Can seven sneak in? Big Ten Tournament preview
When & Where: Thursday, March 8 to Sunday, March 11, Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Ind.
No. 1 Michigan State Spartans (bye)
No. 2 Michigan Wolverines (bye)
No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes (bye)
No. 4 Wisconsin Badgers (bye)
No. 5 Indiana Hoosiers
No. 6 Purdue Boilermakers
No. 7 Northwestern Wildcats
No. 8 Iowa Hawkeyes
No. 9. Illinois Fighting Illini
No. 10 Minnesota Golden Gophers
No. 11 Nebraska Cornhuskers
No. 12 Penn State Nittany Lions
Favorite: Ohio State Buckeyes
Potential Cinderella: Indiana Hoosiers (do they count as a Cinderella?)
What's at stake?
For the top five seeds in the Big Ten, very little is at stake beyond seeding. The same can probably be said for No. 6 seed Purdue, who is likely already in the tournament, so long as the Boilermakers avoid a first-round upset at the hands of Nebraska.
Where the Big Ten gets interesting is with No. 7 seed Northwestern. The Wildcats have NEVER made an NCAA Tournament, and they have a chance to do it this year. Right now Northwestern has to hope the tournament selection committee looks at how hard their schedule has been (eighth hardest in the nation) and not the fact that they went 8-10 in the Big Ten and only have one good win (Michigan State).
To get in the tournament Northwestern HAS to beat Minnesota in the Big Ten Tournament first round, and the Wildcats may need to upset Michigan in the quarterfinals too. Personally, I don't like Northwestern's profile a lot. I think teams shouldn't be rewarded simply for playing a tough schedule, instead they should be rewarded for winning tough games.
Elsewhere in the conference, Illinois head coach Bruce Weber probably needs a deep run in the Big Ten Tournament to save his job, and Michigan State and Ohio State still have outside chances at No. 1 seeds. More likely, however, is two of Michigan State, Ohio State and Michigan receive No. 2 seeds, depending on finish in the Big Ten Tournament.