Thanks to the middle-heavy nature of the Big Ten, this weekend’s NCAA men’s basketball committee top-16 seed reveal was only going to give us insight into a pair of B1G teams — Purdue and Indiana.

The question was how much the committee would penalize Purdue for its recent struggles, and whether Indiana would sneak into the top 16.

Fortunately for the Boilermakers, the committee focused more on the big picture than 3 losses in 4 games coming into Saturday’s reveal. Purdue is still safely on the No. 1 seed line with the No. 3 overall national ranking.

And as it turns out, the Hoosiers didn’t have to do any sneaking to earn a No. 4 seed.

Despite being on the outside looking in as measured by various metrics — 18th in NET and 20th in KenPom — Indiana rates No. 13 overall in the eyes of the committee. The Hoosiers are closer to nabbing a 3-seed than they are to a 5. For the time being, at least. There’s a lot of basketball left to play.

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That’s the most important thing to remember about this exercise. It’s not a projection of how things will finish, but a reflection of where things are as things currently stand.

In particular, Big East teams Creighton and UConn, who were in the committee’s first 4 out — aka, 5-seeds — will have chances to improve their lot.

But even though the committee doesn’t weigh the strength of each conference, per se, the results certainly can’t hurt those teams who find themselves on Indiana and Purdue’s schedules.

Several Big Ten teams should be encouraged right now, even if none of them work their way up to a top-4 seed by Selection Sunday.

In particular, 3 teams that have beaten the Boilermakers and/or the Hoosiers have reason for optimism as they head into the Big Ten Tournament.


With wins over Indiana and Purdue, the Wildcats are rising fast.

Though we don’t know which teams the committee has pegged as 6-seeds at the moment, Northwestern belongs in the conversation for that grouping. Unfortunately, due to their NET ranking (45th), the Cats are probably on the 6/7 borderline rather than the 5/6 line.

Chris Collins can hardly be blamed for that development. Northwestern came into the year with 5 straight losing seasons and was picked 13th in the B1G, so Collins did some fairly light scheduling in the non-conference. Finishing above .500 and reaching the NIT was a seemingly more realistic preseason goal for this team.

Even a couple weeks ago, the discussion was whether the Cats were on the First Four bubble or could reach the Tourney without needing to play an extra game.

This turned out to be a much better team than expected. And Northwestern’s profile may continue rising. The Cats have a chance to break into the top 16 if they keep winning.


A year ago, the metrics hated Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights were unable to untie themselves from losses to a trio of sub-100 opponents in November. Rutgers was stuck playing in the First Four even though it was 1 of the Big Ten’s best teams by March.

The numbers are much nicer to Steve Pikiell’s group this season. Rutgers is 27th in NET and 28th in KenPom, likely placing the Knights on the 7/8 borderline.

Rutgers fans undoubtedly want to see that profile continue to improve. But if that’s where the Scarlet Knights end up, it’s actually not a bad spot.

A team that plays defense and makes things ugly is a terrifying potential draw for a No. 1- or 2-seed in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Rutgers has already beaten Purdue at Mackey Arena, and would be just as capable of downing another 1-seed on a neutral court.

Penn State

The Nittany Lions would not be in the Tournament field if the season ended today. Pretty much anywhere you look, Penn State is lumped into the “Next Four Out” category that comes below the “First Four Out.”

But Penn State has some chances to improve its standing. A sweep of Illinois and a blowout win over Indiana are vital boosts to Penn State’s resume. The Nittany Lions finish the regular season with 4 toss-ups — at Ohio State and Northwestern, and home games against Rutgers and Maryland.

Penn State can’t afford a loss in Columbus unless it wins the other 3 games, which would be considered Quad 1 victories. And a road win at Northwestern would prove a far more valuable commodity than anyone would have projected at the start of the season.

But if Penn State finishes no worse than 3-2 including the Big Ten Tourney, the Indiana win could prove especially helpful for a team on the bubble. USC, which has a win over UCLA, is the only other team in the current bubble conversation with a stronger win than Penn State.