Big Ten Bracketology: An Early Look

A number of college basketball bracketologists released updated projections on Tuesday, and while it’s easy to argue the merits of doing this so early, it certainly makes for some interesting discussion and helps gauge where teams stand as conference play gets rolling.

I’ll be releasing my own projections starting next week, but for now I thought it would be worthwhile to look at how Big Ten teams are shaping up with as many as nine of them in some of these mock brackets.

For the purposes of this exercise, I have narrowed down the projections to Andy Glockner of SI.com, Shawn Siegel of College Hoops Net, and Dave Ommen of Bracketville.  The latter two names both rank atop the bracket project matrix which has tracked success over the last few years, and Glockner is a great follow on Twitter and does a tremendous job of sharing his thought process as he brackets the teams each Sunday night.

One other thing to keep in mind is that while the committee uses RPI in the selection and seeding process, it can be a bit misleading at this point of the season.  You’ll currently find a number of teams from outside of the six major conferences with high RPI’s, fueled largely by their strength of schedule numbers.  Once they start playing teams in their own leagues, and once major conference teams start challenging themselves in conference play as well, things should start to shift.

In order of average seed, here are the nine Big Ten teams in the discussion:

Ohio State (Glockner/Ommen: 1, Siegel: 2)

Kentucky and Syracuse were unanimous top seeds, while Ohio State and North Carolina showed up on two of the three projections.

Siegel opted for Baylor over the Buckeyes, which is an argument you can certainly make.  The Bears have more wins against the RPI Top 100 and have a number of good wins against teams like Mississippi State, San Diego State, Saint Mary’s, and at BYU.  However, the Buckeyes have knocked off Duke and Florida, so their “best” wins are better.

Still, they have two losses, although neither can be considered “bad” since one game at Kansas without Jared Sullinger and the other came in a close game on the road against Indiana, who is 13th in the RPI.

Barring a collapse, it’s hard seeing the Buckeyes getting anything lower than a two seed come March.

Indiana (Glockner/Siegel/Ommen: 3)

With wins over Kentucky and Ohio State, you could argue that no team has two better wins than the Hoosiers.  If you want to nitpick though, seven of their 13 wins have come against teams outside of the RPI Top 200, so strength of schedule is one factor keeping them from getting a higher seed.

Their SoS should climb as they move through Big Ten play, and with UConn losing to Seton Hall, the opportunity to move up is certainly there.  Indiana’s lone loss came at Michigan State, so there’s no shame in that.

Michigan State (Glockner/Siegel/Ommen: 3)

These projections came out prior to Sparty’s road win over Wisconsin, so Tom Izzo’s squad has a good chance to improve their seed when the next set of projections come out.  Both of their losses came against teams in the RPI Top 15, one of which was on a aircraft carrier so who knows how much stock you can put in that.

MSU has now won 14 straight games and is playing as well as anyone in the nation’s top conference.  The only knock on them is that just two of their wins (Indiana, at Gonzaga) are against the RPI Top 50.  If they keep playing the way they are, a two-seed is definitely realistic.

tom-izzo-net

Wisconsin (Glockner/Siegel: 5, Ommen: 6)

The Badgers are an interesting case.  They rank 60th in the RPI and are just 1-3 against the Top 50 and 5-4 against the Top 150.  Outside of an 11-point home win over UNLV, there really isn’t much else on their profile in terms of a marquee win.  Their next two games are on the road against Michigan and Purdue, so a split there would help stop their seeding freefall.

Michigan (Siegel: 4, Glockner/Ommen: 6)

The Wolverines are one of the teams I can’t quite figure out yet.  Their two best wins are against Memphis in Maui and at home against Minnesota, and at this point neither of those teams is safely in the field.  They currently sit at 31st in the RPI with seven of their 12 victories against teams outside of the Top 150.

Thursday’s game at Indiana is a chance to prove themselves, as is Sunday’s home date with Wisconsin.  At this point, I lean more toward Glockner and Ommen’s seed for Michigan.

Purdue (Siegel/Ommen: 7, Glockner: 10)

Purdue’s road win at Iowa looked better after the Hawkeyes knocked off Wisconsin, and I think their win over Miami (FL) will look better by the end of the year.  For now, the loss to Butler hurts, but that may change as well.

The Boilers also have wins over Iona, Temple, and Illinois, all of which are in the Top 32 of the RPI.  That said, they are 4-3 against the Top 100 with six of their 12 wins over sub-150 teams.  For seeding purposes, their losses to Alabama and Xavier may become important, because right now those teams are right around the same seed range.

Illinois (Siegel/Ommen: 8, Glockner: 9)

Since winning their first 10 games, the Illini have dropped three of five with their two wins over that span coming by four over Cornell and in double overtime against Minnesota.  A home win against Gonzaga is nice, but otherwise there isn’t much meat on their resume.  They are 3-3 against the RPI Top 100, but they also don’t really have a bad loss.  T

he schedule doesn’t do them any favors with just one game against Iowa and Penn State in Big Ten play.  A few more losses could send Illinois careening toward the bubble.

Minnesota (Glockner: 11, Siegel/Ommen: 12)

The Gophers have performed better than most people expected following the loss of Trevor Mbakwe, but they are off to a 0-2 start in Big Ten play.  They are just 1-3 against the RPI Top 50, but they are 5-0 against teams ranked 51-100 (Bucknell, Fairfield, Indiana State, North Dakota State, and South Dakota State).

I’m not sure how realistic it is for many of those teams to remain in that range, which means the Gophers need to start picking up some quality wins to remain in the field.

Northwestern (Siegel/Ommen: 13, Glockner: First Four Out)

The good news is that the wins against LSU and Seton Hall look better now than they did earlier this year.  The bad news is they have been crushed by a combined 61 points in games against Baylor and Ohio State.  Eight of their 11 wins have come against teams outside of the RPI Top 150, which leaves them just 3-3 against everybody else.

Their next six games are critical with home games against Illinois, Michigan State, and Purdue and road trips to Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.

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Follow me on Twitter (@andybottoms) for more thoughts on college hoops, and check out the latest edition of the Bottoms Line podcast.



About Andy Bottoms

While Andy was born and raised in Indiana, he would like to point out that he grew up shooting hoops in his driveway and not against the side of a barn like you see in all the March Madness promos or in the middle of a field like Jimmy Chitwood. Andy ranks among the top bracketologists according to the Bracket Matrix and has provided his projections to Fox Sports for the past three seasons. When not compiling excuses for missing work during the NCAA Tournament, Andy enjoys spending time with his wife and two daughters. He is a proud IU graduate and co-hosts The Assembly Call postgame show following every IU game. Twitter: @AndyBottoms

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