Big Ten Men’s Basketball Bracketology: Wisconsin, Illinois stumble
It’s hard to keep up with the team that has the reigning player of the year (and likely repeat winner).
Wisconsin and Illinois found that out the hard way this week, falling off the pace set by Purdue and Zach Edey. As the Boilermakers pull away, the Badgers and Fighting Illini find themselves aligned more with the next tier of the Big Ten – and in danger of falling out of the conference’s two and three spots.
With just a month to go until the Big Ten Tournament, teams are running out of chances to make an impression and improve their seeding. Here’s how the Big Ten teams could stack up if the NCAA Tournament’s selection show was today:
Games this upcoming week: vs. Minnesota on Thu., at Ohio State on Sun.
If you asked Purdue fans for their ideal week, it would probably be one in which their only game was a blowout home win over Indiana. It gives them even more time to savor a dominant win over their archrival. The No. 2 Boilermakers hold a two-game lead atop the Big Ten and have won their last eight games.
Games this week: vs. Michigan on Tue. (Peacock), at Maryland on Sat.
The No. 14 Fighting Illini jump Wisconsin in these standings despite losing at Michigan State on Saturday. It was the second straight game that Illinois squandered a late lead. That’s a potential concern for postseason play if the trend continues, but the Illini have the time to work out their late-game issues, starting with two ripe opponents this week.
Games this week: vs. Ohio State on Tue. (Peacock), at Iowa on Sat.
The No. 20 Badgers didn’t drop from their 2-seed last week despite two straight losses because they came at Nebraska and vs. Purdue. Add two more at Michigan and Rutgers, the latter of which was a 22-point blowout, and you start to see seeding drop quickly. Wisconsin has two chances to get back on track, starting when they host the Buckeyes on Peacock.
Michigan State: 7-seed
Games this week: at Penn State on Wed., at Michigan on Sat.
As frustrating as Tuesday’s loss at Minnesota was for Tom Izzo and his team – the Spartans missed some key free throws – they bounced back in a big way against Illinois for their second win of the season against a team then ranked in the top 10. They also responded to their mistakes, as A.J. Hoggard and Malik Hall combined to shoot 19-of-22 from the free throw line.
Games this week: at Rutgers on Thu., at Indiana on Sun.
Northwestern could end up benefitting the most from Wisconsin’s slide. The Wildcats are now tied with the Badgers for third in the Big Ten standings at 8-5, and have two more good chances for wins this week, albeit on the road. Boo Buie remains one of the conference’s most prolific scorers, averaging 21.7 points per game over Northwestern’s last six contests.
Games this week: vs. Penn State on Sat.
The Cornhuskers are a balanced team. In the last eight games, six different players have led the squad in scoring. That lack of a go-to option could explain their home-road disparity; role players are better in their friendly confines, but road games are when you look to your stars to carry you. Let’s see if that continues to be the case when they host the Nittany Lions.
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