3/8 Bubble Watch and Big Ten Tourmament Jockeying: Where Iowa Stands Now

IT'S ALL SO CONFUSING. - Mary Langenfeld-US PRESSWIRE

Bubble yum.

There's only one more weekend to go, but the Big Ten seeding situation is just as messy as ever -- at least for 2/3 of the league.

Current standings:

1) Indiana (13-4)
t-2) Michigan (12-5)
t-2) Michigan State (12-5)
t-2) Ohio State (12-5)
5) Wisconsin (11-6)
t-6) Illinois (8-9)
t-6) Iowa (8-9)
t-6) Minnesota (8-9)
9) Purdue (7-10)
10) Nebraska (5-12)
11) Northwestern (4-13)
12) Penn State (2-15)

* Indiana can lock up the regular season title with a win over Michigan.

* An Indiana loss, though... then things get funky. There would be at least a two-team tie (Indiana and Michigan) and likely a three-team tie (Michigan State only has to beat Northwestern in East Lansing... so yeah, let's pencil them in at 13-5). If Ohio State beats Illinois also, then we'd have a four-team tie for first place. But all that would really do is increase the number of regular season conference trophies Jim Delany would have to roll out -- as Friend of the Pants Brendan Stiles so helpfully points out, Indiana has already secured the #1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament.

* As far as the 2/3/4 seeds, well, click on that link from Stiles -- he breaks down the possibilities very well there. It looks like Ohio State has inside track to the #2 seed.

* Meanwhile, that streak of Bo Ryan always finishing in the top-4 in the Big Ten (11 years and counting)? It's toast unless Michigan, Michigan State, or Ohio State lose this weekend. If they all win, the best Bo's Badgers can do is 5th in the league. If at least one of them loses, then the Buzzcuts can backdoor into a tie for 4th. That loss to Purdue really did a number on their chances.

* In terms of the 6/7/8/9 picture, so far results have broken perfectly for Iowa to get the #6 seed. Iowa needed to beat Illinois -- they did. Iowa needed Minnesota to lose -- they did. Iowa needed Purdue to lose -- they did. Huzzah! There are two ways Iowa can get the #6 seed now.

Option one: Iowa beats Nebraska, Minnesota loses to Purdue. (Illinois' game with Ohio State becomes irrelevant in this scenario because Iowa holds the tiebreaker over the Illini.)

Option two: Iowa beats Nebraska, Minnesota beats Purdue, and Illinois beats Ohio State. This creates a three-time tie between the Hawkeyes, Gophers, and Illini, which Iowa would win by virtue of the best record in the games played between those three teams (2-1 versus Minnesota's 2-2 and Illinois' 1-2).

Option two seems less plausible than option one (I don't like the odds of Illinois beating OSU in Columbus), so it's time to blow our train whistles in support of OMHR this weekend, in hopes that they can topple the Gophers. If Iowa and Minnesota both win, Minnesota would take the #6 seed over Iowa (by virtue of their win over Indiana).

* And why do we want the #6 seed? Because the #6 seed is going to play Northwestern. And Northwestern just lost to Penn State. At home. On Senior Night. The bottom, she has fallen out. Northwestern looks like an Iowa team at the end of a season under Lickliter, just staggering to the finish line, hoping to make it there before another limb falls off or they bleed out. I would like to put them out of their misery next Thursday in the Big Ten Tournament.

* Anyway, the 10/11/12 seeds are set now. Nebraska has the 10-seed locked up thanks to their surprise win over Minnesota (the power of the Bob Devaney Center compels you!) and Northwestern's shame spiral implosion against Penn State. Meanwhile, Penn State has two wins, which is astounding given where they were a few weeks ago, but still not enough to lift them out of the #12 spot.

Meanwhile, whither the NCAA Tournament? Still on the outside looking in, but edging closer to the good side of the bubble. Mainly because the other bubble teams keep losing.

Let's take a look at the other teams competing for those last few bubble spots, using this wonderful Bracket Matrix, which aggregates loads of mock brackets:

St. Mary's (CA)
LAST: They clobbered Santa Clara, 80-67, in their regular season finale.
NEXT: regular season done. They'll play the #7 seed in the WCC Tournament, Portland, tonight. Root for the Pilots.

