The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee released its first edition of the top 16 seeds for March Madness on Saturday. And the Big Ten was shut out.
Selection Sunday is about four weeks away, and the Big Ten has a lot of work to do.
The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee, led by chairman and Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis, revealed on Saturday how the top of the field would look if the season ended right now. The panel unveiled its top 16 seeds (the top four in each region) ahead of the bracket’s full reveal on March 12.
And the Big Ten was shut out of a top 16 seed.
Villanova, Kansas, Baylor and Gonzaga were the selections as the four No. 1 seeds.
“The 1’s are clearly the 1’s,” Hollis said.
And the #B1G clearly has a steep hill to climb in order to get at least one team onto a top four seed line.
If the season came to an end today, Jim Delany’s league would not be represented on one of the top four seed lines. If that status holds, it would be the first time the league has been shut out of the top 16 since 2004—the only time since the tournament expanded to 64 or 68 that the league has missed on the top four seed lines.
But the league doesn’t have to panic yet. Greg Gard and Wisconsin, which faces Northwestern at home on Sunday evening, sit at 21-3 and 10-1 in league play, which certainly raises eyebrows as to why the Badgers missed out on Saturday. However, a closer look at the team’s résumé shows that the Badgers are 2-3 against the RPI Top 50. That’s an important metric, like it or not. Additionally, Wisconsin has a weak non-conference schedule.
Still, the Badgers sit atop the Big Ten with one league loss and have won eight in a row as well as 17 of their last 18 games. The lone Big Ten loss was at Purdue. It was surprising that Wisconsin was not in the initial 16. Could Duke’s win against UNC on Thursday have bumped the Badgers?
While the Badgers’ play as of late hasn’t been very appealing, especially the overtime win over Rutgers at Madison Square Garden, Ethan Happ and Co. can still win both the regular season and conference tourney titles to make it onto a top four seed line come Selection Sunday.
What about Purdue (20-5, 9-3) and Maryland (20-4, 8-3)? The Boilermakers, who have wins over Notre Dame, the Badgers, Northwestern and the Terrapins, are playing their best basketball of the season. And Matt Painter’s squad has given Wisconsin its lone league loss. But the losses at home to Minnesota, at Iowa and at Nebraska may cost them a shot at a second league title since 1996. The Terps, meanwhile, have the lethal combo of not having enough quality wins along with a couple of bad losses.
On Selection Sunday, will it be “On, Wisconsin!” with a top four seed line? The Badgers have a chance, and it’s probably the only shot for Big Ten representation.