Hoge: Big Ten Bubble Teams Wait And Wonder
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By Adam Hoge –
INDIANAPOLIS — As the NCAA Tournament Selection Show nears, at least three Big Ten teams are still wondering if they will be dancing.
One of those teams is Penn State, which was a near afterthought for the NCAA Tournament when it arrived in Indianapolis Wednesday night. But the Nittany Lions have won three games in three days and have an opportunity to clinch the Big Ten’s automatic berth by beating No. 1 Ohio State in the championship game this afternoon.
Even if the Lions lose, they should be in. Penn State beat Wisconsin Friday night and handily beat Michigan State Saturday to advance to their first Big Ten Tournament championship game ever. PSU’s RPI is currently 39, which is higher than Michigan State (45), Illinois (47) and Michigan (50).
The Spartans, Illini and Wolverines can’t be completely comfortable either. Michigan State and Michigan are likely in after advancing to the Big Ten semis, but Illinois’ blown lead on Friday leaves some doubt.
Still, all four teams have great strength of schedule numbers. Penn State is sixth, Michigan State is 11th, Michigan is 16th and Illinois is 19th. The Illini also have a win over North Carolina, which continues to look better and better each day.
Illini head coach Bruce Weber said he feels good about his team’s tournament chances, but would have felt even better had they won Friday.
Of course, it helps that there are three more spots available this year after the tournament expanded to 68 teams. All four teams will likely benefit from that, but its possible one of them will get sent to the new 12-seed play-in games either Tuesday or Wednesday.
Adam Hoge has been covering the Big Ten Tournament for 670 The Score all weekend. Be sure to follow him on Twitter @AdamHog670 for the latest updates during the championship game and NCAA Selection Show.