March Madness 2021: What B1G bubble teams need to do to receive a bid to the NCAA tournament
The B1G sure has a flair for the dramatic, doesn’t it?
All season, it has been heralded as the best league in college basketball, providing plenty of entertainment in this weird year. It’s not done providing us with must-watch television, either. As we’re now in the final week of the season, five teams are still sitting on the bubble with a chance to punch their ticket to the NCAA tournament.
Before we talk about those bubble teams, here’s a quick look at the teams who have locked up a bid in this year’s field:
- #2 Michigan Wolverines (18-1, 13-1)
- #4 Illinois Fighting Illini (14-4, 18-6)
- #5 Iowa Hawkeyes (18-7, 12-6)
- #7 Ohio State Buckeyes (18-7, 12-7)
- #23 Purdue Boilermakers (16-8, 11-6)
- #25 Wisconsin Badgers (16-9, 10-8)
Those six teams are essentially playing for seeding at this point.
There are also three teams in the league that must win the B1G Tournament to make the 68-team field. With losing records, there’s no chance any of those squads would earn an at-large bid:
- Penn State (8-13, 5-12)
- Northwestern (7-14, 4-13)
- Nebraska (7-17, 3-14)
So, how about those five teams still bouncing on the bubble? Let’s take a look at what those teams need to do in order to lock up a spot in this year’s March Madness tournament.
B1G Bubble Watch
Maryland Terrapins (15-10, 9-9)
Remaining schedule: at Northwestern (Wednesday); vs. Penn State (Sunday)
A five-game winning streak has really put Maryland in the catbird seat of B1G bubble teams. Its bid is probably the safest of the five on this list. The concerning part? The Terrapins end the year with games against Northwestern (7-14) and Penn State (8-13). Those are favorable matchups for Mark Turgeon’s team, but those are also contests that can do more harm than good. Winning provides little benefit, but a loss to either might make things a little more interesting entering the B1G Tournament.
If Maryland is able to take care of business in these final two games, it’ll be comfortably in the NCAA tournament, regardless of what happens next week in Indianapolis. The Terps should be fine even if they lose one of those games. Drop both, though, and they’ll have to get at least one win in the conference tournament to secure a spot in the field.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights (13-10, 9-10)
Remaining schedule: at Minnesota (Saturday)
Oh, how quickly things change in March. Rutgers was probably a shoo-in for the NCAA tournament until Monday night’s 72-51 loss to Nebraska, the worst team in the B1G right now. Now, at 13-10 and a win under .500 in league play, Rutgers must end the year with a win over a struggling Minnesota team that has dropped five in a row. It’s a “can’t lose” game for Steve Pikiell’s squad.
Winning a game in the B1G Tournament would allow this team to breathe a little easier about an at-large bid, but as long as Rutgers doesn’t drop another game to Penn State, Northwestern or Nebraska, it’ll likely receive a bid to the Big Dance. That’s assuming the Scarlet Knights beat the Golden Gophers. If not, Rutgers will need a strong showing in the B1G Tournament next week.
Michigan State Spartans (13-10, 7-10)
Remaining schedule: vs. Indiana (Tuesday); at #3 Michigan (Thursday); vs. #3 Michigan (Sunday)
Remember when we were talking about Michigan State’s 22-year NCAA tournament streak ending this season? While it’s still a possibility the Spartans get left out, Tom Izzo has worked his magic and lit a fire under his team over the last two weeks. Victories over No. 4 Illinois and No. 7 Ohio State have MSU right back in the conversation and back-to-back games against No. 2 Michigan gives this team a great opportunity to clinch a spot in the tournament before the regular season ends.
Beating Indiana at the Breslin Center Tuesday and splitting with in-state rival Michigan would probably be enough for Michigan State to punch its ticket. That would put the Spartans at 15-11 and 9-11 in the B1G. If the Spartans drop two of those final three games, they’ll have to win at least one game, maybe two, to hear their name called on Selection Sunday. Want to guarantee a spot before the conference tourney next week? Win the final three games.
Indiana Hoosiers (12-12, 7-10)
Remaining schedule: vs. Michigan State (Tuesday); at #23 Purdue (Saturday)
The Hoosiers are on the verge of missing the NCAA tournament for a fifth straight year and have never earned a bid under head coach Archie Miller. It’s going to take a minor miracle for Indiana to return to March Madness this season. Right now, Indiana needs wins over Michigan State, No. 23 Purdue and at least one win in the conference tournament to get back into the picture.
If Indiana drops even one of its final two games, the Hoosiers might have to win the B1G Tournament and lock up the conference’s guaranteed bid to snap its March Madness drought. At the very least, IU would have to reach the title game.
Minnesota Golden Gophers (13-12, 6-12)
Remaining schedule: at Penn State (Wednesday); vs. Rutgers (Saturday)
Just a few weeks ago, Minnesota was sitting at 13-7 on the season with wins over ranked opponents like Iowa, Michigan and Iowa. The Golden Gophers should’ve been a lock to reach the NCAA tournament. A five-game losing streak, which includes losses to Northwestern and Nebraska, has essentially locked Minnesota out of the 68-team field.
Winning out doesn’t really help the Gophers much at this point, as the 6-12 B1G record is a huge blemish on their tournament resume. At this point, Minnesota needs to win the final two games of the regular season and reach the B1G tournament championship game to earn a bid. Anything less, and the Gophers will be sitting at home.