It's that time of the year again. Basketball teams are jockeying to get to the dance..."/> It's that time of the year again. Basketball teams are jockeying to get to the dance..."/>

Big Ten Bubble Buster: Who’s In, Who’s Out


It’s that time of the year again. Basketball teams are jockeying to get to the dance one last time. For the Big Ten, it seems that four teams will get the invite to participate in what many argue is the best sporting event in all of sports.

For the Big Ten, it’s been a bit of a disappointed for some teams. Minnesota, Penn State, Illinois, Michigan State and Northwestern have all had their ups and downs.

Meanwhile, The Big East continues to be pumped as the best basketball conference in the nation. They have more wins than any conference, more close games inner-conference and many brackettologists are saying that up to 11 teams could get in to the big dance.

That means that the pre-season prediction of six Big Ten teams in the NCAA tournament is more a dream than it is a breeze. If the season ended today, We’d know that Ohio State, Purdue and Wisconsin are in as top tier seeds. But what about the other teams in the conference? If the math adds up, the Big Ten would be lucky to get five teams to the dance.

So what would it take for the remaining contending teams to get in? Let’s take a look.

Michigan State (16-11, 8-7)

Key Home Wins:  Wisconsin

Big Road Wins: Washington (Maui Invitational)

Remaining: vs. Purdue,  vs. Iowa, @ Michigan

For the Spartans to be the fourth seed at this point of the season is a testament for Tom Izzo. Or let’s be honest, it shows how top heavy this conference is. The Spartans looked clearly out of the race for March and to be honest with losses against Iowa, Michigan and Illinois, it seems hard to believe they would get a crack at March. Factor in the 5th toughest schedule in the sport with a newfound way of playing and things change quickly.

Down the stretch the Spartans will get a chance to revenge two earlier losses that they should of won when they take on Iowa at home and Michigan on the road to end the season. Obviously a win over Purdue would give them another signature win, but at this stage, that seems highly unlikely.

But if the Spartans win out that would give them 18 wins and a bit more respectability. The problem is they could run into a buzz saw in the first round of the Big Ten tournament. A team like Minnesota or Penn State could be coming to form at the right time.  At this point it still seems like Michigan State is the best of middle of the pack.

College Basketball Stats

Penn State (15-12, 8-8)

Key Home Win: Wisconsin
Key Road Win: Northwestern
Upcoming Games: vs. Ohio State @Minnesota

It’s obvious that despite having a much improved season of 2010, the Nittany Lions are on the outside looking in. When it comes to tournament selection, to this point, there is not a road victory that you point out and say wasn’t expected. Of course a win at home against the Buckeyes on Tuesday would be very helpful. But there still isn’t any success shown on the road

And it could all change if Penn State wins a couple games in the upcoming conference tournament. Winning out would be a start, but when factoring in records against the top 24 (2-4) and the top 50 in RPI (4-6), they need all the help they can get.

Illinois (17-11, 7-8)

Key Home Wins: North Carolina, Wisconsin
Key Road Wins: Minnesota
Upcoming Games: Vs. Iowa, @Purdue, @Indiana

It was a hot start for the Illini, but unfortunately it’s a what can you do for me now selection committee that will determine who gets into the NCAA tournament. Despite big wins over Wisconsin and North Carolina, Illinois has lost to Indiana and the University of Chicago Illinois.

Down the stretch, they’ve dropped 8 of their last 12. Their RPI and strength of schedule put them far above Penn State, but it’s the inconsistency that could be the dagger in Illinois’ hopes. A long run in the conference tournament and winning out against Iowa, Purdue and Indiana would go a long ways.

The Rest:

Michigan – To me, the dagger in their NCAA hopes ended at the Buzzer against those damn Badgers. With that win, this young team picks up momentum and pulls off two wins against Michigan State and Minnesota to win out and look for a first round win in the conference tourney. All’s well that ends well for those bums in Ann Arbor, but I guess it’s time to look ahead to football season….or maybe swimming.

Minnesota – At 6-9 in the conference, it’s hard to picture this team climbing out of the gutter, but with three games against beatable opponents to end the season (Michigan, Northwestern, Penn State) anything is possible. Tubby’s Gophers seem like just the team that could pull a late season run if they get back to the middle of the pack. It’s a long road, but it’s not like it’s impossible.


If five teams get into the NCAA tournament, I would put my money on the two wildcards being Michigan State and Illinois. Bruce Webber has been toying with his lineup, but they’ll do enough down the stretch to get into the tournament. Michigan State needs to avenge some losses, and they have one of the best elimination game coaches in the country. That can take you places if you get there.

It will be an interesting run down the stretch.