The Big Ten regular season is nearly in the books and the Big Ten Tournament is just around the corner, so it's time to start thinking about seeds. How are Big Ten seeds determined? Good question. It's not a terribly transaprent process. While the Pac-12 has a rules handbook that sheds some light on how seeds are determined, the Big Ten has no such document available (that I could find). We do know that records against Big Ten opponents, particularly records in Big Ten duals, matter the most and that head-to-head results are very important. National rankings are supposedly not much of a factor in the seeds, but that hasn't always seemed to be the case in the past and it seems inevitable that they would be considered when records are equal and head-to-head tiebreakers don't exist.
Speaking of head-to-head tiebreakers -- or rather the lack thereof -- the Big Ten's imbalanced schedule this year has created some real problems at several weights. Power in the Big Ten has really become consolidated among Penn State, Iowa, Ohio State, and Michigan (and Illinois and Nebraska to lesser extents), so the fact that the Big Ten created a schedule that didn't have Iowa wrestling Penn State, Ohio State, or Michigan has created some real headaches. Those head-to-head tiebreakers between top guys that should exist simply don't because they never faced one another during the regular season. Once again: good job, good effort, Delanybot 9000.
Before we begin, a big tip o' the hat to Black Shoe Diaries' bscaff, who did a lot of the heavy lifting on the data for these seeds. He posted his own seed projections over at BSD, so feel free to give those a click. The projections here are mostly the same, although I did tweak a few weights. But big thanks to bscaff!
And off we go...
PROJECTED NCAA BIDS: At least 6, maybe 7-8
SEEDING CHATTER: As we'll see throughout these projections, the lack of a dual between Iowa and Ohio State (or Iowa and Penn State) during the regular season really complicates the seeding process because in many cases more than one top guy at each weight has been able to make it through the season undefeated. How to split those hairs? Good question. Tomasello has one more B1G dual this weekend (against Wisconsin), so he should get to 9-0 against Big Ten opponents and 8-0 in Big Ten dual meets; should Gilman get the nod because he wrestled one more Big Ten dual meet than Tomasello? Probably not, and that hasn't been the practice in the past, either. In this case, Tomasello is the higher-ranked wrestler as well as the defending Big Ten and NCAA champion. Whether that stuff should matter or not, it probably will help tip Tomasello into the #1 seed.
IOWA PROJECTION: This is a three-horse race, between Tomasello, Gilman, and Megaludis, so there's certainly an advantage to being the #1 seed and only having to face one of those guys rather than being the #2 or #3 guy and having to beat both of the other two to win a Big Ten championship. Still, that seems likely to be Gilman's path at this weight, barring some very unexpected upsets. He's wrestled at a high level all season but hasn't faced many elite wrestlers at 125; to claim a Big Ten title, he's going to need to prove he can beat elite opposition.
PROJECTED NCAA BIDS: At least 10
SEEDING CHATTER: This one looks fairly cut-and-dry at the top of the seeds -- Richards is undefeated and beat both Clark and Conaway. Clark and Conaway have no head-to-head results and each lost to Richards; Clark's higher national ranking should see him ranked above Conaway, though. Alexander and Taylor complicate the seeding process; Alexander has an undefeated record in the Big Ten (but in just six matches), while Taylor has history (Big Ten runner-up a year ago) and a high national ranking (#7), but a small body of work. It's difficult to guess exactly where they got slotted, although they have a head-to-head match coming up that should settle that. Untangling Bruno, Malone, DiJulius, and Montoya in the 6-9 seeds is also a headache.
IOWA PROJECTION: It really doesn't matter whether Clark is #2 or #3 -- either way he'll be on the opposite side of the bracket from Richards and have a possible semifinal match-up with Conaway. These seedings would also put DiJulius and Montoya on the opposite side of the bracket from Clark, which might be desirable -- he only beat Montoya 2-0 earlier this year and he went 1-2 against DiJulius last year, with the two wins coming by a combined three points (2-1 and 2-0). The fact that the Big Ten will qualify so many guys at this weight is bad news for Clark if he gets a #2 seed -- that will give him a bye in the first round and deny him a chance to get bonus points against a weak opponent in the first round instead.
PROJECTED NCAA BIDS: At least 7, maybe 8
SEEDING CHATTER: Micah Jordan is undefeated in Big Ten action, so he's an easy choice for the #1 seed. Things get tricky after that. Thorn has a win over Ashnault, but a loss to Abidin. Ashnault has a loss to Thorn, but wins over everyone else he's faced in the Big Ten (including Abidin). Gulibon has a better winning percentage against Big Ten opponents than Abidin, but he's also wrestled two-thirds as many matches and has no wins as good as Abidin's win over Thorn; it would not be a surprise to see those seeds flipped. Gulibon seems to have the edge for now on the basis of his higher winning percentage (and ranking).
