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Taking a Look at NCAA Tournament Projections: Where Will the Big Ten Wind Up?

With the first second round of the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament (the first round without the largely pointless play-in games, basically) starting exactly four weeks from today, it's getting to be the time when tournament projections give fans a pretty decent idea of where their teams will wind up. Obviously things aren't set in stone and teams can experience spectacular rises to move themselves into the tournament or up a few seeds, or they can implode and fall down the S-curve or miss the dance altogether. Still, by and large, projections now are pretty accurate in guessing where teams will be seeded and which ones will be left out in March. Since I'm not a bracketologist (and I didn't stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night), I'll take a look at Joe Lunardi's projections on ESPN (last updated on 2/13), Andy Glockner's on Sports Illustrated (2/14), Zach Hayes' on Rush the Court (2/13), and Jerry Palm's on CBS (2/14), as well as Crashing the Dance.

The locks:

Ohio State 2 2 2 2 1
Michigan State 2 2 2 2 2
Indiana 4 4 4 5 3
Michigan 4 4 4 4 4
Wisconsin 4 5 4 5 4
  • Right now, the only suspense for these teams is whether they can move up to a one-seed (Ohio State and Michigan State, although OSU is much more likely than MSU), or if they'll manage to hold onto a protected seed (1-4) and where they'll wind up for their first two games. Barring an amazing collapse, these teams are all in. Side note: it feels great to put Michigan in this section for the first time I can remember.

On the right side of the bubble:

Purdue 10 10 9 9 9
Illinois 12 10 10 9 9
  • As of right now, these teams still have work to do but are sitting in good shape. Illinois has hit a severe slump over the past few weeks and has lost seven of eight, so they'll need to right the ship to get back to a safer spot on the bubble. Purdue is in much better position than Illinois is, but they need a few more wins as well to secure their spot. Last night's game -- a 67-62 win for Purdue over Illinois in Champaign -- was huge for both teams' NCAA chances.

Right on the fence:

Minnesota 13 12 12 10 11
Northwestern OUT 11 12 11 11
  • These two teams are what will probably be the difference between having 7 or 9 bids conference-wide. Neither team has a winning record in conference and neither team has a very strong out-of-conference resume, so it looks like the Gophers and the Wildcats (who are still in pursuit of their first ever tournament berth) have some work to do to close out the season. Northwestern just missed a golden chance at a key resume win, losing to Indiana on the road by five. Minnesota's loss to Ohio State was a similarly unfortunate game.
As for Michigan, things are looking pretty solid right now. If the Wolverines somehow win out -- which would include a win over Ohio State this weekend -- and/or have a great run in the Big Ten Tournament, they could move their way up to a three seed, and with a bad finish, they could fall all the way to a six. As for now though, they look to be squarely in the 4/5 range which would provide a relatively easy route to a very tough Sweet 16 matchup with a one seed.