Big Ten Bracketology

With the Big Ten Conference kicking off its 11th Big Ten tournament starting Thursday through Sunday in Indianapolis, Badger Nation publisher Benjamin Worgull breaks down the field and how each team measures up against the rest of the country.

In a year of unexpected twists (the injury to one of Penn State's greatest scorers to the soap opera and resignation of IU's Kelvin Sampson) and turns (the Spartans surprising struggles on the road and the Badgers surviving without Alando Tucker), the 2008 edition of the Big Ten Conference Tournament promises to have its fair share of fun and excitement.

While Wisconsin and Purdue will try to extend the tournament's five-year run of the two top seeds meeting in the final, other schools like Indiana, Michigan State and Ohio State are looking to boost its tournament resumes.

Here now is an in-depth look at all 11 teams portfolios and the post season outlook each team holds heading to Indianapolis.

Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) and Strength of Schedule (SOS) ranked out of the 341 Division One teams

No.1 Wisconsin (26-4, 16-2 Big Ten)

RPI: 13

SS: 66

vs. Top 25: 4-2 (@Texas, Indiana, @Indiana, Michigan State)

vs. Top 100: 6-4

What a dream season for the Badgers! What else can be said about it that hasn't already been said? A team without Big Ten Player of the Year Alando Tucker yielded the team's first Big Ten Championship since 2003 and, in the process, knocked off some pretty good teams along the way, including an incredible win at Texas which set the tone for the conference schedule (not to mention a non-conference RPI of 24).

The Badgers are a solid lock to be a protected seed (No.1-5) in the tournament and will go into the Big Ten tournament most likely a three seed. Winning one game would guarantee that seed. Winning three games and another conference title? The Badgers should earn the same exact seed they did last year (No.2), which would be simply amazing.

No.2 Purdue (24-7, 15-3)

RPI: 36

SS: 133

vs. Top 25: 4-3 (Louisville (N), Wisconsin, @Wisconsin, Michigan State)

vs. Top 100: 5-4

The non-conference season was a mixed bag for the Boilermakers, losing at home to Wofford but beat Louisville in Indianapolis. With a non-conference strength of schedule ranked 202, there were questions how Purdue could compete in the Big Ten, especially with a group of unseasoned underclassmen. Any doubts about the Boilermakers in the Big Ten, however, were put to rest when they became the second team in the past seven years to beat the Badgers twice in one season (including winning in the treacherous Kohl Center).

Purdue will get Penn State-Michigan winner and then most likely Indiana, which will make Indy's Conseco Fieldhouse buzz with excitement. If Purdue wins once in the Big Ten, there is no reason why the Boilermakers aren't a four or five seed in the national tournament.

No.3 Indiana (25-6, 14-4)

RPI: 17

SS: 58

vs. Top 25: 1-5 (Michigan State)

vs. Top 100: 8-5

What a whirlwind year for the Hoosiers. Expected to compete for a Big Ten title, Indiana gets stunned by a Brian Butch bank shot, allegations against their head coach, the administration forcing Kelvin Sampson to resign and the beginning of the Dan Dakich era.

However, the Hoosiers are only 3-2 under Dakich against a fairly soft portion of the schedule, including finishing with a loss at Penn State, and have only one win against the top 25. The Hoosiers will be in the tournament but will be no higher than a four seed if they don't reach the tournament finals.

No.4 Michigan State (24-7, 12-6)

RPI: 15

SS: 46

vs. Top 25: 3-3 (BYU (N), N-Texas (N), Indiana)

vs. Top 100: 6-5

Expected to be the frontrunners and perhaps run away with the conference title, especially after a 12-1 non-conference record (the lone loss was a neutral-court loss to UCLA), the Spartans forgot how to win away from East Lansing, going 3-6 in the conference.