IOWA PROJECTION: It's not easy to figure out where to put Grothus. He's seen limited action this year and hasn't blown away the competition in that limited action. He also has no history at 141 and doesn't even have any particularly notable history at his previous weight (149). I'll have a hard time arguing with wherever the Big Ten decides to slot him. Likewise, that limited track record also makes it hard to determine what would be a good draw (or a bad draw) for Grothus. We just need to see Brody in action and let the chips fall where they may. He'll likely need a top-8 (maybe top-7) finish to qualify for the NCAA Tournament and he'd better do that because his odds of getting a wildcard bid don't look great.
PROJECTED NCAA BIDS: 7, maybe 8
SEEDING CHATTER: Retherford and Sorensen are the clear 1-2 guys at this weight: both are undefeated in Big Ten competition (and overall). Sorensen was the Big Ten runner-up at this weight a year ago, while Retherford was the Big Ten runner-up at 141 two years ago (he redshirted last year). Like 125, I expect national rankings to be the ultimate tiebreaker here and that favors Retherford over Sorensen. T-shirt seems low at the #6 seed, but it's hard to slot him higher with his underwhelming record this season. That said, Northwestern has a dual with Nebraska on Friday night -- if he's able to beat Sueflohn there, he could vault up a few slots.
IOWA PROJECTION: If Sueflohn and Tsirtsis moved to the #4 and #5 seeds, that might not be such a bad thing -- it would put them on the opposite side of the bracket from him, which would make for an easier path to the finals. That said, Pantaleo wouldn't be a pushover in a possible semifinal match -- Sorensen went 3-0 against him last year, but all three matches were very tight (2-1, 2-0, 3-1 in sudden victory).
PROJECTED NCAA BIDS: 8
SEEDING CHATTER: Nolf is undefeated with a win over Martinez, so he's the obvious #1. Martinez's only loss is to Nolf, so he's the clear #2. Lewis' only loss came to Cooper, although he avenged that loss at Midlands; I don't think Cooper's head-to-head win over Lewis is enough to trump Lewis' better record against Big Ten opponents (and overall). Jake Ryan (son of OSU coach Tom Ryan) has seen limited action and he might get placed below Cooper; for now, I gave him the edge based on his better winning percentage (and ranking). Murphy has a nice ranking, but a lousy record, which I think will hurt him when it comes to seeding.
IOWA PROJECTION: This weight is all about seeing who can navigate the consolation bracket and finish third for all the wrestlers outside of Nolf and Martinez; those two guys are on a crash course for the finals here. Cooper has wins over most of these guys (and close losses to Mascala and Lewis), so if he can put things together he certainly could find himself at 3rd or 4th at this weight.
|1||I Jordan (WIS)||3||18-0||8-0||7-0|
|2||B Jordan (OSU)||2||13-0||7-0||7-0|
PROJECTED NCAA BIDS: 7
SEEDING CHATTER: The Jordan cousins are the pick at #1 and #2 here, with Isaac getting the nod for the #1 seed thanks to his superior conference record and his status as the returning Big Ten champion here. That said, I wouldn't be totally surprised if they gave Bo the #1 seed, either. And they're slated to wrestle this weekend, so hey, they can just go ahead and settle the issue on the mat. Choosing between Perrotti and Rodrigues after that is tricky, but Perrotti's superior winning percentage probably gives him the edge.
IOWA PROJECTION: Unless they seed everyone at this weight, Rhoads isn't too likely to actually get seeded here. And since this weight isn't one where the Big Ten figures to send a ton of guys (it's hard to see any more than 7 bids here), they aren't going to seed everyone. The question for Rhoads is how many wrestlers the Big Ten will qualify at this weight; Rhoads will probably need to finish in one of those automatic qualifier spots in order to make it to the NCAA Tournament -- he's not going to have a strong case to earn a wildcard bid. There's a pretty sizable drop-off after the top 6-7 guys at this weight, so if the Big Ten is able to qualify at least 8 slots here, he should have a fighting chance to make it to the NCAA Tournament. If they only get 7 bids, though, he's going to need to have a really good tournament to make it.
PROJECTED NCAA BIDS: 8, maybe 9
SEEDING CHATTER: This is an interesting weight. Meyer is the only one with an undefeated record in Big Ten competition, but he also didn't face four of the top five guys at this weight and he's only the third-highest ranked. He did beat Jackson, who handed Nickal his only loss of the season. Brunson has looked excellent outside of his loss to Nickal, but injuries cost him a chunk of the season. If conference record is the be-all, end-all, Meyer should get the #1 seed here. If they consider other factors (including strength of schedule), Nickal probably gets the nod.
