Bracketology: The relative Big Ten strength and the field as it stands

With the non-conference schedule wrapping up, let’s take a peak at how this week’s Bracketology turned out.

When you take a peak at the early-season rankings, there is one major thing missing: the Big Ten in the top-10.

It has become a staple in the last several years to see a team like Michigan State, or Ohio State, or Wisconsin, or Indiana, or a combination of many others to be splattered across that top tier entering conference play. But that’s not the case this year. And that begs the question: Where is the Big Ten?

To put it simply, the conference is just fine. In fact, it might be better than ever this season.

With just a few games left before conference play begins, there is only one team, Nebraska, under .500 in the entire conference. And although the non-conference schedule for some teams is relatively weak, the conference is touting a 120-41 (.745) record to this point in the season.

In the bracket below, the Big Ten sends eight teams to the tournament, which would be second behind the ACC. And on top of these great numbers, we are seeing the emergence of several programs once thought to be oversights in the conference.

For starters, let’s take a look at Northwestern, a team that has never made the NCAA Tournament. Led by guard Bryant McIntosh, the Wildcats are off to a blazing 9-2 start, with losses to just Butler and Notre Dame, who are both ranked opponents. They have also found themselves at a number seven seed in the bracket below, a feat most did not see coming entering the season.

On top of the Wildcats, Rutgers (yes, that Rutgers) and Minnesota are a combined 22-2 to start the season.

Following those hot starts come the usual stand-by’s. Maryland, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Purdue are all legitimate top-25 teams, with Michigan and Northwestern right there knocking on the door.

Lastly, might I remind you that this is all happening in a down year by conference powerhouse Michigan State, who is struggling at 7-5?

So before you say that the Big Ten is having a down year, take a look at their depth, because that conference will make you play hard for all 40 minutes every single night to get the W.


1 VILLANOVA
16 NC CENTRAL/UC-IRVINE

8 Virginia Tech
9 Seton Hall

4 Wisconsin
13 Texas-Arlington

5 Xavier
12 Nevada

6 Florida
11 Miami

3 Louisville
14 Bucknell

7 Saint Mary’s
10 Providence

2 North Carolina
15 Yale

1 KANSAS
16 EWU/LIU-BROOKLYN

8 Arkansas
9 Iowa State

4 Purdue
13 MONMOUTH

5 South Carolina
12 NC-WILMINGTON

6 Notre Dame
11 Texas Christian

3 Creighton
14 FGCU

7 Southern California
10 Ohio State

2 DUKE
15 VERMONT

1 KENTUCKY
16 WINTHROP

8 Minnesota
9 Syracuse

4 West Virginia
13 CHATTANOOGA

5 Florida State
12 VALPARASO

6 Maryland
11 Rhode Island/VCU

3 Butler
14 Fort Wayne

7 Northwestern
10 WICHITA STATE

2 GONZAGA
15 TEXAS SOUTHERN

1 Baylor
16 SAM HOUSTON STATE

8 Michigan
9 Texas A&M

4 INDIANA
13 OHIO

5 Arizona
12 MIDDLE TENNESSEE

6 Oregon
11 Clemson/Oklahoma State

3 Virginia
14 TENNESSEE STATE

7 Cincinnati
10 DAYTON

2 UCLA
15 NEW MEXICO STATE

You might not see your team in the seeding above, but is this the time to panic? Well, if you’re in a major conference like the ACC or the Big Ten, then no, but if you are sitting in a mid-major with a relatively low strength of schedule, then maybe it is.

All it takes is a few big wins against RPI top teams and no disastrous losses, and you could see your team make a move into the bracket really quickly. But for now, here are the teams that barely squeaked in, and those that are right on the edge:

Last Four In:

Clemson

Oklahoma State

Rhode Island

VCU

First Four Out:

Colorado

Michigan State

Pittsburgh

Southern Methodist

Bids by Conference Breakdown:

 ACC: 10    Big Ten: 8

Pac-12: 4    Big 12: 6

Big East: 6    SEC: 5

A-10: 3    West Coast: 2

Comment below, or tweet at @bustingbrackets or @hardwiredsports to discuss this week’s Bracketology. May your bubble remain intact throughout the next stretch of games.

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