Michigan State fighting for a No. 1 seed, Michigan eyeing a No. 3 as season winds down
The Michigan State basketball team already has a share of the 2011-12 Big Ten championship, but with two games left to play, both Michigan and Ohio State still have a shot at a piece of the crown.
The race for the league title is down to its final hour, but the jockeying for NCAA tournament position has just begun.
I've got the Big Ten with seven teams in, but not everyone's safe.
Here's a look at how things shake out, complete with RPI, quality wins and seeding projections.
No. 5 Michigan State (24-5, 12-3)
RPI: No. 4 Projected NCAA seed: No. 1
Top 50 RPI wins: 9 (vs. Florida State, at Gonzaga, vs. Indiana, at Wisconsin, vs. Purdue, vs. Michigan, at Ohio State, vs. Wisconsin, at Purdue)
Last week: W 66-61 at Minnesota, W 62-34 vs. Nebraska
Up next: at No. 18 Indiana (Tuesday), vs. No. 10 Ohio State (Sunday)
The Spartans have a share of the Big Ten title in hand, and they can grab an outright crown with a victory against Indiana or Ohio State this week. Additionally, a No. 1 seed is the Spartans' to lose at this point. Finish strong, and MSU gets the easy path to the Final Four.
No. 10 Ohio State (23-6, 11-5)
RPI: No. 9 Projected NCAA seed: No. 2
Top 50 RPI wins: 7 (vs. Florida, vs. Duke, vs. Northwestern, vs. Indiana, vs. Michigan, at Wisconsin, vs. Purdue)
Last week: W 83-67 vs. Illinois, L 63-60 vs. No. 15 Wisconsin
Up next: at Northwestern (Wednesday), vs. No. 5 Michigan State (Sunday)
The Buckeyes are in the same boat as Michigan, win out and have Michigan State lose out, and a share of the league crown is theirs. But, perhaps more importantly, Ohio State needs to right its ship. The Buckeyes close with two road games. Currently they'd be a No. 2, but barely.
No. 13 Michigan (21-8, 11-5)
RPI: No. 14 Projected NCAA seed: No. 3
Top 50 RPI wins: 9 (vs. Memphis, vs. Iowa State, vs. Wisconsin, vs. Northwestern, vs. Michigan State, at Purdue, vs. Indiana, vs. Ohio State, at Northwestern)
Last week: W 67-55 at Northwestern (OT), L 75-61 vs. Purdue
Up next: at Illinois (Thursday), at Penn State (Sunday)
Had Michigan not collapsed at home against Purdue, the Wolverines could have been fighting for a No. 2 seed. Michigan likely sits with a No. 3 right now, but the Wolverines are sliding. Michigan has a solid RPI, but its final two regular-season opponents won't do anything to help. The Wolverines have to win out and score another impressive victory in the Big Ten Tournament to secure a strong seed.
Still tourney bound
RPI: No. 19 Projected NCAA seed: No. 4
Top 50 RPI wins: 6 (vs. BYU, vs. UNLV, at Purdue, vs. Northwestern, vs. Indiana, at Ohio State)
Last week: L 67-66 at Iowa, W 63-60 at No. 9 Ohio State
Up next: vs. Minnesota (Tuesday), vs. Illinois (Sunday)
Wisconsin helped itself out by dumping Ohio State on the road after what could have been a disaster of a loss at Iowa. The Badgers get to close with two games at home, and if Wisconsin can pull off an impressive Big Ten Tournament run, then it's a team on the rise.
No. 18 Indiana (22-7, 9-7)
RPI: No. 17 Projected NCAA seed: No. 4
Top 50 RPI wins: 6 (vs. Kentucky, vs. Notre Dame, vs. Ohio State, vs. Michigan, at Purdue, vs. Northwestern)
Last week: W 75-56 vs. North Carolina Central, W 69-50 at Minnesota
Up next: vs. No. 5 Michigan State (Tuesday), vs. Purdue (Sunday)
Indiana's a comfortable No. 4, but the Hoosiers absolutely have to have another impressive victory before the season ends. Indiana hasn't beaten a ranked opponent since early January, and its two biggest wins of the season (Kentucky, Ohio State), came in December. Hoosier fans want a better seed? Then beat Michigan State tonight.
