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Heading into the conference tournament, the Big Ten’s N.C.A.A. tournament outlook is becoming clearer. Michigan State is still leading the way on the one seed line, but they are far from alone at the top of the bracket.
Indiana, the Big Ten outright regular season champions, surged to a three seed in the latest projection on the strength of wins over Iowa and Maryland to close out league play. The Hoosiers are still being held back by lesser RPI and strength of schedule numbers, but an outright championship in a major conference is usually a safe bet for a spot in the top quarter of the field. Indiana might be able to move up, depending on what happens at other conference tournaments, but they seem to be a solid three seed for now.
Iowa finally got back in the win column after defeating Michigan to end a four game losing streak. The Hawkeyes are currently projected as a five seed, quite a slide from being on the two line a matter of weeks ago. Still, the chance to move up remains if Iowa can make it to the semifinals in Indianapolis.
Wisconsin is playing on Thursday of the Big Ten tournament for the first time since 2000 but have secured a place in the N.C.A.A. field, currently sitting as a seven seed. Wisconsin could still move up but the road loss at Purdue Sunday may have sealed its fate in the six-to-eight seed range.
On the bubble, the Big Ten now has two teams on the outside looking in. Both Michigan and Ohio State lost potentially big games to end the conference season (to Iowa and Michigan State, respectively) and both seem to be NIT bound, barring a big run in Indianapolis. Both teams were hurt when Northern Iowa won the Missouri Valley tournament, forcing an at-large bid to go to Wichita State, who was projected as an automatic qualifier. Another bid steal in a mid-major conference could seal the fate of bubble teams like Michigan and Ohio State.
One note about the Big Ten Tournament: the timing of the championship game late Sunday afternoon pushes it right up against the Selection Show. In the past the selection committee has said that the outcome of the championship game does not impact the outlook of the bracket, which is unfortunate considering how many quality teams are in the conference and a win over any of them would carry weight at any other point in the season.
Regardless, it should be an entertaining weekend in Indianapolis and the Big Ten can prepare for at least six N.C.A.A. bids come Sunday evening.
Follow along with @ScoutBrackets on Twitter as I continue to update the field throughout conference tournament play and react to the selections on Sunday.