Michigan State is also struggling down the stretch, going 7-5 in its last 12 games, which includes a loss at Penn State. Michigan State will open the conference tournament against an Ohio State team that just beat them by nine in Columbus and a Buckeye team that needs to win to get into the tournament. Spartans are in the tournament regardless but will most likely be a five seed.

No.5 Ohio State (19-12, 10-8)

RPI: 48

SS: 18

vs. Top 25: 1-7 (Michigan State)

vs. Top 100: 6-9

Left on the outside looking in for weeks, Ohio State has won two straight games against two ranked teams (Purdue and Michigan State) and will get another chance against the Spartans on Friday. If it wasn't for the Buckeyes' RPI Top 25 record, OSU will be a virtual lock, especially its five-point loss at Tennessee.

The Buckeyes got some things going for them with nonconference wins over bubble teams Syracuse and Florida. If the Buckeyes want to make the NCAA (probably as a 10 seed) they will need to beat Michigan State and give Wisconsin a run for its money to make a good impression on the committee.

No.6 Minnesota (18-12, 8-10)

RPI: 101

SS: 140

vs. Top 25: 0-6

vs. Top 100: 1-10

What a turnaround for Tubby Smith and company in the barn this year, as the first-year head coach has seemingly breathed new life into the program. Minnesota raced out to a 10-1 start, eclipsing the previous year's win total by the end of December. The only problem was that there wasn't a quality win sprinkled on the resume and the 1-10 mark against the top 100 won't help get into the NCAA tournament as a bubble team. An NIT bid, however, would be a near guarantee with a win over Northwestern in the first round.

No.7 Illinois (13-18, 5-13)

RPI: 137

SS: 27

vs. Top 25: 0-7

vs. Top 100: 2-14

Four years removed from a national runner up in the NCAA tournament, Illinois has tied a program record for losses and a loss against the Nittany Lions in the quarterfinals would set a new watermark for futility. Not only have the Illini lost games, they have looked bad losing them (getting swept by Penn State and losing at home to Miami (OH) and Tennessee State). It is four wins or nothing for the ‘Fighting' Illini.

No.8 Penn State (15-15, 7-11)

RPI: 148

SS: 85

vs. Top 25: 2-4 (vs. Michigan State, vs. Indiana)

vs. Top 100: 4-8

You've got to feel bad for head coach Ed DeChellis. He loses his best player (Geary Claxton) in the opening month of the conference season and his second best player (Jamelle Cornley) has missed time because of a knee injury. Still, the Nittany Lions upended the Hoosiers on senior day, showing that the Lions have a talented group of youngsters in it for a long haul. In a season of disappointment, that's something to hang their hat on, as anything short of four wins means the off season.

No.9 Iowa (13-18, 6-12)

RPI: 184

SS: 93

vs. Top 25: 1-6 (vs. Michigan State)

vs. Top 100: 2-11 (vs. Ohio State)

Iowa has pulled off some quality wins this season, like shocking the Spartans at home, but have some bad losses thrown in there, particularly in the non-conference season (Utah State (N), vs. Louisiana-Monroe). Not a horrible season in Todd Lickliter's first year at the helm but not a great one, which will end with a loss in the conference tournament.

No.10 Michigan (9-21, 5-13)

RPI: 181

SS: 20

vs. Top 25: 0-8

vs. Top 100: 1-12

Much like Iowa, it was not a horrible season under a first year (John Beilein) but mediocrity won't stand at a school like Michigan. The Wolverines were terrible on the road (2-10) and putrid against the top 100. However, their lone win in that category was against rival Ohio State, which the Wolverines will rub in the Buckeyes' faces until football season starts. Simply put, Michigan needs four wins for the post season.

No.11 Northwestern (8-21, 1-17)

RPI: 215

SS: 59

vs. Top 25: 0-7

vs. Top 100: 0-11

Northwestern is 2-10 in their last 12 games and have 10 losses against teams ranked in the RPI 101 and above. The Wildcats need to figure out how to win basketball games – four of them in particular – if they want their season to continue.

Badger Nation Top Stories