Bracketology Preview: Big Ten Predictions

Day 5 of my Bracketology Previews features a conference with a lot of potential every single season. After being one of the best basketball conferences a year ago, the Big Ten has stumbled slightly this year. As always, the Big Ten has offered lots of upsets in the college basketball world this season and it is still very tough to win on the road in the Big Ten. At the beginning of the season, it looked as if Indiana and Michigan State were going to be the teams to beat in the Big Ten, but that quickly changed. Now, both of these teams are fighting to make the tournament! The Big Ten will definitely be the conference to watch on Selection Sunday this year because the Big Ten has a lot of bubble teams and question marks surrounding them. With that, let’s evaluate the talent the Big Ten has to offer!

(* Denotes neutral court game)


Purdue Boilermakers (22-5) (11-3)

RPI Rank: 19  BPI Rank: 9  AP Rank: 14

Best Wins: v.s. #21 Notre Dame*, @ #17 Maryland, v.s. #13 Wisconsin

Worst Losses: v.s. Minnesota, @ Iowa, @ Nebraska

 

With the return of Caleb Swanigan and Vince Edwards, Purdue has been the team to beat and a powerhouse in the Big Ten. Swanigan has carried Purdue this season, averaging 18.9 PPG, 13.0 RPG, and has 23 double-doubles on the season. He is currently on the Wooden Watch list and considered one of the favorites to win National Player of the Year. As Swanigan continues to dominate, the Boilers will steamroll opponents and could be on their way to a Big Ten title! Purdue’s schedule to finish the season is pretty favorable, but offers some tough road matchups:

February 21st –  @ Penn State – W 65-60

February 25th – @ Michigan – L 73-77

February 28th – v.s. Indiana – W 83-70

March 5th – @ Northwestern – W 76-71

Final Record: 25-6 (14-4)

 

I fully expect Purdue to win the Big Ten title and be the #1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. They should be able to beat Penn State on the road and should have no problem with an Indiana team that is depleted. Going to Michigan and escaping with a victory will be tough, especially because this may be a must win game for the Wolverines. In the end, the Boilermakers are legit this season and could be dangerous in the tournament as long as Caleb Swanigan remains healthy.

Projected Conference Tournament Seed: 1

Projected NCAA Tournament Seed: 4

 

Wisconsin Badgers (22-5) (11-3)

RPI Rank: 25  BPI Rank: 16  AP Rank: 16

Best Wins: @ #25 Indiana, v.s. #22 Syracuse, v.s. #23 Maryland

Worst Losses: @ Michigan, v.s. Northwestern

 

Once again, the Badgers have solidified themselves as one of the top teams in the Big Ten. Led by Ethan Happ (14.7 PPG, 9.0 RPG) and Nigel Hayes (13.6 PPG, 6.0 RPG), the Badgers will be back in the NCAA Tournament where they have a history these past few years. Two years ago, the Badgers made it to the National Championship game and made it to the Sweet 16 last season. Wisconsin continues to be a very successful program, but this year’s team has some questions surrounding them. Wisconsin has been struggling to score these past weeks and if this trend continues, they could suffer some losses down the stretch:

February 23rd – @ Ohio State – W 66-55

February 26th – @ Michigan State – L 63-68

March 2nd – v.s. Iowa – W 77-70

March 5th – v.s. Minnesota – W 72-71

Final Record: 25-6 (14-4)

 

Down the stretch, Wisconsin will play some tight games, including their season finale against Minnesota. On senior day in Madison, I do not see the Badgers losing this game, but Minnesota has had a lot of success on the road in the Big Ten this season. As for a matchup at Michigan State, I can see the Spartans winning this game only because it may be their last chance to make the NCAA Tournament. In the end, Wisconsin will be heading to the NCAA Tournament and will look to continue their success into the second week of the tournament!

