Tradition Roundtable: Bubble teams to watch in the 2021 B1G Tournament
The 2021 B1G Tournament gets underway this week! To set the stage for one of the most exciting conference tournaments in college basketball, our staff will be conducting a 3-part roundtable, leading us right in to first-round action on Wednesday night.
Topic: Which teams will help or hurt their chances for an at-large bid during the B1G Tournament?
Paul Harvey, News Writer
The winner of Michigan State-Maryland will be the one bubble team to solidify its spot in the NCAA Tournament. Both teams should be squarely in, especially after Michigan State knocked off Michigan Sunday, but it’s still important for both teams to play well in Indianapolis. It should be a good game, but I’ll go with the Spartans moving on to get a third shot at Michigan after facing Maryland with a few days of rest to prepare.
Is Indiana even on the bubble anymore? The Hoosiers were once a lock to make the tournament, but that was before a disastrous end to the regular season. Now, Indiana needs to make it deep in Indianapolis to have a shot, and that would need to include upsets of Illinois and likely Wisconsin or Iowa. Given their current stretch of play and uncertain status of Armaan Franklin, expect the Hoosiers to be one and done in their matchup with Rutgers and to miss the big dance.
Spenser Davis, News Writer
Michigan State appears to be peaking at the right time. The Spartans have three top-5 wins in the last three weeks, and I expect them to take care of business vs. Maryland in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. Michigan State is probably on the right side of the bubble regardless, but a win would help it avoid a matchup in the First Four.
Indiana is in desperate need of a win vs. Rutgers to keep its NCAA Tournament hopes alive. Unfortunately for the Hoosiers, they’ve been desperate for wins for the last couple weeks — but have still lost five straight games. Rutgers swept the season series vs. Indiana this year, and there’s no reason to expect a different outcome in Indianapolis.
Kyle Charters, B1G Columnist
Michigan State is likely already in the NCAA Tournament, based on its last couple weeks, with Quad 1 wins over Illinois, Ohio State and Michigan. But the Spartans could solidify their position with a win over reeling Maryland, which looked like an NCAA lock itself — or at least a really good bubble team — until absorbing losses to Northwestern and Penn State in the final week of the season. Is the Maryland-MSU Thursday opener in Indianapolis an NCAA play-in game? Maybe for the Terps, who will really be sweating it on Sunday if they lose.
Indiana’s only chance now at an NCAA Tournament berth is to run the table to a Big Ten Tournament Championship. But the likelihood of that seems beyond remote. IU has lost five straight while not looking particularly interested or competitive. A loss to Rutgers Thursday will be the final chapter for these Hoosiers and leave them home for an NCAA Tournament that takes place entirely in this baseball-crazed state. Yikes.
Adam Spencer, Newsletter Editor/College Basketball Columnist
Based on recent trends, Michigan State is the B1G bubble team I’m most confident in entering the B1G Tournament. The Spartans have been boosting their résumé at an impressive rate lately. With wins over Illinois, Ohio State and Michigan recently, there’s no denying that the Spartans can play with anyone on any given night. They’re the only team in the country with 3 wins over top-5 teams. No one else has more than 1. That, of course, is a benefit of playing in the B1G, where there are plenty of games against top-5 teams to go around. But, Tom Izzo’s squad has stepped up to the plate (oops, wrong sport) in those matchups.
On the other end of the spectrum, Maryland has really limped to the finish line of the regular season. Back-to-back losses to Penn State and Northwestern have the Terps on the verge of missing out on March Madness. And, to make things even more difficult, their first game in the B1G Tournament is against Michigan State. I think the Spartans can survive a loss in that game and still make the field of 68 teams. For Maryland, though, I think it’s a do-or-die game. Win, and they’re in the NCAA Tournament. Lose, and I think they’ll be in for some March Sadness on Selection Sunday.
Dustin Schutte, Managing Editor
All eyes are going to be on the first matchup of the day on Thursday, when Michigan State takes on Maryland to start second-round action. Closing out the year with wins over Indiana (twice), Illinois, Ohio State and Michigan has probably secured the Spartans’ spot in the NCAA Tournament regardless of outcome, but why leave it to chance? Maryland, on the other hand, lost back-to-back games to Northwestern and Penn State to end the regular season. Mark Turgeon’s team went from an at-large lock to needing a win in the B1G Tournament.
Bottom line? Michigan State secures its spot in the NCAA Tournament by winning its first game of the conference tournament on Thursday. Maryland, on the other hand, will be crossing its fingers and toes while clinging to a lucky rabbit’s foot during Selection Sunday after finishing the season with three straight losses.