Logjam in Big Ten and Northwestern Will Make the Tournament?


Half of the Big Ten teams have either five or six conference wins. And will Northwestern finally make “The Dance”?

As Big Ten teams begin the final third of their conference schedule, there is a logjam in the middle of the standings. And surprisingly, Northwestern may be on their way to their first NCAA Tournament appearance. Let’s get to the logjam first and let the idea of the Wildcats making “The Dance” soak in for a minute.

There are four teams with winning records in the conference, but the next seven teams have either five or six conference wins. Four teams, Iowa, Indiana, Ohio State and Penn State have six games remaining on their schedule. Michigan, Michigan State and Minnesota have seven left to play.

The good news for each of these seven teams who have embraced mediocrity this season is,  if they get on a little bit of a role in the stretch drive, they could still make the NCAA tournament. Even though the Big Ten is a little down this year, at least five and possibly six teams could be invited. The conference is still ranked as the fourth best in the country according to teamrankings.com.

I don’t know how to handicap any of these teams’ chances of making the tournament because none of them so far have acted like they want to play in March. I guess I will just go with numbers and you can decide who has the best chance of getting on a roll the last third of the season.

14 win teams include Michigan State and Iowa. Michigan, Ohio State and Indiana have won 15 games and Minnesota 17.

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I don’t know if home court means that much this year, but in case it does, here are teams with an advantage or disadvantage down the stretch. Michigan State and Minnesota each have four home games left on their schedule. Indiana, Michigan and Penn State have to play on the road four times.

Now for Northwestern. It’s hard to believe that with the Big Ten consistently sending a half-dozen or so teams to the NCAA Tournament most years, the Wildcats are never included.

In fact, the tournament has been played since 1939 and they have never been invited. And the very first NCAA Final Four was held in Patten Gymnasium on Northwestern’s campus. However, the Wildcats are in good position to make the tournament this year.

They are sitting at 7-4 and in fourth place in the Big Ten and 18-6 overall. The good news for Northwestern is, four of their remaining seven games are at home. The bad news, they still have to play Wisconsin, Maryland and Purdue, the top three teams in the conference.

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If the Wildcats can win just four more times between their regular season games and the Big Ten Tournament, they will have an outstanding chance of being invited to “The Dance”. Can you imagine if Northwestern’s name is called on Selection Day? Think Evanston, Illinois won’t go nuts?