Right now (always subject to change) I’d group it this way:
ROCK SOLID – Iowa, Maryland, Michigan State
These three have all likely done enough already, in a realistic sense, to get a bid. For these three, the focus is more along the lines of seeding than simply getting in at this point. Iowa is definitely in play for a 1 seed, and I’d say Maryland could be as well. RealTimeRPI has Maryland 4th and Iowa 8th. As this weekend demonstrated, I don’t think the upper tier of teams nationally are done losing by any stretch, so a loss here or there for these two likely won’t take them out of the 1-2 seed discussion. I would expect both to remain in contention for at least a 2 seed the rest of the way.
MSU is currently 16th in RTRPI. That would indicate a 4 seed but I’m pretty sure if today were Selection Sunday, you’d see MSU as a 3…some of the teams ahead of them in RTRPI (Oregon, USC, an ineligible SMU) would not be seeded above them IMO. MSU’s schedule is such that they’re likely going to have a strong close (Tuesday is the last game they’ll likely not be favored to win) and their resume is extremely strong factoring in non-conference games (along with a win over Maryland and possibly some wins yet to come as well). If MSU closes the way I think they will and has a good BTT performance, a 2 is possible. A great close (say a clean sweep from here) and a 1 isn’t even completely out of the question.
GOOD BET – Purdue is at 21 in RTRPI. They’ve done enough to be sitting in good position but their closing schedule is no bargain…home games against MSU, Maryland and Wisconsin, road games at IU and Maryland (and Nebraska and Michigan as well). Yet, Purdue would have to do some more losing before I’d be ready to put their NCAA bid status firmly in jeopardy. It’s not all bad for the Boilers…the upside to a tough schedule is that you have opportunities to win games that help your seeding case. Right now, I feel reasonably confident that Purdue will be in the Tournament but I have no feel for where they may end up in terms of a seed because so much ground remains in front of them.
Indiana is in similar territory but probably worse off than Purdue, despite a glittery 9-2 Big Ten record. IU had a terrible, terrible non conference season and because of it (and the relatively low status of most of their Big Ten victims to date), their RTRPI is only #55…that’s one spot worse than Michigan, btw. IU’s schedule is tough from here as well…road games at MSU and Iowa and home games against Maryland, Purdue and Iowa. As with the Boilers, those games present opportunities as well as challenges. I’d be reasonably confident IU makes the field also, but as with Purdue, their seed is very much an open question at the moment.
IFFY – Until this week, I think most people would have had Michigan in the category above…I know I would have. Yes, their RTRPI has never been good because of a poor non conference performance but they were winning and finally got a marquee victory when they beat Maryland. Now, though, fresh off two absolute demolishings at the hands of IU and MSU, it’s fair to wonder about their status. As with IU and Purdue, Michigan’s schedule gets very tough from here. They go to MInneapolis this week, so that should be an opportunity to stop the bleeding but then home games with Purdue and Iowa and trips to Maryland and Wisconsin loom. A road game at Ohio State has the look of a big game for the Wolvies. IMO, a 10-8 Michigan team is in decent shape for a bid most likely. A 9-9 team? I don’t know…that gets really, really dicey and then you’re in a position where you probably need at least one and maybe two BTT wins.
Wisconsin is going to be fascinating. Apparently just because Bo Ryan is gone, we’re still living in a world where you cannot bury the Badgers. The RTRPI currently sits at 64. That’s not good. The non conference performance, absent a road win at Syracuse, was rough. Yet, here they sit at 6-4 in the league and with unquestionable momentum. The bad news is that the schedule down the back end is absolutely brutal. They have to travel to MSU, Maryland, Iowa and Purdue. The plus side is that, as with others mentioned above, those games give them a chance to add to their resume and despite wins over IU and MSU in Madison, I think their resume needs a couple more impressive scalps. I think they’ll get to 9-9 with a home game against Michigan representing a decent chance to get to 10-8. I don’t think 10-8 gets it done for them. Get all of those and one of those four brutal road games, though, to get to 11-7? Maybe add at least one BTT win? Then we’re talking. It’s a rough road but not impossible for Wisconsin.