CHICAGO — The 2023 Big Ten basketball season is over. It’s time to dive headlong into March Madness.

It seems unlikely that this is the NCAA Tournament that will produce the conference’s first national championship since Michigan State in 1999. But the Big Ten will have a chance to improve its performance over last year, when just 2 teams reached the Sweet 16 and none got as far as the Elite Eight.

There might even be a Final Four team for the first time since the Spartans got there in 2019.

But before we get there, we’ll start with the biggest Big Ten storyline of Selection Sunday: the team that won’t be playing in the NCAA Tournament.

Yes, Rutgers got hosed — but there have been far worse snubs

Most people had Rutgers as a bubble team — but the bubble was whether the Scarlet Knights would be sent to Dayton, or open the Tournament as a regular 11-seed.

To leave Rutgers out entirely? That was not on the collective radar. Certainly not after the Scarlet Knights avoided a 1-and-done showing in the Big Ten Tournament, then gave top-seeded Purdue a test in a hard-fought 70-65 loss.

Rutgers is by far the best team left out of this year’s field, ranking 36th overall in both Ken Pomeroy and Bart Torvik’s advanced ratings.

Pomeroy has Rutgers ahead of USC, Nevada, Providence, Mississippi State and NC State in that order. Torvik has Rutgers ahead of Miami — a 5-seed! — as well as USC, Illinois, NC State, Missouri, Mississippi State, Providence, Nevada and Arizona State.

Of all those teams, though, Nevada is least qualified to be here. The Wolf Pack sputtered to the finish line with 4 losses in their past 6 games, including an active 3-game losing streak. That streak includes consecutive Quad 3 losses to Wyoming and UNLV.

There should be no recovering from that.

Unfortunately, the committee appears to have put significant weight on Mawot Mag’s season-ending injury.

When Mag was healthy, Rutgers was trending on a path to being a 6-seed in the Tournament. Unfortunately, the Knights are 3-7 without him.

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The committee’s assessment that Rutgers is not a tournament team without Mag is harsh, but not entirely unfair.

Going back to Torvik’s rankings, one of the most interesting features on his website is the ability to compare team resumes on a historic basis. Of the 10 teams most similar to this year’s Scarlet Knights, only 2022 Indiana actually made the NCAA Tournament.

So even though the decision stinks, it’s hardly without precedent.

That’s of little solace to Rutgers fans, who have been on the wrong end of the NCAA bubble twice in the past year. Last spring, Rutgers was an outrageous snub from the NCAA baseball tournament after finishing 44-15.

Now that snub was completely inexcusable.

This one, thanks to Mag’s injury, can at least be justified. Even if that justification is overly harsh.

Toughest draw: Purdue

Congrats, Boilermakers! You’ve earned your first No. 1 seed since 1996. Now you just need to navigate through the most brutal possible second round matchup.

Purdue could get No. 8 seed Memphis, which is fresh off a win over fellow No. 1 seed Houston in the American Athletic Conference title game. The Tigers love to press, which was exposed as a major Purdue weakness in a near-collapse against Penn State in the Big Ten championship game.

Or Purdue might face No. 9 Florida Atlantic, which is 31-3 and fits the typical NCAA Tournament Cinderella slipper to a T.

The Boilers may have been better off getting a 2-seed in another region.

Friendliest draw: Indiana

Circumstances set up ideally for the Hoosiers to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2016 — and potentially find Kelvin Sampson waiting for them in a nightmare-or-dream scenario.

For starters, the Hoosiers found themselves on the right side of the 4/5-seed borderline. On top of that, Miami is probably the most vulnerable 5-seed in this field. Indiana may very well face 12th-seeded Drake in the second round.

There’s also a chance Sampson and Houston won’t reach the Sweet 16. No. 9 seed Auburn is a tough potential second round matchup for the Cougars. That opens up a possible Elite Eight path for Indiana.

Of course, the Hoosiers can’t afford to overlook Kent State.

The 13th-seeded Golden Flashes are a familiar March foe for Indiana fans. Kent State upset IU in the first round in 2001. The Hoosiers returned the favor a year later, beating the Flashes in the 2002 Elite Eight.

Sweet 16 candidates

Purdue: The Boilermakers are still a 1-seed. And the second round could be their toughest crucible before the Final Four. Purdue’s task may get easier after the first weekend.

Indiana: See above.

Michigan State: It’s Izzo time. And geographically speaking, Michigan State getting sent to Columbus for the first 2 rounds is a gift. No. 2 seed Marquette hasn’t won a Tournament game since 2013, so it wouldn’t be shocking if the pressure got to the Golden Eagles.

Northwestern: No. 2 seed UCLA can be offensively challenged at times, which fits into Northwestern’s strengths. UCLA’s offense is 170th nationally in effective field percentage, and Northwestern’s defense is 82nd in the same category.

However, the Cats are too prone to shooting slumps to likely have much success against UCLA’s defense. And first-round opponent Boise State will be no walk in the park.

Final Four and beyond

Purdue: The Boilers likely have a better series of matchups awaiting in the East Regional than the second round. One thinks of the 1994 UCLA Bruins, who needed a buzzer-beater to beat Missouri in the second round and then ran all the way to the national title.

It’s not hard to envision something similar for Purdue.

Michigan State: It would be wild if the Spartans were the Big Ten team in the East region that actually makes the Final Four. But it wouldn’t be shocking. There’s a chance this will be a very blue-blooded regional — there’s potential for Duke, Kentucky and Michigan State to all reach the Sweet 16 in this region.

The Spartans can hang with any team they would come across on the road to the Final Four.