RPI: No. 39 Projected NCAA seed: No. 8
Top 50 RPI wins: 6 (vs. Iona, vs. Temple, vs. Miami, at Northwestern, vs. Northwestern, at Michigan)
Last week: W 83-65 vs. Nebraska, W 75-61 at No. 11 Michigan
Up next: vs. Penn State (Wednesday), at No. 18 Indiana (Sunday)
Purdue got the win it needed on the road at Michigan on Saturday, and it seems like a likely lock for the tournament. The Boilermakers have room to grow, too. Beat Indiana on the road Sunday, and steal a game from someone in the Big Ten Tournament, and this is a team on the rise. Possibly climbing as high as a No. 6.
Northwestern (17-11, 7-9)
RPI: No. 43 Projected NCAA seed: Play-in No. 12
Top 50 RPI wins: 2 (vs. Seton Hall, vs. Michigan State)
Last week: L 67-55 (OT) vs. No. 11 Michigan, W 67-66 at Penn State
Up next: vs. No. 10 Ohio State (Wednesday), at Iowa (Saturday)
The Wildcats are in, but are likely one of (if not the) last at-large bids. And in order to keep that status, Northwestern has to have a perfect week. Beat Ohio State, and things get a whole lot brighter. If the Wildcats can get that Big Ten record to .500 at the end of the regular season, then the committee would have a hard time leaving them out in the cold once again.
Outside looking in
Illinois (17-12, 6-10)
RPI: No. 75 Projected NCAA seed: Out
Top 50 RPI wins: 4 (vs. Gonzaga, at Northwestern, vs. Ohio State, vs. Michigan State)
Last week: L 83-67 at No. 8 Ohio State, W 65-54 vs. Iowa
Up next: vs. No. 13 Michigan (Thursday), at No. 14 Wisconsin (Sunday)
As sad as it sounds, Illinois isn't completely dead. If the Illini can score a win against Michigan on Thursday, then they're likely back on the bubble. One more loss, though, and the Bruce Weber-fired watch officially begins. It's still grim, though, because Illinois could score two straight victories against ranked opponents this week and still not feel comfortable about its NCAA tournament footing.
Minnesota (17-12, 5-11)
RPI: No. 84 Projected NCAA seed: Out
Top 50 RPI wins: 2 (at Indiana, vs. Northwestern)
Last week: L 66-61 vs. No. 6 Michigan State, L 69-50 vs. No. 23 Indiana
Up next: at No. 14 Wisconsin (Tuesday), vs. Nebraska (Saturday)
Minnesota is officially NIT bound after blowing a lead against Michigan State and basically quitting against Indiana. The Gophers don't have enough impressive victories to be considered a bubble team at this point. Minnesota is 5-11 in league play, nowhere near good enough.
Iowa (15-14, 7-9)
RPI: No. 129 Projected NCAA seed: Out
Top 50 RPI wins: 4 (at Wisconsin, vs. Michigan, vs. Indiana, vs. Wisconsin)
Last week: W 67-66 vs. No. 15 Wisconsin, L 65-54 at Illinois
Up next: at Nebraska (Wednesday), vs. Northwestern (Saturday)
Iowa wrecked its outside shot at slipping onto the bubble when it lost at Illinois last week, but still, the Hawkeyes can finish above .500 and secure an NIT bid. And, it can play spoiler in the Big Ten Tournament. So, at least there's that.
Penn State (12-17, 4-12)
RPI: No. 151 Projected NCAA seed: Out
Top 50 RPI wins: 2 (vs. South Florida, vs. Purdue)
Last week: L 67-66 vs. Northwestern
Up next: at Purdue (Wednesday), vs. No. 13 Michigan (Sunday)
Penn State's been done for some time, but the Nittany Lions can put a serious dent in Michigan's seed outlook Sunday on senior day.
Nebraska (12-15, 4-12)
RPI: No. 127 Projected NCAA seed: Out
Top 50 RPI wins: 1 (vs. Indiana)
Last week: L 83-65 at Purdue, L 62-34 at No. 6 Michigan State
Up next: vs. Iowa (Wednesday), at Minnesota (Saturday)
At this point, Doc Sadler is likely coaching for his job. Nebraska's victory against Illinois was nice and all, but a pair of embarrassing defeats this week against winnable opponents could seal his fate.
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