Big Ten Men’s Basketball Bracketology: Who will challenge Purdue?

We’re getting to the part of the college basketball season where the phrase “survive and advance” starts to become a do-or-die mission rather than a rallying cry.

Somewhat remarkably, none of the teams projected to make the NCAA Tournament in these rankings played each other last week. That meant a war of attrition, a staring match to see who would blink and lose to an inferior opponent – and a few of the conference’s best fell victim.

UConn is unanimous No. 1 in AP Top 25, Washington State ends 302-week poll drought

Let’s take a look at the NCAA Tournament bracket projections for the Big Ten:

Purdue: 1-seed

Games this upcoming week: vs. Rutgers on Thu., at Michigan on Sun.

The No. 3 Boilermakers fell victim to playing a team getting the “new coach bump” and saw their nine-game winning streak snapped at Ohio State on Sunday. The Buckeyes are 5-10 in conference, so it isn’t a pretty loss on the resume, but Purdue remains a 1-seed. Their body of work across the season is just too strong for any other result at this point.

Illinois: 4-seed

Games this week: at Penn State on Wed., vs. Iowa on Sat.

The No. 12 Fighting Illini were the only team of the Big Ten’s top three to escape the week unscathed, taking care of business vs. Michigan and at Maryland. They need to bring that same energy for matchups at the Nittany Lions and vs. the Hawkeyes this week, which are more difficult than they may appear.

Wisconsin: 5-seed

Games this week: vs. Maryland on Tue. (Peacock)

It appeared the Badgers had found their footing amid a rough patch when they got back in the win column against Ohio State Tuesday. Then, however, they lost at Iowa Saturday and dropped out of the AP Poll. Wisconsin still has time to steady itself and hold onto a high seed in the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments, but it must start this week when they host the Terrapins.

Michigan State: 7-seed

Games this week: vs. Iowa on Tue. (Peacock), vs. Ohio State on Sun.

“Businesslike” feels like the best way to describe the Spartans’ week. Two road games, coming at Penn State and then rival Michigan, could have tripped them up, but they came away with multi-possession victories in both. Beware of Tom Izzo’s squad come postseason play; there is a vacuum just behind Purdue in the conference, and Michigan State is equipped to fill it.

Northwestern: 9-seed

Games this week: vs. Michigan on Thu.

The Wildcats could have had a similar week to the Spartans, but they squandered the first of their road opportunities at Rutgers. Northwestern did bounce back with a four-point victory at Indiana Sunday, but that missed chance is emblematic of the difference between it and Michigan State in these projections as of right now.

Nebraska: 10-seed

Games this week: at Indiana on Wed., vs. Minnesota on Sun.

Nebraska did all it could in its only game of last week, blowing out Penn State 68-49. This week will be sneaky challenging for the Cornhuskers, though. We all know about their struggles away from Lincoln, and playing at Assembly Hall is always tough. Then, they host a Minnesota team that’s playing the best basketball of any team that didn’t make this list.

Men’s College Basketball on Peacock

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