Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Big 10 conference tournament preview

This is part 26 of a 32-part series previewing every conference tournament in the country.  We'll detail what you need to keep track of in each tournament and the various stakes for each team.

The standings:
Purdue 14-4
Maryland 12-6
Wisconsin 12-6
Minnesota 11-7
Michigan St 10-8
Northwestern 10-8
Iowa 10-8
Michigan 10-8
Illinois 8-10
Indiana 7-11
Ohio St 7-11
Nebraska 6-12
Penn St 6-12
Rutgers 3-15

Tournament format:
Wednesday March 8 to Sunday March 12.  Washington DC.

The matchups:
1) Purdue vs. 8/9) Michigan/Illinois
4) Minnesota vs. 5/12/13) Michigan St/Nebraska/Penn St
3) Maryland vs. 6/11/14) Northwestern/Ohio St/Rutgers
2) Wisconsin vs. 7/10) Iowa/Indiana

The stakes:
Purdue is simply trying to hold the world back to hold onto a 4 seed.  Will likely need to win the whole tournament to maintain that seed, with almost no hope of jumping to a 3 seed.  Gloomy world here.  Minnesota, Maryland, and Wisconsin are all in various forms of purgatory, stuck anywhere from a 5 to a 7 seed, with only modest hope at improving those seeds.  The lack of a dominant team in the league dooms everyone, just not the teams at the top.  A lack of quality wins available in this tournament teams less help for everyone's resume.

Northwestern, Michigan, and Michigan St are all more or less bubble-plus teams.  I can't see any of the 3 missing at this point, when you compare their resume to other bubble teams.  I think they're all one bad loss away from being on the bubble, but once they're there, I think they can survive anyways.  Just to be safe, I recommend they all win their first game, which shouldn't be too difficult a task.

We've got 2 bubble teams to play with.  Illinois gets Michigan then Purdue.  They'll need both...and heck maybe even a third.  Their resume needs signature wins, so Michigan won't help.  Purdue will.  Iowa is really a longshot, and needs to probably beat Wisky and Maryland.  In fact, I would go as far as to say that even if they beat Wisky and anyone other than Maryland, that's not enough.  They specifically need to meet and beat Wisky and Maryland to get home.  Even then, I'm still not sure they make it.

Indiana's probably out.  They have the signature wins, their problem is volume of overall losses, a problem that can't be fixed in this tournament.  They and Ohio St will settle for the NIT.

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