Projected Conference Tournament Seed: 2

Projected NCAA Tournament Seed: 5

 

Maryland Terrapins (22-5) (10-4)

RPI Rank: 17  BPI Rank: 40  AP Rank: 24

Best Wins: @ Northwestern, @ Minnesota, v.s. Kansas State*

Worst Losses: v.s. Pittsburgh, v.s. Nebraska, @ Penn State

 

Maryland is a very tough team to evaluate this season. I am almost certain that Maryland is a lock for the tournament, but I am not sure if they can win a game in the tournament. One game the Terps will score 85 points, and then three days later, they will only score 60. Inconsistent play has hurt Maryland this season and has caused them to lose some close games. Maryland can still win the Big Ten and prove a lot of people wrong by winning their next four games:

February 22nd – v.s. Minnesota – W 78-75

February 25th – v.s. Iowa – W 73-60

February 28th – @ Rutgers – W 78-71

March 5th – v.s. Michigan State – W 84-71

Final Record: 26-5 (14-4)

 

Melo Trimble (17.6 PPG, 44.9 FG%) will have to lead Maryland down the stretch of the season in order to attempt and win the Big Ten title. He decided to come back last year and not enter the NBA Draft and it may pay off for him. Maryland has one of the best records in the country and has a chance to make their resume look a little better for seeding purposes. One thing that worries me is Maryland has not beaten a Top 25 team and has played a soft schedule all season. This could hurt them come tournament time, but if the Terps get hot, they are a tough team to beat.

Projected Conference Tournament Seed: 3

Projected NCAA Tournament Seed: 6

 

Northwestern Wildcats (20-7) (9-5)

RPI Rank: 38  BPI Rank: 42  AP Rank: N/R

Best Wins: @ #7 Wisconsin, v.s. Dayton*, v.s. #22 Texas*

Worst Losses: v.s. Illinois, v.s. Minnesota, @ Michigan State

 

It looks like the drought ends this year and Northwestern will finally make the NCAA Tournament! The Wildcat’s resume is not terrible, as their only terrible loss was home against Illinois. Northwestern struggles to score at points, but they are a very fast team. They can take advantage of turnover prone teams and quickly go on 8-0 or 9-0 runs in a game. Assuming Northwestern does not lose out, they should be able to make the tournament:

February 21st – @ Illinois – W 72-68

February 25th – @ Indiana – L 65-78

March 1st – v.s. Michigan – W 68-64

March 5th – v.s. Purdue – L 71-76

Final Record: 22-9 (11-7)

 

Making the tournament would be a huge accomplishment for the Wildcats as a program. Even with a loss to Indiana late in the season, Northwestern should still have no problem making the tournament with a 9 loss or 10 loss season at the end of the Big Ten Tournament. Don’t overlook the newcomers to the tournament because you know they are going to want to win their first ever tournament game!

Projected Conference Tournament Seed: 5

Projected NCAA Tournament Seed: 9

 

Michigan State Spartans (16-11) (8-6)

RPI Rank: 41  BPI Rank: 52  AP Rank: N/R

Best Wins: v.s. Wichita State*, v.s. #24 Minnesota, @ Minnesota

Worst Losses: v.s. Northeastern, v.s. Penn State*, @ Ohio State

 

With the best recruiting class in school history, coming into this season, Michigan State was ranked high in the AP polls and considered a preseason favorite to win the NCAA Tournament. These speculations quickly changed after Michigan State unraveled from fatigue. In their first few weeks of the season, Michigan State was traveling all across North America and barely had rest days and practice time. Tom Izzo explained their tough out-of-conference schedule during the season and took responsibility for such a brutal schedule. Michigan State will need some big wins down the stretch to make it back to the NCAA Tournament this season:

February 23rd – v.s. Nebraska – W 64-63

February 26th – v.s. Wisconsin – W 68-63

March 1st – @ Illinois – W 75-70

March 5th – @ Maryland – L 71-84

Final Record: 19-12 (11-7)

 

Things are not looking good for Michigan State right now. They have a very thin margin for error and have to win one of their two games remaining against ranked opponents. On top of all of this, the Spartans just lost Eron Harris (10.7 PPG, 38.7 3P%) for the rest of the season because of a brutal knee injury. Mile Bridges (16.1 PPG, 8.5 RPG), the freshman phenom, will have to step up for Michigan State and take a leadership role down the stretch for the Spartans to make the tournament.

