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PROJECTING THE BIG TEN TOURNAMENT HOOPS FIELD

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What seed might Iowa end up with for the hoops version of the Big Ten Tournament?

Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

There are just two weeks left in the Big Ten regular season, which means the Big Ten Tournament is right around the corner.  In fact, the BTT gets underway in Chicago just two weeks from tomorrow.  If Iowa is able to take care of business in their remaining four regular season games -- or at least avoid any egregiously bad losses -- they probably won't need to worry about winning a game or two in the Big Ten Tournament to lock up an NCAA Tournament bid.  But wins in the BTT could help them shore up a better seed in the big tournament, which would be nice.  So let's take a look at where things might shake out with the BTT seeds.

(via @BTNLive)

The old "if the season ended right now" seeds have Iowa as the #6 seed with their 8-6 Big Ten record.  They have the edge over Ohio State thanks to Iowa's season sweep of the Buckeyes (never quite gets old, does it?). The #6 seed isn't a bad spot for Iowa, frankly -- they'd get the winner of the #11 vs #14 game, which at this point would be Rutgers versus Nebraska.  Win that game and Iowa would get the #3 seed, who projects to be Purdue.  Those would be winnable games.  The other nice thing about being a #6 seed?  Iowa could avoid Wisconsin until a potential meeting in the Big Ten Championship Game; given how poorly Iowa's first two run-ins with the Badgers went this season, avoiding them as long as possible is probably a prudent approach.  Of course, those hypothetical games also have a downside -- beating Rutgers/Nebraska or Purdue wouldn't boost Iowa's resume very much.

But we don't care what the Big Ten Tournament would look like now -- we care what it might look like when the regular season wraps up in two weeks.  Luckily, we can do that, too.  This simulator has popped up a few times in the comments around here, but if you haven't seen it yet it's worth a click.  You pick the winners of the remaining Big Ten games, click submit, and it does the rest, popping out a set of final conference standings and a mock bracket (that takes Big Ten tiebreaker procedures into account).

And after playing around with the simulator for a bit, it starts to seem like a #5 seed might be the most likely outcome for Iowa.  That presumes a 3-1 record for Iowa in their remaining games (losing to Indiana) and the likes of Indiana, Ohio State, Michigan State, and Purdue (the teams closest to Iowa in the standings) winning the games that they ought to win.  Even a 4-0 record for Iowa doesn't change much.

After Iowa's hot start to conference play -- and again after the back-to-back wins over Michigan and Maryland -- we could plausibly entertain the possibility of a top-4 seed for Iowa (and a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament). Unfortunately, it looks like Iowa's two-game skid against Minnesota and Northwestern probably put an end to that dream.  The problem for Iowa is that those losses removed Iowa's cushion and dropped them into a convoluted mess of teams.  Those losses made it far more difficult for Iowa to finish ahead of Purdue and Michigan State, even though those teams have more difficult closing stretches than Iowa. Unfortunately, they lose out on head-to-head tiebreakers to those teams.   (Add Indiana to that list if they beat the Hawkeyes.)

The #5 seed winds up looking likely for Iowa because of the way the schedule projects teams to bunch together.  Like Iowa, Ohio State (also 8-6 in league play) has a fairly soft remaining schedule (Nebraska, Purdue, @Penn State, Wisconsin).  Indiana is a game up on Iowa in the win column (9-6), but could easily finish with a similar record as Iowa (@N'western, Iowa, Michigan State).  Michigan State and Purdue are both 10-4 in league play, but have some tricky games remaining.  (MSU: Minnesota, @Wisconsin, Purdue, @Indiana; Purdue: Rutgers, @Ohio State, @Michigan State, Illinois).  Still, as we already noted, those teams own head-to-head tiebreakers over Iowa, so we really need them to lose more games than Iowa and finish below the Hawkeyes in the standings in order to have any hope of moving ahead of them in the standings.

If they can't get a top-4 seed (and that seems unlikely), then my preference would be for Iowa to get a #6 or #7 seed, since that would enable them to avoid Wisconsin as long as possible.  What about you?  What seed would you like to see Iowa get?  How do you think the seeds will shake out in the Big Ten?  Play around with the simulator and post your results in the comments.