Breaking down the Big Ten’s chances at the NCAA tournament



Wisconsin’s Bronson Koenig (24) hits a 3-pointer over Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein (15) in the NCAA Tournament national semifinal at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Saturday, April 4, 2015. Wisconsin advanced, 71-64.

By Matt Gertsmeier, Columnist

Selection Sunday is a little over two weeks away, and it’s absolutely one of my favorite days of the year. I can sense a palpable buzz as I scroll through Twitter, watch the live feed of teams finding out they have gotten a seed and hear the soothing voice of Greg Gumbel.

As a Power Five conference with a slew of skilled teams, the Big Ten will make its mark in this year’s bracket. While there’s still a good amount of time and anything can happen leading up to Selection Sunday, I weighed in on the Big Ten teams that will be a part of the madness this March.


The Locks

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In the midst of a six-game win streak, I think the Boilermakers will extend their streak to nine going into the conference tournament. Purdue should land no greater than a four-seed, and I still think that seed is an underrated rank. The Boilermakers have such a balanced team and menacing frontcourt with Caleb Swanigan and Isaac Haas. Purdue is the Big Ten team that I believe will have the longest run in the tournament. I realistically see Purdue making the Elite Eight and even perhaps the Final Four.


This is a much different Badger team than the season started off with. Wisconsin is 2-2 in its last four games and has barely beaten Nebraska and Rutgers, two bottom feeders of the Big Ten. Bronson Koenig has been struggling, shooting about 27 percent from the field in his last six games. Still, I expect Wisconsin to be around a five-seed and possibly even higher depending on its conference tournament results. And with loads of tourney experience, I see Wisconsin reaching the Sweet 16  at the very least.


The Terps are 2-5 in their last five games but still remain in the AP Top-25 sitting at the No. 24 spot. Melo Trimble has been lighting up the scoreboard, dropping 59 points in his last two games combined. Many experts have the Terps landing a six-seed, and I think that’s appropriate for them. This will be the third year in a row Mark Turgeon will clinch a tourney berth. Depending on the region Maryland lands in, I could see the Terps being bounced in the Sweet 16 or the Round of 32. It’s hard to imagine Maryland making a deep run.

The More Probable Than Nots


There is a very strong chance this will be Richard Pitino’s first ever NCAA Tournament appearance. Minnesota hasn’t been a tourney team since 2013. The Gophers are currently riding a five-game win streak and have achieved 20 wins after winning only eight games a season ago. I believe the Gophers could land anywhere from a seven to nine seed in the tourney. The seed the Gophers end up with will dictate their results. I see the best case scenario for them getting to the Round of 32.

Michigan State

Believe it or not, Michigan State is not a bubble team. From what I’ve seen, analysts and websites believe the Spartans have higher than a 70 percent chance of getting in. The Spartans have had a rather rocky year. But, it looks like Michigan State could land anywhere from a 10 to 12 seed this March. Tom Izzo’s teams seem to always find a way in, which would make this year 20 straight tourney appearances. I think the best finish the Spartans can expect is the Sweet 16, but this is Izzo in March as an underdog, and anything can happen.

The Bubbles


This could be a historic year for the Wildcats, as they have a chance for their first ever NCAA Tournament appearance. Chris Collins has changed the basketball culture at Northwestern, and it’s been evident looking at these past two seasons. But, going 2-4 in its last six games has put Northwestern on the bubble. Scottie Lindsey looks out of sync after being sidelined with mono. If Northwestern does get a seed, I predict the Wildcats being bounced in the first Round of 64. The worst case scenario for Northwestern is an invitation to the NIT.


The Wolverines have flown under the radar as a potential tournament team. Michigan is the weakest Big Ten bubble team with a 59 percent chance of getting a seed, according to The current trends show Michigan landing a nine or 10 seed for the tournament. Being led by seniors Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin, I have a feeling Michigan will make a strong push with the final regular season games and conference tournament. A realistic finish for Michigan is getting to the Round of 32.

The Better Luck Next Years

The bottom feeders of the Big Ten include Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Penn State, Ohio State and Rutgers. All of these teams have less than an 8 percent chance of getting into the tournament, according to Indiana has the best shot with eight percent followed by Illinois with a seven percent chance. It will take a miracle to receive a bid to the Big Dance for all of these teams. It looks as though the only hopes for these teams is winning the conference tournament. There could be a few schools that make a push and gain some interest for the NIT Tournament.

Matt is a Junior in Business.

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