Projected Conference Tournament Seed: 4

Projected NCAA Tournament Seed: 10

 

Minnesota Golden Gophers (20-7) (8-6)

RPI Rank: 22  BPI Rank: 44  AP Rank: N/R

Best Wins: @ #15 Purdue, @ Northwestern, v.s. Michigan

Worst Losses: @ Ohio State, @ Penn State, v.s. Michigan State

 

After finishing 8-23 last season and Richard Pitino’s job being on the line this season, the Golden Gophers have answered back with a current record of 20-7. This turnaround by Minnesota has been fantastic to watch and now, they have a chance to make noise in the Big Ten Tournament and in March! Minnesota still has work to do, but they are looking more and more like a tournament team. Here is who Minnesota will face down the stretch:

February 22nd – @ Maryland – L 75-78

February 25th – v.s. Penn State – W 77-73

March 2nd – v.s. Nebraska – W 84-72

March 5th – @ Wisconsin – L 71-72

Final Record: 22-9 (10-8)

 

With a win over Maryland or Wisconsin, Minnesota will be a guaranteed lock for the tournament. If they finish 22-9 like I have them projected to finish, then Minnesota will likely need to win a game in the Big Ten Tournament to get an at-large bid. Unlike most people, I am very high on Minnesota and believe they could be dangerous if they get going. Watch out for the Golden Gophers come time for March Madness!

Projected Conference Tournament Seed: 6

Projected NCAA Tournament Seed: 8

 

Michigan Wolverines (17-10) (7-7)

RPI Rank: 53  BPI Rank: 24  AP Rank: N/R

Best Wins: v.s. #11 Wisconsin, v.s. SMU*, v.s. Michigan State

Worst Losses: @ Illinois, @ Iowa, v.s. Ohio State

 

The Wolverines are currently on the bubble for the NCAA tournament for the second straight season. Michigan has been very inconsistent in the Big Ten this season and has had trouble against some of the bottom tiered teams in the conference. Wins over Wisconsin and SMU definitely help their resume, but losses to Illinois and Ohio state do not. Depending on how Michigan closes their season will determine whether or not they will make the tournament:

February 22nd – @ Rutgers – W 81-77

February 25th – v.s. Purdue – W 77-73

March 1st – @ Northwestern – L 64-68

March 5th – @ Nebraska – W 68-64

Final Record: 20-11 (10-8)

 

Based on my predictions, Michigan will finish the regular season 20-11 and have a solid chance at making it back to the tournament. A win over Purdue will complete Michigan’s resume and put them in prime position to make it as one of the last teams into the tournament. The Wolverines still have work to do in order to punch their ticket!

Projected Conference Tournament Seed: 7

Projected NCAA Tournament Seed: 10

 

Iowa Hawkeyes (14-13) (6-8)

RPI Rank: 115  BPI Rank: 94  AP Rank: N/R

Best Wins: v.s. #25 Iowa State, v.s. #17 Purdue, v.s. Michigan

Worst Losses: v.s. Omaha, v.s. Memphis*, v.s. Illinois

 

Iowa does not look like they will be heading to the NCAA Tournament unless they somehow win the conference tournament. They have some solid wins on the season, but too many losses that are not necessarily good losses. Iowa has struggled this season in the Big Ten and ran out of time to turn things around. Here is who the Hawkeyes play down the stretch:

February 21st – v.s. Indiana – W 79-72

February 25th – @ Maryland – L 60-73

March 2nd – @ Wisconsin – L 70-77

March 5th- v.s. Penn State – W 76-70

Final Record: 16-15 (8-10)

 

Iowa will probably be heading to a postseason tournament, just not March Madness. It looks as if Iowa will have some rebuilding to do in years to come, especially with Peter Jok leaving after this season. These next few years may not be the best for the Hawkeyes.

Projected Conference Tournament Seed: 8

Projected NCAA Tournament Seed: Next Next Next Four Out

 

Nebraska Cornhuskers (12-14) (6-8)

RPI Rank: 70  BPI Rank: 97  AP Rank: N/R

Best Wins: @ #16 Indiana, @ Maryland, v.s. #20 Purdue

Worst Losses: v.s. Gardner-Webb, @ Rutgers, v.s. Ohio State

 

Take out these three bad losses and suddenly, the Cornhuskers are a tournament caliber team. Nebraska’s wins this season are very impressive based upon how they’ve played this season. After another lost season, the Cornhuskers may be shifting their program in a new direction and start rebuilding for years ahead:

February 23rd – @ Michigan State – L 63-64

February 26th – v.s. Illinois – W 72-69

March 2nd – @ Minnesota – L 72-84

March 5th – v.s. Michigan – L 64-68

Final Record: 13-17 (7-11)

 

It is unfortunate for Nebraska that they did not start the season well. With a few more wins, Nebraska could have been an interesting team to watch this season, but unfortunately, they are nothing to talk about. Sorry Nebraska, better luck next season!

