Big Ten Postseason Watch: 01.10.14 Edition

Posted by Jonahtan Batuello on January 10th, 2014

Selection Sunday is always on everyone’s minds as conference season gets underway. So, with 10 days of Big Ten play already done, now is a good time to start a weekly look at where conference teams’ postseason chances are currently sitting. Joe Lunardi has released a new Bracketology (as well as RTC’s Daniel Evans) so why shouldn’t we start putting out our own thoughts as well? The teams will be put into tiers depending on where they currently stand, and we will give you a look at what’s coming up in the next week that’s of importance (along with the KenPom rankings and RPI according to ESPN (it should be noted these rankings do not include last night’s games even though the commentary does). Feel free to tell us how wrong we are in the comments and through social media, but here is your first Big Ten Postseason Watch of the conference season.

Fighting for a No. 1 seed

The Badgers are well on their way to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament (AP)

The Badgers are well on their way to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament (AP)

  • Michigan State (KenPom #9; RPI #10): The thrilling home win over Ohio State puts the Spartans in line to earn a No. 1 seed. This next week is mainly about getting healthy as Tom Izzo’s team depth is severely lacking. If Sparty is healthy, games versus Minnesota and at Northwestern shouldn’t be too much trouble.
  • Ohio State (KenPom #1; RPI #7): Losing its first game of the conference season certainly hurts the Buckeyes when angling for a top seed. Its best chance for a statement win is now gone but Ohio State doesn’t have much time to relax. Iowa comes to Value City Arena this week and then a trip to The Barn isn’t a guaranteed win with the Golden Gophers needing a marquee win for its NCAA Tournament hopes.
  • Wisconsin (KenPom #3; RPI #1): The Badgers are well on their way to a top seed come March if it can continue to take care of business. Fran McCaffery helped them win at home, and then they easily took care of Illinois. Now, Wisconsin heads to Bloomington where Bo Ryan has owned Tom Crean. With its favorable schedule, Wisconsin looks like the best bet to become a top NCAA seed from the conference.

Playing to improve its seed

  • Iowa (KenPom #13; RPI #24): The Hawkeyes blew a golden opportunity to win in Madison that really would have helped its case for a top four protected seed. Now, it’s likely sitting in the #5/#6 range and is still without a truly impressive win to move much higher. Its game at Ohio State Sunday is another chance to get a win or it could be trending downward quickly.

Trending toward the NCAA Tournament

Derrick Walton Jr. had a huge basket to take the lead against Penn State last night and keep Michigan moving toward a NCAA berth (credit: ap.org)

Derrick Walton Jr. had a huge basket to take the lead against Penn State last night and keep Michigan moving toward a NCAA berth (credit: ap.org)

  • Illinois (KenPom #52; RPI #14): This season has certainly been unexpected. The pounding the Illini took at Wisconsin wasn’t good, but beyond that this team has done plenty to start looking like a NCAA Tournament team. The big match-up this week comes against Purdue, as the Boilermakers have won in Champaign in three of the last four years.
  • Michigan (KenPom #20; RPI #57): Nebraska missing a good look and a follow-up tip last night at the buzzer was a huge moment for the Wolverines. The ball rolled their way, and they now sit at 3-0 in the conference with Penn State coming to Ann Arbor. Win that game and a huge contest with Wisconsin is on the horizon where the Wolverines could notch a January win that would puts them a tier higher on this list.

Squarely on the bubble

  • Minnesota (KenPom #39; RPI #38): The Golden Gophers certainly put it to the test this past week in narrowly beating Purdue and Penn State. Lunardi has them as one of the “Last Four In,” so that’s as bubbly as you can get right now with a death row of games next: Michigan State, Ohio State, Iowa and Wisconsin are Minnesota’s next four. Ouch.
Will Sheehey needs to turn it on if the Hoosiers are going to avoid the NIT (AP Photo/Michael Conroy).

Will Sheehey needs to turn it on if the Hoosiers are going to avoid the NIT (AP Photo/Michael Conroy).

Trending to the NIT

  • Indiana (KenPom #66; RPI #81): That New Year’s Eve loss at Illinois was a killer. The win would have been huge in terms of the bubble, but alas the Hoosiers lost and then got shellacked by Michigan State. It still sits with no good wins and a sneaky tough game at Penn State Saturday evening. Then, that’s followed by Tom Crean’s nightmare coming to Assembly Hall. If Crean can exorcise that demon, it would be huge to Indiana’s dwindling NCAA hopes.
  • Purdue (KenPom #89; RPI #79): If Purdue played its entire game against Minnesota like the last 10 minutes, it would be in better shape. It didn’t help not capitalizing at home with Ohio State shooting terribly from three and dealing with foul trouble inside. Now, it desperately needs to win at home against Nebraska and on the road at Illinois to get any sort of momentum for the Tournament.

NIT? NIT!

  • Penn State (KenPom #95, RPI #91): Penn State was so close to pulling out that first win in the Big Ten until Tim Frazier went down against Minnesota. Had he played the whole game, it was likely a win and the dark horse train could get going. Still, this team will win some games it shouldn’t and make the NIT by the end of the season. Such a trajectory could start by effectively ending Indiana’s NCAA hopes tomorrow or severely hurting Michigan’s next week.

CBI? CBI!

  • Nebraska (KenPom #91; RPI #46): Can we please throw out the RPI? Seriously. Still, it was so, so close for this team last night against Michigan. Nebraska has pulled some home upsets the past two seasons and has the talent and coaching to do so this year as well. It won’t be dancing in March, but a postseason berth in any tournament will be good for Tim Miles’ growing team.

At least there’s a good recruiting class

  • Northwestern (KenPom #161; RPI #16): The Wildcats have clearly found the bottom of the Big Ten this year. By a lot. In their first three Big Ten games, the closest loss was a 17-point loss at Michigan. It doesn’t really get any easier, with Illinois and Michigan State coming to Evanston next. Oh, and interesting fact about Northwestern, the Wildcats’ nickname came in 1924 when a Chicago Tribune reporter said Northwestern “fought like Wildcats” in an article. That’s fun (sorry, but I’m going to need some sort of gimmick to talk about Northwestern every week).
Jonathan Batuello (60 Posts)

Jonathan Batuello is a journalist working out of Indiana and Big Ten correspondent for Rush the Court. Follow his Twitter account (@jcbatuello) for Big Ten basketball, Indiana high school sports and how to cope with losing at fantasy football.


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