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Northwestern men’s basketball Big Ten Tournament scenarios

Five straights wins and the Wildcats are going dancing!

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 16 Big Ten Conference Tournament - Michigan State v Wisconsin Photo by Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It feels as if Northwestern’s season has been over for quite sometime now, but one of the beauties of college basketball is the conference tournament. With the Big Ten Tournament set to take place in Indianapolis next week, all the Wildcats have to do is string together five consecutive wins in five straight days and they’ll be going dancing for the second time in program history! It’s that simple!

With just one game remaining in the regular season, here’s how Northwestern’s tournament slate is shaping up to look like:

Likely Scenario

As things stand, Northwestern seems poised to somehow steal the conference’s No. 13 seed despite likely finishing with only two wins in B1G play. Unless Nebraska can end its 14-game losing skid on the road against Michigan or Minnesota in these final two games, the Wildcats will remain as the second-to-last team in the conference and therefore play in the No. 13 vs. No. 12 tournament opener on Wednesday night.

Assuming things stay this way, Northwestern will meet Daniel Oturu and the Minnesota Gophers in the first round, as Richard Pitino’s team has already locked in the No. 12 seed after falling to Indiana last night. Minnesota is currently the only Big Team to have its seed set in what it was an otherwise jam-packed conference at the top.

Minnesota has already beaten Northwestern handedly twice this year, most recently taking care of business in a blowout 83-57 win at Welsh-Ryan Arena. The Gophers have fallen off the NCAA Tournament Bubble recently having lost six of their last seven games.

Other Potential Scenarios

I’m just going to go ahead and assume Northwestern doesn’t beat Penn State at home on Saturday, but if the Wildcats do, it would all but lock in the No. 13 seed for the ‘Cats unless Nebraska somehow win its both of its final two games. If Nebraska does get a win though and the Wildcats lose to Penn State, they’ll fall back to the bottom of the barrel and open the tournament in the No. 14 vs. No. 11 matchup.

If the tournament started today, that No. 11 seed would be the Indiana Hoosiers, but that is very much still subject to change in these final few days. If the Hoosiers beat Wisconsin at home on Saturday, they’ll move to 10-10 in conference, with the potential of four other teams to join them tied at that .500 conference mark.

Even if that’s the case, Indiana would have a hard time escaping that tiebreaker given its poor head-to-head record against the other potential teams in that tiebreaker (Purdue, Ohio State, Rutgers, Michigan). That said, the only real potential for the No. 11 seed to change would be an Indiana win on Saturday followed by a Purdue loss. The Hoosiers would then get a bye to the second round, finishing with a 10-10 record while Purdue would drop to 9-11.

If Northwestern were to fall to the No. 14 slot, a first round matchup with Indiana or Purdue is nearly certain.


None of this really matters because Northwestern is probably going to get clobbered in its first round matchup anyway. See you in Indy next week!