Projected Conference Tournament Seed: 9

Projected NCAA Tournament Seed: Next Next Next Next Four Out

 

Penn State Nittany Lions (14-13) (6-8)

RPI Rank: 74  BPI Rank: 90  AP Rank: N/R

Best Wins: v.s. #21 Maryland, v.s. #24 Minnesota, v.s. Michigan State*

Worst Losses: v.s. Albany, v.s. George Mason, v.s. Rutgers

 

Much like Nebraska, if Penn State had not suffered some of these terrible losses early in the season, then they would have a chance to make the tournament because of their impressive wins. Much like a lot of the Big Ten as a whole, Penn State has been very inconsistant this season, mainly at home. After beating Michigan State and Minnesota in back-to-back games, Penn State then went on to lose to Indiana at home in the middle of the season. Penn State’s future is bright, but not for the rest of the season:

February 21st – v.s. Purdue – L 60-65

February 25th – @ Minnesota – L 73-77

February 28th – v.s. Ohio State – W 73-65

March 5th – @ Iowa – L 70-76

Final Record: 15-16 (7-11)

 

The Nittany Lions put together a solid season this year, but they will not be making the NCAA Tournament. The next few season are opportunities for Penn State to prove themselves, and they have a very good chance to break through the Big Ten and make the tournament within the next few years!

Projected Conference Tournament Seed: 10

Projected NCAA Tournament Seed: Next Next Next Four Out

 

Indiana Hoosiers (15-12) (5-9)

RPI Rank: 90  BPI Rank: 29  AP Rank: N/R

Best Wins: v.s. #3 Kansas*, v.s. #3 North Carolina, v.s. Michigan State

Worst Losses: @ IPFW, v.s. Nebraska, v.s. Michigan

 

It is very hard to talk about Indiana this season because they are a legit Final Four team that will not be making the NCAA Tournament unless they win out. Indiana practically played two seasons this year. They had the season where they were healthy and had OG Anunoby and James Blackmon Jr. Then there was the season where they had none of them and went 2-6. This season is a very hard pill for IU and Hoosier fans to swallow, but they should be right back in contention next season:

February 21st – @ Iowa – L 72-79

February 25th – v.s. Northwestern – W 78-65

February 28th – @ Purdue – L 70-83

March 4th – @ Ohio State – L 71-76

Final Record: 16-15 (6-12)

 

Lots of reports have been coming out of Bloomington that Tom Crean may be on the hot seat for the fall of the Hoosiers this season. I believe this claim is false because Coach Crean cannot prevent injuries. They are just an unfortunate part of the game. For Indiana, hopefully OG Anunoby and Thomas Bryant both return next season.

Projected Conference Tournament Seed: 11

Projected NCAA Tournament Seed: Next Next Four Out

 

Illinois Fighting Illini (15-12) (5-9)

RPI Rank: 63  BPI Rank: 72  AP Rank: N/R

Best Wins: @ Northwestern, v.s. Michigan, v.s. VCU*

Worst Losses: v.s. Winthrop, v.s. Penn State, @ Penn State

 

Overall, this season was not a bad season for the Illini. They put together a semi-solid resume and have found themselves as a team. Illinois will not make the tournament unless they win the Big Ten Tournament, but they can still win some games down the stretch:

February 21st – v.s. Northwestern – L 68-72

February 26th – @ Nebraska – L 67-72

March 1st – v.s. Michigan State – L 70-75

March 4th – @ Rutgers – W 71-69

Final Record: 16-15 (6-12)

 

Illinois is getting better in the Big Ten every year and could become a bubble team soon enough! It will be interesting to watch this Illinois program grow within the next few years.

