Selection Sunday is exactly six weeks from today. Last year the Big Ten only got four teams into the Big Dance but this year teams like Michigan Minnesota, Illinois and Northwestern have had surprisingly stronger than expected seasons. The league appears to be poised get several teams into the tournament. But how many? The Big Ten got six teams into the tournament in 2007 and the last time they got seven teams was 2001.
With less than 10 games to play lets take a look at some tournament resumes.
---------- Likely In (sorted by RPI) ----------
Record - 17-3
RPI - 4
Record vs. RPI top 50 - 7-1
Key Wins - Texas, Kansas, @Minnesota,
Bad Losses - North Carolina, Northwestern
TDG Verdict - clearly they'll be in and clearly the class of the league. They aren't exactly playing to get in, they are playing for a great seed and their goal is to participate in the Final Four in front of a home crowd at Ford Field.. The UNC game isn't exactly a "bad" loss, but they gave up 98 and lost by 35. Since that throttling the Spartans have played great and before the home loss to Northwestern were serious contenders for a #1 seed. They could still get there considering nobody is really a lock as we begin February.
Record - 17-4
RPI - 17
Record vs. RPI top 50 - 4-3
Key Wins - Missouri, @ Purdue
Bad Losses - @ Minnesota
TDG Verdict - Same boat as Minnesota, they are basically in but a late season collapse could move them out. So we'll say they are in. The Minnesota loss was ugly but in the end it will just be a road loss to a tournament team. A dangerous tournament team with a dangerous backcourt and they are well coached. Will be seeded somewhere between 5-7. The high RPI is important to note
Record - 17-3
RPI - 20
Record vs. RPI top 50 - 4-2
Key Wins - Louisville, @Wisconsin, Illinois
Bad Losses - @Northwestern
TDG Verdict - Not exactly "in" yet but a high RPI and arguably the best Big Ten win of the season over Louisville, Minnesota would have to drop several games to fall back on to the bubble. The Wisconsin win and Northwestern loss appears to be not as great and not as bad respectively. The Illinois win was a statement in it's style and final point differential. Seed? The Gophers will need probably 2 more "big" wins to get up to a 4 seed. Winning at Michigan State and/or a trip to the Big Ten Tournament finals would do the trick but I think a 5 or 6 seed is most likely.
Record - 15-5
RPI - 22
Record vs. RPI top 50 - 2-5
Key Wins - Butler, Notre Dame, @ Miami
Bad Losses - West Virginia
TDG Verdict - Likely to make the tournament with the high RPI and some wins that appeared to be rather large at the time. This team is battling tough after the loss of David Lighty in December. Purdue remains on their schedule twice as well as Illinois and @ Wisconsin. Ohio State is likely in but they'll be in that 8/9 game where the winner gets the opportunity to face a #1 seed.
Record - 17-4
RPI - 35
Record vs. RPI top 50 - 4-3
Key Wins - Davidson, Boston College
Bad Losses -@Penn St
TDG Verdict - This team is a tournament team but they have not yet shown that they are serious Final Four contenders. Close losses to Oklahoma and Illinois (both in OT) aren't terrible losses but they are showing that this team is good just not as good as people anticipated. It is kind of interesting because had expectations been lower, there would be more of a buzz around the Boilermakers. They still have opportunities to make a statement with an trip to Illinois and two games with Michigan State. The mystery isn't if they'll be in, but what will their seed be. They are capable of notching some huge wins and winning either the regular season or tournament title. I'm guessing 2 seed is best case scenario and more likely a 4 or 5 seed.
---------- Bubble ----------
Record - 12-9
RPI - 32
Record vs. RPI top 50 - 1-7
Key Wins - none
Bad Losses - @ Iowa, @ Northwestern
TDG Verdict - another team that was holding on to a seed just a week ago that has to turn things around if they want to play in the Big Dance. A six game losing streak is brutal as is their 1-7 record against teams in the top 50 RPI. Wisconsin is currently out but their schedule has opportunities for several wins to close out the season. If they get things figured out, they'll be in but right now this team is free falling.
Record - 14-8
RPI - 55
Record vs. RPI top 50 - 3-5
Key Wins - Duke, UCLA
Bad Losses - Wisconsin, @ Penn St,
TDG Verdict - Looked like a lock a week or two ago but they have lost 5 of 6 and are clearly back on the bubble. The Wolverines are capable of beating anybody but are also wearing down as the season heads into the final stretch. As of right now, I think they are out. The Duke and UCLA wins are huge but they also lost to Duke on a neutral floor which will clearly factor into their fate. Ultimately the low RPI will keep them out barring a big run to finish the season.
---------- Needs work to get onto bubble ----------
Record - 12-7
RPI - 51
Record vs. RPI top 50 - 3-4
Key Wins - @ Michigan St, Minnesota
Bad Losses - @ Penn St, @ Michigan
TDG Verdict - Their losses are not terrible, their RPI is not terrible but nothing stands out as this being a tournament team. After starting 0-4 in the Big Ten, Northwestern has turned it around and is playing very well right now. They'll be the fun story to watch since they have never made the NCAA Tournament. Can they get in this year? Their fate may be determined by a three game home stand in mid February. Illinois, Michigan and Ohio State come to town. If they can get a couple wins there or even win all three then their resume starts to be taken seriously. As it stands they really have one significant win. Currently a bubble team but I think they miss the tourney yet again.
Record - 16-5
RPI - 72
Record vs. RPI top 50 - 1-4
Key Wins - Purdue
Bad Losses - Rhode Island, Temple
TDG Verdict - They are at the bottom of this list but they really are so close. Reverse either the Temple or URI loss and this team's resume is looking so much better. Their win total is fine and they could finish fifth in the B10 standings but that RPI is really bad. Illinois twice, Purdue and Minnesota provide them chances at a big win or two. But they'll need to win a couple of those to get onto the bubble and a couple tournament wins to get in.
It wasn't long ago the Big Ten looked like they had a legit shot at getting seven teams in. But Wisconsin and Michigan are stumbling. Plenty will change in the next six weeks but if the Tournament started this weekend I think five teams would get in and maybe Wisconsin based on reputation only. If the Badgers and Wolverines continue to struggle I'm not sure either Penn State or Northwestern have done or will do enough to make the jump from out to in.
Regardless of how many teams eventually get in, the Big Ten has regained some respectability, which is a good thing. Getting six or seven teams in would be step one. Then seeing those teams succeed would be outstanding for the conference.