That’s a wrap. The Big Ten regular season is over. Michigan State is the champion. There is a two-day break before the four worst teams in the conference begin Big Ten Tournament play on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Looking beyond that, here’s an NCAA Tournament projection including a bubble update for the Big Ten Conference.
These teams are IN:
Michigan State Spartans
Brief notes: Michigan State just won its first outright Big Ten Conference title since 2009, and only Tom Izzo’s second outright conference title since becoming head coach in 1995.
Top players: Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson Jr. Bridges has a complete offensive game and can score from anywhere. Jackson Jr. is arguably the best defensive player the Big Ten Conference has ever seen. His blocking statistics prove it. Will Bridges be eligible to play in the NCAA Tournament? A lot is still very much up in the air.
Projected seed: 1
Ohio State Buckeyes
Brief notes: First-year head coach Chris Holtmann has these Ohio State Buckeyes flying and playing great basketball. Ohio State finished 10th in the conference last season. This season they are a surefire NCAA Tournament team with some impressive wins.
Top players: Keita Bates-Diop and Jae’Sean Tate. Both are holdovers from Thad Matta’s loaded squad. Bates-Diop should win Big Ten Conference Player of the Year and will be in contention for National Player of the Year.
Projected seed: 3
Brief notes: The biggest and most experienced team in the Big Ten was the best team in the conference for most of the season. Last year’s outright title winners are just as good as they were a year ago.
Top players: Carsen Edwards, Vincent Edwards and Isaac Haas. Carsen Edwards is an elite-level scorer. Vincent Edwards has terrific rebounding and defensive instincts. Isaac Haas is so big and reasonably skilled, no one in the conference or in the country has anyone quite like him.
Projected seed: 3
Brief notes: Michigan won the Big Ten Tournament last year and reached the Sweet Sixteen. The Wolverines have some impressive wins this season including at Michigan State, at Penn State and at Texas.
Top players: It all starts with Mo Wagner. Wagner is a mismatch nightmare who can drain 3’s and put the ball on the floor and blow past any big man in the country. He is the prototypical stretch-5 in the college game and is an intriguing NBA prospect. Guard Jordan Poole is another player to keep an eye on. He’s playing extremely well as of late.
Projected seed: 5
This Team is on the Bubble:
Penn State Nittany Lions
How they could be in: The only conceivable way they could be in is to win a few games in the Big Ten Tournament. Penn State likely needs to reach the final in order to be one of the chosen ones on Selection Sunday. Perhaps the Selection Committee will give Penn State the benefit of the doubt, considering the injury to starting center Mike Watkins.
Why they could be out: Weak non-conference schedule that includes a loss to Rider. Penn State lost two important, close games last week to Michigan at home and Purdue on the road. If Penn State won one of those two games, this is an entirely different outlook for the Nittany Lions.
These Teams are OUT unless they can pull off an upset by winning the Big Ten Conference Tournament:
Illinois Fighting Illini, Indiana Hoosiers, Iowa Hawkeyes, Maryland Terrapins, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Nebraska Cornhuskers (ok, they can probably win one or two and get an at-large bid), Northwestern Wildcats, Rutgers Scarlet Knights and Wisconsin Badgers.