Projected Conference Tournament Seed: 12

Projected NCAA Tournament Seed: Next Next Next Next Next Four Out

 

Ohio State Buckeyes (15-13) (5-10)

RPI Rank: 78  BPI Rank: 64  AP Rank: N/R

Best Wins: @ Michigan, v.s. Minnesota, v.s. Michigan State

Worst Losses: v.s. Florida Atlantic, @ Illinois, v.s. Nebraska

 

With another disappointing season, Thad Matta’s job may be on the line for the Buckeyes. This will be the second straight year the Buckeyes will miss the tournament, which may mean Coach Matta has one more year to turn things around in Columbus. Here is what remains for Ohio State:

February 23rd – v.s. Wisconsin – L 55-66

February 28th – @ Penn State – L 65-73

March 4th – v.s. Indiana – W 76-71

Final Record: 16-15 (6-12)

 

I would not be surprised to see the Buckeyes lose out, but I am giving them the benefit of the doubt on senior day. Ohio State better turn things around quickly because this program is not used to missing the NCAA Tournament.

Projected Conference Tournament Seed: 13

Projected NCAA Tournament Seed: Next Next Next Next Next Four Out

 

Rutgers Scarlet Knights (13-15) (2-13)

RPI Rank: 144  BPI Rank: 141  AP Rank: N/R

Best Wins: @ Penn State

Worst Losses: v.s. Penn State, @ Ohio State, v.s. Iowa

 

At one point this season, Rutgers was 11-1. Yeah you are misreading this article, Rutgers was 11-1 before losing 14 of their next 16. The Scarlet Knights had things going in the right direction, but they are in no shape to compete in the Big Ten:

February 22nd – v.s. Michigan – L 77-81

February 28th – v.s. Maryland – L 71-78

March 4th – v.s. Illinois – L 69-71

Final Record: 13-18 (2-16)

 

Rutgers is kind of stuck with this record for years to come because they are not able to win games in the Big Ten. They cannot recruit good enough players to be able to compete at such a high level. I have no solutions for Rutgers moving forward.

Projected Conference Tournament Seed: 14

Projected NCAA Tournament Seed: Behind Towson

 

So What Will The Conference Tournament Look Like?

I believe this year’s Big Ten Tournament could be the craziest it has been in years just because of all the teams on the bubble and need a big win. I do not think one of the favorites to win this tournament will come out on top, so here are my predictions:

 

First Round:

Ohio State 72 v.s. Illinois 66

Rutgers 70 v.s. Indiana 75

 

Second Round:

Nebraska 60 v.s. Iowa 66

Ohio State 62 v.s. Northwestern 67

Penn State 66 v.s. Michigan 71

Indiana 70 v.s. Minnesota 73

 

Quarterfinals:

Iowa 61 v.s. Purdue 75

Northwestern 63 v.s. Michigan State 68

Michigan 70 v.s. Wisconsin 72

Minnesota 73 v.s. Maryland 71

 

Semifinals:

Purdue 76 v.s. Michigan State 71

Wisconsin 66 v.s. Minnesota 68

 

Championship:

Purdue 71 v.s. Minnesota 75

Champion: Minnesota Golden Gophers

 

NCAA Tournament Seeding After Conference Tournament (Based on Predictions):

Purdue Boilermakers (27-7): #4

Wisconsin Badgers (26-7): #5

Maryland Terrapins (26-6): #6

Michigan State Spartans (20-13): #10

Northwestern Wildcats (23-10): #9

Minnesota Golden Gophers (26-9): #7

Michigan Wolverines (21-12): #10

Iowa Hawkeyes (17-16): Next Next Next Four Out

Nebraska Cornhuskers (13-18): Next Next Next Next Four Out

Penn State Nittany Lions (15-17): Next Next Next Four Out

Indiana Hoosiers (17-16): Next Next Four Out

Illinois Illini (16-16): Next Next Next Next Next Four Out

Ohio State Buckeyes (17-16): Next Next Next Next Next Four Out

Rutgers Scarlet Knights (13-19): Next Next Next Next Next Next Four Out

 

At the end of the day, the Big Ten will still be considered one of the top college basketball conferences, even with this year being an off year for the conference. Seven teams making the tournament would still be among the top of the conferences and who knows, a Big Ten team could surprise everyone by the end of the season cutting down the nets in Arizona!

 

Brett Siegel

The Ville ‘ 20

(Photo from bigten.org)

Brett Siegel
I am currently a sophomore at The University of Louisville, majoring in Sports Administration and minoring in Communication. This is my second year being the lead NBA Draft Analyst for CPP and writer for Louisville Basketball. I am a huge sports fan that loves college basketball and watching the players transition from the college court to the big stage in the NBA! If you have any questions or comments, my email is bsiegelsports@gmail.com.

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