Last season, the Big Ten produced eight NCAA Tournament teams, but not one made it to the Elite Eight, let alone the Final Four. To add to the conference's disappointment, Purdue became the second-ever one seed to lose to a 16 seed when the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights knocked off National Player of the Year Zach Edey and the Boilermakers.
Well, Edey is back and so is Purdue. Through January 29, Matt Painter’s team is ranked second in the country, only behind the defending champs, UConn. Yet, the conference could be in even bigger trouble come March 2024.
A year ago, teams like Penn State, Iowa, and Maryland provided the conference with great depth heading into March Madness, but this year, all three plus Indiana, appear to be on the outside looking in.
Over the weekend, Penn State lost to Minnesota and lost Kanye Clary and Nick Kern Jr. to injury, putting the nail in the coffin of its season, but with over a month and a half until the Big Ten tournament in Minneapolis, let’s take a look at which teams in the conference could be a part of the 68 team field for the NCAA Tournament.
- Penn State
- Ohio State
Lately, the bottom has fallen out of the Big Ten conference. Michigan and Rutgers are already looking ahead to next season, especially with Michigan only playing Dug McDaniel in home games. Rutgers has a loaded freshman class coming next year, so both the Scarlett Knights are a cross-off too.
Penn State had a chance to build momentum after beating Wisconsin, but after blowing a 14-point halftime lead to Minnesota, the Nittany Lions are out of contention.
Indiana, Minnesota, and Ohio State all have a better chance to play themselves back into the mix and could be live in the Big Ten tournament, but it’s looking like a longshot at this point.
Ohio State is the best team of that bunch with freshman point guard Bruce Thornton, but the Buckeyes are just 1-3 against Quad 1 opponents. However, Ohio State plays Illinois on Tuesday, then in mid-February has Wisconsin and Purdue on the schedule. If Chris Holtmann’s team can go 2-1 or even 1-2 in those games, then the Buckeyes will move onto the bubble.