Tradition Roundtable: Bubble teams to watch in the 2022 B1G Tournament
The 2022 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
Let’s just focus in on the Indiana-Michigan matchup of the B1G Tournament for this one. For much of the season, a trip to the NCAA Tournament was hardly guaranteed for the Wolverines. With wins over Purdue, Iowa, Michigan State and Ohio State down the stretch, Michigan should be squarely in the big dance – with or without head coach Juwan Howard. And here’s another way to look at the B1G Tournament: Would you rather be the No. 1 seed potentially facing Hunter Dickinson and the Wolverines, or the No. 2 seed facing the winner of Maryland-Michigan State? With their length and athleticism, Michigan is a team few will want to face in the postseason.
“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.” That is an excerpt about Indiana from this same article last season. It’s eerily how similar the Hoosiers and their hopes of making the NCAA Tournament look this season. Late in January, Indiana was 14-4 overall and 5-3 in the conference after beating Purdue. Unfortunately, the Hoosiers went 2-7 over their final 9 games. Sure, wins over Michigan and the top seed in the conference would probably be enough to push Indiana into the big dance. But hoping for those wins seems foolish at this point.
Alex Hickey, B1G columnist
Luckily, the bracket did all the work for us this year. There are only 2 teams on the bubble, and they’ll face each other Thursday morning in a game that should assure the winner of a trip to the NCAA tournament.
But I think it is a far more important game for Indiana than it is for Michigan. The Wolverines are currently No. 31 in the NCAA NET rankings. With a loss they’d probably be stuck playing in the First Four, but it would take a handful of bid-stealing scenarios in other conferences to knock them out of the field outright.
Indiana has zero margin for error. The Hoosiers are 44th in the NET and a meager 3-7 against Quad 1 opponents. There’s even a chance IU would still need to upset top-seeded Illinois in the quarterfinals to assure themselves of an NCAA bid.
This will be the most meaningful game of the entire tournament until the championship game.
Dustin Schutte, news editor
The first game on the second day in the B1G Tournament is critical. Indiana desperately needs at least one victory — probably even two — to solidify a spot in the NCAA Tournament after spiraling out of control the final month of the season. With a win, Michigan essentially locks up its bid. A loss, though, would leave the Wolverines on the edge of their seats come Selection Sunday.
It’s pretty remarkable that Indiana, who was once sitting at 16-5 and 7-4 in the B1G, has fallen so far. The Hoosiers appeared to be on their way to ending their March Madness drought in late January, posting wins over Notre Dame, Ohio State and Purdue. Going 2-7 in the final 9 games will do that, though. So, now the pressure is on Mike Woodson and the Hoosiers to beat Michigan in Round 1 and try and figure out a way to get past top-seeded Illinois in the quarterfinals.
One more team to keep an eye on? Rutgers. Though the Scarlet Knights finished fourth in the B1G and will receive a double-bye for the tournament, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has Steve Pikiell’s group as one of the Last Four In. Much like Michigan’s situation, if Rutgers wins its first game (vs. Iowa/Nebraska/Northwestern), it’s going dancing. If the Scarlet Knights take a loss, there’s going to be a lot of chewed fingernails in Piscataway at the end of the week.
Adam Spencer, news/newsletter editor
Rutgers is the No. 4 seed in the Big Ten Tournament, but Joe Lunardi at ESPN still has the Scarlet Knights among his “Last Four In” teams. Michigan, the B1G’s 8-seed, is listed as among the “Last Four Byes.” No. 9-seed Indiana is the first team out. No. 7-seed Michigan State is an 8-seed in Lunardi’s bracketology. Iowa is a projected 6-seed, despite only being the No. 5 seed in the Big Ten Tournament.
All of this is to say I think the Scarlet Knights are getting a raw deal from bracketologists. At 18-12 overall, with the wins Rutgers has on its resume, it should be solidly in the field of 68, not sweating it out on Selection Sunday.
But, here we are. So, if Rutgers can take down Iowa (or Nebraska or Northwestern, but let’s be real) in the B1G tourney quarterfinals, it should remove all doubt for the Selection Committee. I’ll be watching that game closely on Friday.