Now that the conference season has ended, we’re going to take a look at upcoming bracket outlook for the conference as Selection Sunday looms for the big dance bids. Our Nebraska Cornhuskers moved to a 0% chance at an at-large bid months ago at this point, but there is still a slim, probably less than 1% chance at this point that they could pull off a miracle run in the Big Ten Tournament and get the auto-bid. Will it happen? No. But the fact that there is in theory a route still available means that it cannot actually be 0% until around the time of the final buzzer Wednesday against Indiana.
Big Ten Historical Lesson of the Day
I’m also going to take a second to highlight some interesting Big Ten history because you all probably know by now I like to try and give you all some insight into your home conference in a “the more you know” theme. The Michigan State Spartans just won their third conference championship in a row, becoming just the 8th time in conference history a school has won at least three in a row. However, Tom Izzo is the only coach to achieve that feat twice in the history of the conference. What are the other schools who have managed at least three wins?
- 5 in a row from 1960-1964
- 3 in a row from 2010-2012
- 4 in a row from 1973-1976
University of Chicago:
- 4 in a row from 1907-1910
- 4 in a row from 1998-2001
- 3 in a row from 2018-2020 (technically still active chance at extending the streak next season)
- 3 in a row twice from 1934-1936
- And again 3 in a row 1994-1996
- 3 in a row from 1912-1914 (No, Bo Ryan didn’t ever manage three in a row)
So with that history lesson in the books for you all, let’s break down the conference bracket first, and then look at who needs to do work still and who is for sure in the big dance.
Big Ten Tournament Bracket Breakdown
The 2020 Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament bracket is set. #B1GTourney pic.twitter.com/M2mVxPb7lD— Big Ten Men's Hoops (@B1GMBBall) March 9, 2020
This is a stacked conference in terms of depth, and the tournament should offer some great enjoyment of that for the neutral viewer as long as you don’t expect much out of our Nebraska Cornhuskers. After the Northwestern Wildcats swept the Huskers in the regular season and beat the Penn State Nittany Lions in a stunning upset, Nebraska was left in sole possession of last place and the 14th seed in the tournament. While the Huskers took the Indiana Hoosiers to overtime in December, that was with a whole roster for Nebraska and seemingly a lifetime ago in terms of play. Not only that, Indiana is also playing with the motivation of a long shot chance at a NCAA tournament bid (keyword “long shot,” but still not completely out the window) so expect the Huskers season to end around 9:30 pm central time tomorrow night.
Personal recommendations for top games to watch, though:
- Skip Wednesday (besides obviously the Huskers), it’s going to be a snooze.
- Thursday: Michigan-Rutgers will likely be a good match-up, as much as it pains me to compliment something involving Michigan, and Purdue-Ohio State might be the next best one to tune in for.
- Friday: As always avoid Wisconsin, Iowa-Illinois should be good, MSU-Purdue is the likeliest match-up in this part of the bracket and could be worth watching, and Penn State-Maryland is always heated but probably not too competitive this week.
- After that I am not going to predict who will be playing who, but I’ll merely say this is must watch March Madness television in my opinion.
NCAA Tournament Bracketology Outlook
At this point, even the Rutgers Scarlet Knights seem a lock for a tournament bid, snapping a drought dating back to 1991. Also in even more firmly is the Illinois Fighting Illini who snap their streak dating back to 2011. So the bad news is come Sunday Nebraska will have the longest active tourney drought of the conference dating back to 2014. For 14 teams, that’s actually seemingly fairly impressive, but I’m not going to take the time to look up the data on backing up that comment. Feel free to do so yourself and call me out for B1G bias in the comments if you so choose.
Breaking it down by region and seed, the Big Ten will likely have a record ten teams in the big dance this year, breaking last year’s conference record of eight. It will almost guaranteed fall short of the all-time Big East record of eleven, though the remote chance is that Purdue can make it to Saturday, or even win it all for the auto-bid, and could therefore still get in. However, this is definitely unlikely. Both the Purdue Boilermakers and Minnesota Golden Gophers seem destined for the NIT this season, and Indiana sits on the correct side of the bubble to get in as it stands right now. However, if they lose to Nebraska they likely will find themselves in the NIT again instead. A win over Penn State as well would really avoid them sweating it out, but is probably unnecessary in all reality.
Now with 10 teams in and all the advanced stats being high on the Big Ten as a whole, where do we see the teams going in the end? There is always a flop to be had (no, I’m not talking about Brad Davison as that’s every game all season through the tournaments, not just the NCAA’s first round), but depending on the seedings I could easily see six teams advancing to the second weekend.
Further than that? I can see two to three teams with a shot at the final four, maybe four if the cards fall lucky like they did for Michigan in 2018 (literally the easiest region in modern NCAA bracket history to get to the title game, and I don’t say that just as a Michigan State fan). Note, I’m not saying four teams would make the Final Four, I’m just saying I could see any of four in this field having a legitimate shot at it.
As for snapping the title streak that dates back to 2000? No offense to Maryland, but I think Michigan State is the only team with the pieces to have a shot. Once again, I am not predicting they will win, I am just saying they are the conference’s best shot and could conceivably manage that. And with that, let’s get to the most recent bracket predictions. I will stick with Joe Lunardi’s model for now (even though he’s not really the best out there to go with) and run down the seeds and regions:
4 Maryland Terrapins versus 13 Vermont (winner faces Butler/Cincinnati)
6 Michigan Wolverines versus 11 East Tenn St. (winner faces Villanova/Colgate)
7 Illinois Fighting Illini versus 10 Marquette (winner faces Kentucky/UC Irvine)
4 Wisconsin Badgers versus 13 New Mexico St. (winner faces BYU/Yale)
6 Iowa Hawkeyes versus 11 UCLA (winner faces Duke/Belmont)
3 Michigan State Spartans versus 14 Bradley (winner faces Virginia/Stanford-Indiana play-in)
9 Rutgers Scarlet Knights versus 8 LSU [1st round games in Omaha] (winner faces Baylor/Northern Kentucky)
11 Indiana Hoosiers versus 11 Stanford (last four in game, winner faces Virginia)
5 Ohio State Buckeyes versus 12 Stephen F Austin (winner plays Louisville/Akron)
6 Penn State Nittany Lions versus 11 NC State/Texas (winner faces Seton Hall/Hofstra)
2 seed Creighton will open against 15 Little Rock in the midwest, and the idea they’re a final four team is laughably stupid. Even more damaging to their tournament hopes (and seeding) is the news that their second leading scorer Marcus Zegarowski is out with a meniscus injury for the Big East tournament this week (listed day to day, but is unlikely to play) and could be questionable for the NCAA as well.
These are all of course projections, but we shall know in just five more days.