next four out” category. Wisconsin is a 1, Ohio State is a 2, Indiana is an 8, Michigan State is a 10 and Purdue an 11 (though I bet he changes that to Illinois in his next update).
CSTV's Jerry Palm hasn't updated since last Friday (2/16), but then had five Big Ten teams in the dance. Wisconsin is a 1, Ohio State is also a 1, Indiana is a 6, Purdue is a 10 and Michigan State 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 gives ultimate love to the Spartans – well deserved after the green and white dispatched No. 1 Wisconsin on Tuesday – and has two teams as locks, two as should be ins and three fighting for one more spot.
Now, what do I think? I still can’t get over the fact that they let the media in on what it is like to be a part of the Selection Committee. Man I’d love to have that gig. Eat, drink, sleep (maybe not), breathe and talk basketball non-stop for five days. Heaven in my book. Anyway, I digress…
First thing is first. Who's in? The Midwest's number 1 seed will go to the winner of the Ohio State - Wisconsin game this weekend. Even though the Badgers lost to Michigan State, if they beat OSU and avoid anything major the rest of the way they deserve a No. 1.
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 may have fallen to the 8 range with the ugly loss at Michigan and a road trip to East Lansing on tap. Michigan State is only NOT a lock if they lose out. I.E. win one more and the Spartans are in. It’s all a matter of seeding now.
This is where it gets tricky. Illinois and Purdue and even Iowa are fighting for the other berth. Sorry Michigan fans but who have the Wolverines beaten this season aside from Indiana? Illinois has the benefit of a better OOC resume but Purdue could make a nice run and is bound to finish at least .500. Iowa needs to go 10-6 and win a game in the B10 Tourney to have a prayer of getting in, IMO. At this point, I think Illinois slides in as 10 seed, while Purdue and Iowa ready for the NIT along with Michigan.
This is what each team in contention still has left, how they stand, and what I predict:
Ohio State: Wisconsin at home; Michigan on the road. Currently 13-1, I see 15-1 , a No. 1 seed in the B10 Tourney and in the NCAA Tournament.
Wisconsin: Michigan State at home; Ohio State on the road. Currently 12-2, I see 13-3, a No. 2 seed in the B1o Tourney and in the NCAA Tournament.
Indiana: Penn State at home; Michigan State and Northwestern on the road. Currently 8-5, I see 10-6, a No. 3 seed in the B10 Tourney and an 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Iowa: Illinois at home; Penn State on the road. Currently 8-6, I see 10-6, a No. 4 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.
Illinois: Penn State and Iowa on the road. Currently 8-6, I see 9-7, a No. 5 seed in the B10 Tourney and a 10 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Purdue: Minnesota and Northwestern at home; Northwestern on the road. Currently 6-7, 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 bursts. NIT bound, but don't be shocked to see the Boilers win the NIT.
Michigan State: Indiana at home; Michigan and Wisconsin on the road. Currently 7-6, I see 9-7, 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 10 seed for the Spartans.
Michigan: Michigan State and Ohio State at home; Minnesota on the road. Currently 6-7, I see 7-9, a No. 8 seed in the B10 Tourney and a return trip to the NIT.
The Big Ten could get six with Purdue and Iowa interesting cases on the fence. But I’d bank on five for now with hopes of much later runs than the 2006 tournament.