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Breaking Down Some Big Ten Tournament Scenarios

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Seeds, seeds, and more seeds.

WHY IS A PICTURE OF MY DOG IN YOUR CROWD, INDIANA?  WHY?
WHY IS A PICTURE OF MY DOG IN YOUR CROWD, INDIANA? WHY?
USA TODAY Sports

CURRENT STANDINGS

1) Indiana (13-3)
2) Michigan (11-5)
2) Michigan State (11-5)
2) Ohio State (11-5)
2) Wisconsin (11-5)
6) Illinois (8-8)
6) Minnesota (8-8)
8) Iowa (7-9)
8) Purdue (7-9)
10) Nebraska (4-12)
10) Northwestern (4-12)
12) Penn State (1-15)

THE #1 SEED

If Indiana wins either of their two remaining games (Ohio State, at Michigan), they'll clinch the #1 seed and the undisputed Big Ten regular season title. If they lose both, then things could get messy.

THE #2-5 SEEDS

In some combination, this will be Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Wisconsin -- unless Indiana loses both of their remaining games, and then they become an option in this grouping as well. No one else can claim a top-5 seed in the Big Ten, though.

KEY GAMES
3/5: Ohio State at Indiana
3/7: Wisconsin at Michigan State
3/10: Indiana at Michigan

THE #10-11 SEEDS

Nebraska and Northwestern are vying for these two seeds. Currently, both teams have 4-12 records and Nebraska holds the tiebreaker advantage for the #10 seed, thanks to their head-to-head win over jNW. However, jNW probably has a slightly easier remaining schedule:

jNW remaining schedule
3/7: Penn State at Northwestern
3/10: Northwestern at Michigan State

Nebraska remaining schedule
3/6: Minnesota at Nebraska
3/9: Nebraska at Iowa

The most winnable game there is unquestionably Penn State's trip to Evanston, so the 'Cats appear to have the best shot at finishing 5-13 and wrapping up the 10-seed themselves. That said, Nebraska has pulled some home upsets this year (sigh) so Minnesota should be wary; they also already own one win over Iowa this year (double sigh) so the Hawkeyes should also be wary.

THE #12 SEED

Penn State avoided the ignominy of an 0-18 season, but they aren't going to avoid a 12-seed in the Big Ten Tournament. That's written in stone at this point.

But the 6-9 seeds -- that's where our interest lies, because that's where Iowa will land in the bracket this year.

THE #6-9 SEEDs

* The only way Iowa can claim the 6-seed by themselves is if Indiana and Minnesota both lose all of their remaining games and if Purdue loses one more game.

That's a lot of things that need to break Iowa's way.

* If Iowa ties with Minnesota
-- the head-to-head tiebreaker would be a wash (1-1)
-- the next tiebreaker is record versus the team in first in the regular season standings; this favors Minnesota, given their recent win over Indiana, so Minnesota would come out on top

* If Iowa ties with Illinois
-- the head-to-head tiebreaker would favor Iowa (1-0), so Iowa would come out on top

* If Iowa ties with Purdue
-- the head-to-head tiebreaker would be a wash (1-1)
-- the next tiebreaker is record versus the team in first in the regular season standings; this would likely favor Purdue because Iowa's record against the B1G top-5 will finish 1-6, while theirs would likely have to finish 2-6 (in order to finish in a tie with only Iowa for the 6-seed, they would have to beat Michigan this week)

So to recap: if Iowa is tied with one other team for the #6 seed, they're probably not going to get it, unless that other team is Illinois.

* If Iowa ties with Minnesota and Illinois
-- the tiebreaker is the head-to-head record among the tied teams
-- in this case, that would be:
Iowa (2-1)
Minnesota (2-2)
Illinois (1-2)

Iowa would get the #6 seed in this scenario.

* If Iowa ties with Illinois and Purdue
-- the tiebreaker is the head-to-head record among the tied teams
-- in this case, that would be:
Iowa (2-1)
Purdue (2-2)
Illinois (1-2)

Iowa would get the #6 seed in this scenario.

* If Iowa ties with Minnesota and Purdue
-- the tiebreaker is the head-to-head record among the tied teams
-- in this case, that would be:
Purdue (2-1)
Iowa (2-2)
Minnesota (1-2)

Purdue would get the #6 seed in this scenario.

Three-team tie scenarios work out well for Iowa, unless Illinois is not one of the teams in said three-team tie.

* If Iowa ties with Minnesota, Illinois, AND Purdue (yes, this could technically happen)
-- the tiebreaker is the head-to-head record among the tied teams
-- in this case, that would be:
Iowa (3-2)
Purdue (3-2)
Illinois (2-3)
Minnesota (2-3)

In this scenario, I believe the next tiebreaker would essentially be the one we looked at when Iowa and Purdue were just tied -- and that one favored Purdue, so I suspect the same would be true here.

Iowa remaining schedule
3/5: Illinois at Iowa
3/9: Nebraska at Iowa

Illinois remaining schedule
3/5: Illinois at Iowa
3/10: Illinois at Ohio State

Minnesota remaining schedule
3/6: Minnesota at Nebraska
3/9: Minnesota at Purdue

Purdue remaining schedule
3/6: Michigan at Purdue
3/9: Minnesota at Purdue

For Iowa to have a shot at the #6 or #7 seeds, they must beat Illinois tomorrow night. A loss will lock them into the #8 or #9 seed. Obviously, there's really no difference between the #8 and #9 seeds except which jersey you get to wear in that game.

Realistically, I think Iowa is looking at the #7 or #8 seed. It just seems like a few too many things likely need to break their way to get the #6 seed right now (most notably, Minnesota losing both of their remaining games) and I don't think they'll fall to the #9 seed unless they lose both of their remaining games. The #7 seed is very reachable with a win over Illinois; that would give them a first-round game against either Nebraska or Northwestern and a hypothetical second-round game against whoever the #2 seed winds up being (and trying to figure that out right now gives me a nosebleed). The #8 seed probably means a first-round game against Purdue (the only way they're climbing out of the 8/9 spot is by sweeping both of their remaining games... which seems unlikely against Michigan and Minnesota) and a hypothetical second-round game against Indiana.

We'll check the scenarios again after the mid-week Big Ten games; the scenarios should be much clearer by that point.