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Record: 23-7, 15-3
No one pictured the Wolverines winning the Big Ten when the conference season started, especially with Mitch McGary out, but here we are. Michigan ended up winning the conference by three games, sweeping in-state rival Michigan State. Still, not many will be quick to give them an automatic run to the championship game.
The Wolverines will open with a mildly tough game against Indiana or Illinois, and then have to face Ohio State or Nebraska in the semis. Not the easiest of roads, but it can be done. As for the Big Dance, Michigan likely has a No. 2 seed secured.
Record: 25-6, 12-6
Probably one of the streakiest teams of the year, Wisconsin started the season 16-0, only to lose five of their next six games. The Badgers then closed out the season winning eight in a row before the final loss at Nebraska.
This isn’t the same Wisconsin team we see every year. They have multiple shooters from outside, but also guys like Frank Kaminsky and Nigel Hayes that can work the paint. Their first test will likely be Minnesota followed by a healthy Michigan State. Much like Michigan, they will be a No. 2 seed in the NCAAs.
Record: 23-8, 12-6
This probably isn’t the type of season MSU was hoping for, but at least they tied for second in the conference despite not winning back-to-back games since Jan. 21. The Spartans are still working out the kinks with a full, healthy roster and they will try and figure things out in this tournament. If Keith Appling can ever get back to form, watch out. This is a team that can either stay as a 4-seed or jump to a 2-seed if they run through this bracket.
Up first for the Spartans will be an Iowa team they already swept, followed by Wisconsin, a team they lost to on the road by two points without Appling and Branden Dawson.
Record: 19-11, 11-7
So, Nebraska finished above Ohio State? Anyone see that coming two months ago? The Cornhuskers weren’t even close to a bubble team at the start of February, but reeled off road wins at Michigan State and Indiana and then at home over Wisconsin. This team is a legitimate threat and can’t be taken lightly. Even with a loss in their first game, Nebraska should be locked into March Madness.
That first game will probably be against Ohio State, a team they split with. And at this point, you can’t really say the Buckeyes have a better team because Nebraska has won eight of nine games and look better.
Record: 23-8, 10-8
Remember when the Buckeyes destroyed Nebraska by 31 points back in January? No? Well, it happened. Unfortunately for them, things have slipped up a bit and they don’t have much consistency on the offensive end. Ohio State is on the edge of a 5 or 6 seed in the NCAA tourney, which will all depend on if they can beat Nebraska. Of course, they can’t lose to Purdue in the first game, either.
Can Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr. pick up steam heading into the NCAAs? You never know.
Record: 20-11, 9-9
The Hawkeyes looked like a great team earlier in the year, but that momentum has fizzled out as they’ve lost five of six games, including their last home loss to Illinois. Can they revive their season in this tournament, or is the season fading quickly? Iowa has fallen to a possible 8-seed in the Big Dance, which is miles away from where they were.
Their bracket doesn’t look great either. They should beat Northwestern, but will have to face Michigan State next, who has had their number this season. The Hawkeyes need to make a move in this tourney to improve their seeding.
Record: 19-12, 8-10
The Gophers are the only bubble team left in the Big Ten and they are right on the edge. They’ll get Penn State in their first game which should be a win, followed by Wisconsin, a team they split with in the regular season.
Minnesota has had consistency problems on the offensive end this year which is their main problem. They beat Wisconsin by 13 points at home earlier in the year, so they’ll try and ride that if they face the Badgers again.
Indiana and Illinois can both be solid teams, but neither has put it together for the entire season. The winner of their matchup will face Michigan and if that team can beat the Wolverines, they’ll be in NCAA tournament discussions. Outside of them, no one else should be a factor in this tourney, although the Big Ten has been kind of crazy this season.
The favorites to make the championship game are Michigan and Wisconsin, but you can’t forget about the hot Cornhuskers and full Spartan squad. This will be a fun tournament to watch, without a true overwhelming favorite.
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