WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – There are no Big Ten basketball games on Friday, so it's a good morning to catch our breath and see where things stand as we head down the home stretch in the conference season.
There's a lot at stake for the Big Ten Tournament as well, which has been moved to Indianapolis from Chicago this year because of COVID-19 concerns. The fight for top seedings means a lot, because the top four teams get double byes. Purdue is still on the outside looking in there, but they are up to No. 5 in the league right now after a couple of Wisconsin losses.
And on the back end, the bottom four teams are trying to avoid playing an extra night as well.
The best thing, though, is look at potential matchups that float our collective boats. So here's where we stand with 17 days to go in the Big Ten regular season race.
Here's what the pairings would look like if the tournament started today:
First round (Wednesday, March 10)
- Game 1: No. 11 seed Michigan State vs. No. 14 seed Nebraska
- Game 2: No. 12 seed Penn State vs. No. 13 seed Northwestern
Second round (Thursday, March 11)
- TOP BRACKET
- Game 3: No. 8 seed Indiana vs. No. 9 seed Maryland
- Game 4: No. 5 seed Purdue vs. Game 2 winner
- LOWER BRACKET
- Game 5: No. 7 seed Rutgers vs. No. 10 seed Minnesota
- Game 6: No. 6 seed Wisconsin vs. Game 1 winner
Quarterfinals (Friday, March 12)
- TOP BRACKET
- Game 7: No. 1 seed Michigan vs. Game 3 winner
- Game 8: No. 4 seed Iowa vs. Game 4 winner
- BOTTOM BRACKET
- Game 9: No. 2 seed Illinois vs. Game 5 winner
- Game 10: No. 3 seed Ohio State vs. Game 6 winner
Semifinals (Saturday, March 13)
- Game 11: No. 1 vs. No. 4 game
- Game 12: No. 2 vs, No. 3 game
Championship Game (Sunday, March 14)
- Game 13: Game 11 winner vs. Game 12 winner
That projected second-round matchup between Purdue and the Penn State-Northwestern winner from the opening could be interesting. The Boilermakers have wins over both of them so far this season, but both games were competitive. Purdue beat Penn State 80-72 on Jan. 17 and beat Northwestern 75-70 on Feb. 6. They play Penn State again the on road next Friday.
Purdue still has a shot at a top-four seed, of course, but they need to win out and probably hope for some help from Iowa, who's the No. 4 seed at the moment. Iowa beat Purdue in December, so would hold a tiebreaker as well.
If the seeds all held, Purdue would have to beat Penn State, Iowa, Michigan and Illinois to win the Big Ten title.
Thursday's Big Ten results
There were three important league games on Thursday night, and Michigan and Ohio State both won to set up their huge matchup on Sunday in Columbus. And Iowa continued its bounce-back with an impressive road win at Wisconsin.
Here's what happened Thursday night:
- Michigan 71, Rutgers 64: Franz Wagner scored 20 points and made 3-of-4 three-pointers to lead the Wolverines (15-1, 10-1 in the Big Ten) to and easy win over the Scarlet Knights (12-8, 8-8 in the Big Ten). Michigan led by as many as 17 points in the second half.
- Ohio State 92, Penn State 82: E.J. Liddell had 23 points and Duane Washington Jr., added 21 and the Buckeyes overcame an eight-point deficit in the second half before pulling away. Ohio State made 11-of-20 three-points in a huge road win.
- Iowa 77, Wisconsin 62: Luka Garza scored 30 points and Iowa led throughout in an impressive road win over the Badgers. After a rough stretch where the Hawkeyes lost four of five, they've now won three games in a row.
The Big Ten's weekend schedule
All 14 Big Ten teams are in action this weekend, and the results will surely impact our projected seedings. (Yes, we will update this story again on Monday morning)
Here's what the weekend slate looks like:
- Michigan State at Indiana, Noon ET (TV: ESPN)
- Illinois at Minnesota, 3:30 p.m. ET (TV: FOX)
- Purdue at Nebraska, 5:30 p.m. ET (TV: Big Ten Network
- Michigan at Ohio State, 1 p.m. ET TV: CBS)
- Maryland at Rutgers, 3 p.m. ET (TV: Big Ten Network)
- Penn State at Iowa, 5 p.m. ET (TV: FOX Sports 1)
- Wisconsin at Northwestern, 7 p.m. ET (TV: Big Ten Network)