IOWA PROJECTION: Getting the #1 seed would be a big help for Meyer; as it stands, he's looking at a very tricky match-up against Brunson in the semis. He staged a memorable comeback and beat Brunson with a last-second pin last year, but Brunson is wrestling very well this year and Meyer has looked shaky at times, so a rematch could certainly go Brunson's way. It would also be beneficial if Meyer only had to wrestle Nickal or Brunson instead of both, but ultimately Meyer's success at this weight is going to be determined by whether we see the aggressive, high-motor Meyer we saw last year or the more conservative, low-tempo Meyer that we've seen for much of this season. The former Meyer can probably contend for a title; the latter Meyer probably can't.
PROJECTED NCAA BIDS: 7
SEEDING CHATTER: There are some other weights that are difficult to seed, but this one is the true nightmare. Abounader is the clear choice as the #1 seed as the only undefeated (in Big Ten action) guy at this weight. But after that? Good luck. Brooks went 8-1, but got pinned by Dudley. But Dudley lost to McCutcheon and Gravina. McCutcheon beat Dudley, but also lost to Koepke. Gravina's only loss was to Brooks and he could get up to 6-1 in Big Ten duals (8-1 overall) if he can gets win over Irick and Lynde this weekend. There are a lot of different ways to sort the guys seeded #2-5 here, frankly.
IOWA PROJECTION: Brooks has career wins over Abounader, Dudley, McCutcheon, Courts, and Koepke, so he's certainly capable of winning this weight if he can avoid costly mistakes. Of course, he's also lost to Abounader, Dudley, and McCutcheon in his career, so he's very capable of getting tripped up, too. This could be a wild, wild weight class. I don't know that it really matters a lot where Brooks ends up seeded, given how tightly bunched all of the top guys are at this weight. (Abounader went undefeated in the Big Ten, but he also didn't face Brooks, McCutcheon, or Dudley in the regular season.)
PROJECTED NCAA BIDS: 5, maybe 6
SEEDING CHATTER: This weight looks pretty straightforward. McIntosh and Pfarr are both undefeated in Big Ten duals, but McIntosh is undefeated overall -- and has a win over Pfarr at the Southern Scuffle. Burak and Huntley each suffered their only Big Ten loss against Pfarr; Burak gets the edge over Huntley due to his superior Big Ten (and overall) record.
IOWA PROJECTION: We've known for a while that Burak was unlikely to be the #1 seed at this weight (he had no real shot unless McIntosh got injured or upset), so it's been likely for a while that his path would (likely) involve getting past Pfarr in the semis and McIntosh in the finals -- that's still the case now. Pfarr won the first match with Burak at the dual meet, but it was close and Burak could absolutely take the rematch.
PROJECTED NCAA BIDS: Around 6 (which could down by one if Jensen is injured and out for the remainder of the season)
SEEDING CHATTER: The Coon-Stoll issue would make this weight a little tricky to seed to begin with, but adding Snyder to the mix totally throws a monkey wrench into things. Stoll has the better record against Big Ten competition (although Coon has another B1G dual this weekend, so he should get to 9-0), but Coon has the higher ranking (and was 3rd at the Big Ten Tournament a year ago, for whatever that's worth). Snyder was Big Ten and NCAA runner-up a year ago (at 197 lbs), has a high ranking, and has looked impressive at heavyweight so far (albeit in just two matches), but has just two matches at his present weight. I have no real idea how that knot gets untied, but I feel like Snyder just can't be ranked over a guy with an undefeated record in the conference on the basis of just 2-4 matches. It just seems to devalue the regular season too much. Beyond that, Smith gets the nod over Kroells thanks to his head-to-head win.
IOWA PROJECTION: From an Iowa standpoint, the ideal outcome here would be a #1 seed for Stoll and Coon and Snyder at the #2 and #3 seeds in some order, ensuring that he only had to face one of them. That said, I don't think that outcome is very likely. I think Coon is the best bet to be #1, with Stoll and Snyder at #2 and #3, in some order. That said, maybe Snyder gets penalized in the seeding process a bit more for his lack of matches; it's really hard to guess how this will shake out.
For the record, if everything went exactly according to these seeds (and that will absolutely not happen, but humor me), these would be the point totals (minus bonus points) for the top 4 teams:
1) 142.0 -- Penn State
2) 125.0 -- Iowa
3) 112.0 -- Ohio State
4) 107.5 -- Michigan