Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Big 10 conference tournament preview


This is part 6 of a 32-part series.

Michigan St 16-2
Purdue 15-3
Ohio St 15-3
Michigan 13-5
Nebraska 13-5
Penn St 9-9
Indiana 9-9
Maryland 8-10
Wisconsin 7-11
Northwestern 6-12
Minnesota 4-14
Illinois 4-14
Iowa 4-14
Rutgers 3-15

In a beautiful, beautiful misstep, Delany moved up the tournament a week so that they can play in Madison Square Garden.  February 28-March 4.

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

The stakes:
Quite possibly the worst Big 10 I've ever seen.  Only 3 teams in the lockbox, although I think Michigan should be home free, non-con SoS notwithstanding.  6 teams (SIX!) are below .500 overall, which is very unusual for a power conference.  So many teams ejected on the season, and the top 5 broke away and rarely had a slip up allowing anyone else to pick up quality wins.

Let's deal with the top end.  MSU doesn't have the quantity of signature wins to climb to the 1 line.  Similarly, Purdue and Ohio St are in similar spots but have a couple dumb losses that Michigan St doesn't have.  They're playing for positioning maybe, but it feels like we can pencil all 3 teams somewhere in the top 16 and move on.  Michigan's seed might be the wild card; I can see anywhere from 5 to 8.

The one true bubble team is Nebraska.  22-9 (13-5) in the Big 10 is usually lockbox territory.  But red flags are everywhere.  1 Group 1 win and 2 Group 2 wins are impossibly low, but that's in part because they only got 11 Group 1 and 2 games to play all season (which is very low for a power conference teams).  Non-con SoS is baaaad (279).  4-7 road record.  1 win over a probable tourney team (Michigan at home).  The scheduling gods buried them.  They only got one game apiece against Ohio St, Michigan St, and Purdue.  All on the road, all losses.  They never got a reasonable chance at a signature win.  Now, they must get it here.  Beating Michigan is a must, and frankly beating Michigan St is a must too.  They need quantity of signature wins.  Beating both Michigans might be enough given their schedule balance.

By the way, this also means they need to root hard for Michigan and MSU.  A Michigan loss to Iowa or Illinois pops Nebraska's bubble.  A MSU loss to Maryland or Wisky also pops Nebraska's bubble automatically.  Nebraska MUST get access to, and obtain, these signature wins.

Penn St at least has a couple steady wins, sweeping OSU.  But there's not much going on here.  Beat OSU and Purdue, and we'll revisit.

No one else is even close.  This is the issue.  Maryland is the only other team even inside the RPI Top 100.  Meaning no one is giving other teams Group 1 or Group 2 win chances, depressing everyone's resume.  I'll predict PSU and Maryland are probably at least in the NIT, but that's it.  Even an Indiana team over .500 overall ain't getting in there.

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