Big Ten Men’s Basketball Bracketology: Michigan State takes a step back, Nebraska holds strong

Big Ten Men’s Basketball Bracketology: Michigan State takes a step back, Nebraska holds strong

Don’t look now, but the best postseason in sports is just around the corner.

Pretty soon we will be enjoying conference championship week, researching teams that could become sleepers and upset victims and filling out the bracket that will 100% win our pools. But before we get to enjoy that fun, the teams we will be watching have some more work to do.

Two weeks. That is all that is left for Big Ten men’s basketball teams to solidify their spots in the conference tournament. That leaves three or four games for each team to get to their best basketball, which is how you need to be playing for the closing argument that is the Big Ten Tournament.

Let’s look at where things stand for the Big Ten teams currently projected to make the Big Dance:

Purdue: 1-seed

Games this upcoming week: vs. Michigan State on Sat.

Purdue bounced back nicely from a loss at Ohio State with victories over Rutgers and Michigan last week. Now, they face a gauntlet to close: vs. a somewhat desperate Michigan State squad, at Illinois (which can still win the conference if things break its way) and concluding with a definitely desperate Wisconsin team. Of course, the No. 3 Boilermakers have enough wins against top competition this season that these opponents will not faze them.

Illinois: 4-seed

Games this week: vs. Minnesota on Wed., at Wisconsin on Sat.

The No. 12 Fighting Illini could have seen a jump in these rankings given that two teams just ahead of them in the AP Poll, Baylor and Duke, lost last week, but Coleman Hawkins’ last-second foul on a Zach Hicks 3-pointer was their downfall against Penn State. Hawkins redeemed himself with 30 points, five assists and five steals in a win over Iowa, though, and Illinois is still tracking to be Purdue’s biggest threat in the conference tournament.

Wisconsin: 5-seed

Games this week: at Indiana on Tue. (Peacock), vs. Illinois on Sat.

As disappointing as the Badgers have been for much of February, they do appear to be playing better the last few games. With the head-to-head tiebreaker over Northwestern, they actually control their own destiny for the No. 2 spot in the conference. Of course, that would have to include victories vs. Illinois and at Purdue, but that is the kind of tough spot that a four-game losing streak in February puts a team in.

Michigan State: 8-seed

Games this week: at Purdue on Sat.

There was certainly a healthy amount of bad luck that went into Michigan State’s loss to Ohio State Sunday. Dale Bonner hit as contested a three as you will see to cap a furious second-half comeback. But when you factor in the Spartans’ loss to Iowa, in which the Hawkeyes clearly looked like the better team for much of the game, things get more dicey. Two straight home losses to non-tournament projected teams at this point in the schedule is not a good look.

Northwestern: 9-seed

Games this week: at Maryland on Wed., vs. Iowa on Sat.

The Wildcats are currently the No. 3 seed in the conference and do not play Purdue or Illinois in any of their four remaining games. The flip side of their 8-0 home conference record is their 2-6 mark in Big Ten games played away from Evanston, making upcoming games at Maryland and Michigan State tough propositions.

Nebraska: 10-seed

Games this week: at Ohio State on Thu., vs. Rutgers on Sun.

The Cornhuskers made it four straight victories by taking down Indiana and Minnesota last week. They are one game behind Northwestern and Wisconsin for one of those precious Big Ten Tournament byes granted to the top four seeds, but given that they finish against Ohio State, Rutgers and Michigan – which are a combined 15-35 in conference play – Nebraska should feel solid about its chances.

Men’s College Basketball on Peacock

You can watch Big Ten basketball games by first subscribing to Peacock. Then, either go to in your web browser or download the Peacock app on your phone, tablet, or streaming device and navigate to the Sports section. Find the LIVE game you want to watch and start streaming.

Eligible students can sign-up for Peacock’s Student Discount offer, available for $1.99/month. For more information and to sign-up, click here.

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