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Posted on Tue, Feb 28, 2012 : 12:30 p.m.

Michigan State fighting for a No. 1 seed, Michigan eyeing a No. 3 as season winds down

By Nick Baumgardner

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.

Driver's seat

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


A victory against Ohio State was big for the Wisconsin basketball team.

Associated Press

No. 14 Wisconsin (21-8, 10-6)

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.


D.J. Byrd, left, Robbie Hummel and the Purdue basketball team have six top-50 RPI victories.

Associated Press

Purdue (19-10, 9-7)

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.

Bubbled up

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.

Nick Baumgardner covers Michigan basketball for He can be reached at 734-623-2514, by email at and followed on Twitter @nickbaumgardner.

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Wed, Feb 29, 2012 : 2:02 a.m.

Down goes Sparty!


Tue, Feb 28, 2012 : 8:02 p.m.

"The Spartans have a share of the Big Ten title in hand, and they can grab an outright crown with victories against Indiana and Ohio State this week." This should read something like "and they can grab an outright crown with a victory against Indiana or Ohio State this week." MSU only needs to win one of the games for the outright title I would hope that the basketball writer could at least do basic mathematics in order to figure out what a team needs to do to win a championship, or if they "control their own destiny" Did someone get "humbled" by a point again? You need to work on reading conference standings and schedules

Nick Baumgardner

Tue, Feb 28, 2012 : 8:06 p.m.

You're right, J. That's a mistake on my part. It's been fixed, thanks. Nick


Tue, Feb 28, 2012 : 8:04 p.m.

You did do the math correctly when explaining Michigan and Ohio State's positions