If they make the finals (against, presumably, Gonzaga), I think they stand a good chance of making the field of 64 68. If they lose before that, then things could get interesting.

Temple
LAST: They whalloped Fordham, 74-55.
NEXT: They host #21 VCU on Sunday.

I don't think a loss to VCU would kill their bubble hopes -- but a win would certainly boost their standing. GO RAMS.

La Salle
LAST: They beat George Washington, 84-70.
NEXT: They're at #16 Saint Louis tomorrow afternoon.

Same as Temple: a loss might not kill their bubble hopes, but a win would be huge. A win for the Explorers would be massive, actually, since they would be beating a more highly-ranked team and they'd be doing it on the road. GO BILLIKENS.

Virginia
LAST: They lost back-to-back road games to Boston College (53-52) and Florida State (53-51).
NEXT: They play fellow bubble team Maryland in a loser-leaves-the-bubble match on Sunday.

Remember a week ago when Virginia beat Duke? Things were looking good for the Cavaliers back then. Now? Not so much. The Boston College loss hurts more than the Florida State loss, but neither is good, especially at this point of the season. If they lose to Maryland, Virginia may need to do something really wacky, like make the ACC Tournament finals.

Boise State
LAST: They lost at UNLV, 68-64.
NEXT: They play San Diego State tomorrow.

GO AZTECS.

Iowa State
LAST: They beat #13 Oklahoma State, 87-76, this week.
NEXT: They play at West Virginia tomorrow.

Iowa State looked like they could go in one of two ways after their recent mini-skid left them teetering on the bubble: turn things around and finish strong with wins over Okie State and West Virginia or totally implode and take themselves further and further from the safety of the bracket. It looks like they chose door number one. On the bright side, at least their success makes Iowa's win over them look better.

Villanova
LAST: They won their regular season finale over #5 Georgetown earlier this week.
NEXT: A Big East Tournament game.

Nova has some baffling losses on their resume (They lost to Columbia! By 18!), but they also have three wins over teams ranked in the top-5 at the time they played them (and who are all still top-20 teams now): Louisville, Syracuse, and Georgetown. That's going to be difficult to overlook. They should probably avoid losing their first BET game, but I think they're mostly pretty safe.

Kentucky
LAST: They lost at Arkansas, 73-60, and at Georgia, 72-62.
NEXT: They host #11 Florida tomorrow.

Losing to Arkansas was one thing, but losing to Georgia? WOOF. That could be a killer. That said, a win over Florida could turn things around, so: GO GATORS.

Tennessee
LAST: They lost at Georgia, 78-68, and won at Auburn, 82-75.
NEXT: They host Missouri tomorrow.

Georgia is like a one-team bubble-popping crew lately. GO DAWGS. A loss to Auburn would have been a gutpunch for Tennessee's hopes. A win over Missouri would a good feather in their cap, so: GO TIGERS.

Ole Miss
LAST: They lost at Mississippi State, 73-67, and beat Alabama, 87-83.
NEXT: They play at LSU tomorrow.

Ole Miss has lost to Texas A&M, South Carolina, and Mississippi State this year, which should by itself almost be enough to disqualify them from NCAA Tournament consideration. (USC and MSU both have RPIs in the 200s.) A loss to LSU might just finish them off, barring something bananas in the SEC Tournament, so: GO TIGERS (again).

Southern Miss
LAST: They lost at Marshall, 88-84.
NEXT: They host UCF tomorrow.

Losing to Marshall (RPI: 198) was not good. Let's hope UCF puts a stake through their bubble aspirations tomorrow. (GO KNIGHTS.)

Arizona State
LAST: They lost at USC, 57-56.
NEXT: They play at #18 Arizona tomorrow.

The Sun Devils are riding a 3-game losing streak into tomorrow's in-state grudge match, so they're doing a pretty solid job of playing their way out of NCAA Tournament consideration. It would be nice if Arizona could finish the job, though. GO WILDCATS.

Maryland
LAST: They lost to North Carolina, 79-68.
NEXT: They play at Virginia on Sunday.

As noted earlier, Maryland-Virginia is a bit of a win-or-go-home game for both teams in terms of the bubble. Outside of wins over Duke and NC State, Maryland doesn't have a lot working in their favor. A loss to Virginia could really damage their tourney hopes, barring some wACCkiness.

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