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2017 Big Ten Tournament Bracket and Seeding Scenarios: Northwestern needs help for a double bye

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A log jam of second-tier teams could see Northwestern finish in a variety of places.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Northwestern David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

With just one regular season game remaining, a lot still has to be sorted out as far as the Big Ten tournament seeds are concerned. Purdue has locked up the top spot in the conference. But after that, Wisconsin, Maryland, Minnesota, Michigan State and Northwestern have a ton to play for with a top four seed and a double bye on the line.

The Wildcats’ win over Michigan, Illinois’ defeat of Michigan State and Iowa’s upset win over Wisconsin in Madison opened the door (ever so slightly) for Northwestern to re-enter the top four after a brutal stretch to end February. Those results also will keep Northwestern from falling below No. 6.

Heading into the weekend, here are the Big Ten standings:

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

The focus for Northwestern is on the top six teams, all of which, conveniently, play each other this weekend:

  • Michigan State vs. Maryland (KenPom prediction: Maryland, 67 percent, Saturday, 1 p.m. CT, BTN)
  • No. 16 Purdue vs. Northwestern (KenPom: Purdue, 57 percent, Sunday, 3:30 p.m. CT, CBS)
  • Minnesota vs. No. 22 Wisconsin (KenPom: Wisconsin, 71 percent, Sunday, 5 p.m. BTN)

The results of these games will dictate where Northwestern falls in the final standings, and, with tiebreakers factored in, where it will be seeded in the Big Ten Tournament. Here is a blank bracket, courtesy of the Big Ten:

Big Ten Tournament bracket

You can play around with this weekend’s results and potential tournament brackets using http://bball.notnothing.net/.

tl;dr

Northwestern has to beat Purdue and hope Minnesota wins at Wisconsin to get a double bye and the No. 4 seed. So, root for Northwestern (of course) and for Minnesota.

Summary of tiebreakers:

Full rules, via the Big Ten

If two teams tie:

  1. Head-to-head record
  2. Record (winning percentage) vs. highest team in final regular season standings (continues down the standings until records differ)
  3. Winning percentage of all Division I opponents
  4. Coin toss

If multiple teams tie:

  1. Round-robin record (winning percentage)
  2. Record (winning percentage) vs. highest team in final regular season
  3. Winning percentage of all Division I opponents
  4. Coin toss

How Northwestern gets the No. 4 seed:

Likelihood: 12.47 percent (via KenPom)

There are two scenarios in which Northwestern grabs the fourth seed in the Big Ten tournament.

Scenario A: Northwestern defeats Purdue, Maryland defeats Michigan State, Minnesota defeats Wisconsin. The likelihood of this scenario occurring, according to KenPom, is 8.35 percent.
Projected top six standings (via http://bball.notnothing.net/):

  1. Purdue - 13-5
  2. Minnesota - 12-6 (beat the top team, Purdue)
  3. Maryland - 12-6 (lost to the top team, Purdue)
  4. Northwestern - 11-7 (beat Wisconsin head-to-head)
  5. Wisconsin - 11-7 (lost to Northwestern head-to-head)
  6. Michigan State - 10-8

In this scenario, Northwestern would play the winner of No. 5 Wisconsin and the Nos. 12/13 seeds (likely some combination of Nebraska, Indiana and Penn State) in the quarterfinals.

Scenario B: Northwestern defeats Purdue, Michigan State defeats Maryland, Minnesota defeats Wisconsin. The likelihood of this scenario occurring, according to KenPom, is 4.12 percent.
Projected top six standings (via http://bball.notnothing.net/):

  1. Purdue - 13-5
  2. Minnesota - 12-6
  3. Michigan State - 11-7 (beat Maryland, Northwestern and Wisconsin on round-robin record)
  4. Northwestern - 11-7 (lost to Michigan State on round-robin record, beat Maryland and Wisconsin based on record against top team — Purdue)
  5. Maryland - 11-7 (lost to Michigan State and Northwestern on round-robin/record against top team, beat Wisconsin based on record against next highest team — Iowa would be No. 7 with a win over Penn State)
  6. Wisconsin - 11-7 (see above)

In this scenario, Northwestern would play the winner of No. 5 Maryland and the Nos. 12/13 seeds (likely some combination of Nebraska, Indiana and Penn State).

How Northwestern gets the No. 5 seed:

Likelihood: 20.46 percent

Northwestern defeats Purdue, Maryland defeats Michigan State, Wisconsin defeats Minnesota.
Projected top six standings (via http://bball.notnothing.net/):

  1. Purdue - 13-5
  2. Wisconsin - 12-6 (beat Maryland head-to-head)
  3. Maryland - 12-6 (lost to Wisconsin head-to-head)
  4. Minnesota - 11-7 (beat Northwestern head-to-head)
  5. Northwestern - 11-7 (lost to Minnesota head-to-head)
  6. Michigan State - 10-8

In this scenario, Northwestern would play the winner of the Nos. 12/13 seeds (likely some combination of Nebraska, Indiana and Penn State) in the second round. A win in that game would pit the Wildcats against Minnesota in the quarterfinals.

How Northwestern can get the No. 6 seed:

Likelihood: 67.7 percent

There are five scenarios in which Northwestern grabs the sixth seed in the Big Ten tournament.

Scenario A (most likely scenario overall): Purdue defeats Northwestern, Maryland defeats Michigan State, Wisconsin defeats Minnesota. The likelihood of this scenario occurring, according to KenPom, is 27.11 percent.
Projected top six standings (via http://bball.notnothing.net/):

  1. Purdue - 14-4
  2. Wisconsin - 12-6 (beat Maryland head-to-head)
  3. Maryland - 12-6 (lost to Wisconsin head-to-head)
  4. Minnesota - 11-7
  5. Michigan State - 11-7 (beat Northwestern, Iowa and Michigan — likely 10-8 — on round-robin record)
  6. Northwestern - 10-8 (beat Iowa and Michigan — likely 10-8 — on round-robin record)

In this scenario, Northwestern would play the winner of the Nos. 11/14 seeds (likely some combination of Nebraska, Indiana and Penn State against Rutgers) in the second round. If Northwestern won that game, it would play third-seeded Maryland in the quarterfinals.

The other scenarios (B-D) are pretty similar. Basically, if Northwestern loses to Purdue it will get the sixth seed because of its head-to-head loss to Michigan State and wins over Michigan and Iowa, all of which have the potential to finish 10-8 in conference.

There is one scenario in which Northwestern wins, but still only gets the sixth seed.

Scenario E: Northwestern defeats Purdue, Michigan State defeats Maryland, Wisconsin defeats Minnesota. The likelihood of this scenario occurring, according to KenPom, is 10.07 percent.
Projected top six standings (via http://bball.notnothing.net/):

  1. Purdue - 13-5
  2. Wisconsin - 12-6
  3. Michigan State - 11-7 (beat Maryland, Minnesota and Northwestern on round-robin record)
  4. Maryland - 11-7 (lost to Michigan State, beat Minnesota and Northwestern on round-robin record)
  5. Minnesota - 11-7 (lost to Michigan State and Maryland, beat Northwestern on round-robin record)
  6. Northwestern - 11-7 (lost to Michigan State, Maryland and Minnesota on round-robin record)

In this scenario, Northwestern would play the winner of the Nos. 11/14 seeds (likely some combination of Nebraska, Indiana and Penn State against Rutgers) in the second round. If Northwestern won, it would play third-seeded Michigan State in the quarterfinals.