Big Ten Tournament Seeding Scenarios

Submitted by Alex Cook on March 3rd, 2017 at 3:37 PM


[Marc-Gregor Campredon]

With one game left in the regular season, the Big Ten Tournament picture is becoming clearer – there are still a wide variety of potential outcomes, but most teams have a pretty good idea of where they’ll end up. With Michigan’s recent heartbreaking loss to Northwestern, and Iowa’s impressive road win over Wisconsin, it’s likely that Michigan will find itself playing in the 8/9 game on Thursday afternoon against none other than Illinois, the team that may have sparked the Michigan turnaround with a blowout win and Maverick Morgan’s harsh-but-mostly-true “white collar” comment. Derrick Walton in particular has been playing blue-collar ball as of late, and I’m sure he’d relish another shot at the Illini even though Michigan won the rematch.

This excellent post by Dan Baker at The Only Colors outlines the potential outcomes of this weekend of action across the Big Ten (and it’s definitely worth a click to read through in-depth) – right now, this is what the bracket would look like if there’s chalk in the remaining seven games:

possible BTT bracket

The favorites in the remaining games (according to Kenpom) are in bold:

  • Indiana at Ohio State
  • Illinois at Rutgers
  • Michigan State at Maryland
  • Penn State at Iowa
  • Purdue at Northwestern
  • Minnesota at Wisconsin
  • Michigan at Nebraska

A look at some possible seed outcomes after the JUMP.

Michigan is the 8-seed if

  • Iowa defeats Penn State


  • Nebraska defeats Michigan

This is by far the likeliest scenario. Iowa enters the weekend on a three-game winning streak – including road wins over Maryland and Wisconsin – and hosts Penn State, a team that has lost four games in a row. It’s the first meeting between the two teams; both have promising freshmen that will elevate the program in the coming years, but Iowa has Peter Jok – a senior who’s a lethal scorer. Penn State could theoretically pull the upset, which would help Michigan move up the seed line, but an Iowa win over the Nittany Lions on Sunday would cement Michigan into the 8 spot, even before the Wolverines take the floor against Nebraska later that evening.

If Penn State does pull the upset, Michigan would need to win that game in Lincoln to move up. Earlier this season, Michigan beat Nebraska at home in a tightly-contested game with little defense to speak of on either side; the Huskers were without one of their best players (big man Ed Morrow) but their guards lit up Michigan to the tune of 1.21 points per possession. Still, Nebraska is tied for last in the conference (among non-Rutgers teams) and this is a game Michigan should win. It would certainly erase any doubt about the Wolverines’ tournament chances.

Baker’s ratings system gives Michigan an 82% chance of landing as the eight-seed. It would be the third season in a row that they have played in the 8/9 game (and possibly the first of two 8/9 games in as many weeks).

However, there’s still a chance Michigan could be playing on Thursday evening instead of Thursday afternoon:

Michigan is the 7-seed if

  • Michigan State defeats Maryland
  • Penn State defeats Iowa
  • Michigan defeats Nebraska


  • Penn State defeats Iowa
  • Purdue defeats Northwestern
  • Michigan defeats Nebraska

Michigan is the 6-seed if

  • Maryland defeats Michigan State
  • Penn State defeats Iowa
  • Northwestern defeats Purdue
  • Michigan defeats Nebraska

The only way Michigan escapes the 8-seed would be if Penn State and Michigan both win on Sunday. In that case, the Wolverines would be assured of the 6- or 7-seed, depending on how games featuring teams in the top half of the conference go this weekend. Michigan State @ Maryland (on Saturday) and Purdue @ Northwestern (on Sunday) would determine where Michigan ends up: if Maryland and Northwestern were to both win, Michigan would leapfrog Michigan State and wind up with the 6-seed. If either State or Purdue get a road win, the Wolverines would receive the 7-seed.

So who will they play?

If Iowa beats Penn State, Michigan will play Illinois in the 8/9 game, no matter what. Since Kenpom gives the Hawkeyes a 70% chance of winning that game, there’s a pretty big chance Derrick Walton will get another shot at Maverick Morgan in the Wolverines’ first Big Ten Tournament game. If Iowa opens the door with a loss (but Michigan doesn’t take advantage and loses to Nebraska), the Wolverines will be the 8-seed and face Iowa in the 8/9 game instead, assuming that Illinois takes care of Rutgers on the road. That “Illinois W, Penn State W, Nebraska W” scenario isn’t particularly likely, to say the least.

Purdue has already locked up the outright conference title and is locked in as the 1-seed. Fortunately Michigan has already beaten Purdue (in a game that featured Moritz Wagner ethering the vaunted Boilermaker frontcourt), but they’re definitely the best team in the Big Ten and therefore not an appealing second Big Ten Tournament matchup. At the very least, there’s little chance of a truly bad loss anywhere if Michigan finds itself in that 8/9 game: Illinois and Iowa aren’t bad enough to deal a huge blow to the Wolverines’ resume.

It’s a long shot – roughly a 5% chance, according to Kenpom – that four games break the right way and Michigan vaults up to the 6-seed; it’s more probable that the Wolverines will be the 7-seed if Penn State comes through with the upset over Iowa and Michigan takes care of business against Nebraska. Ohio State has a good chance of being the 10-seed, and they’d lock that up with a home win over Indiana this weekend. If Indiana wins that game (and Michigan beats Nebraska), the Hoosiers would be the 10-seed. The winner of this weekend’s Minnesota @ Wisconsin game will be the 2-seed and face the winner of the 7/10 game.

TL;DR – Michigan will probably play Illinois in the 8/9 game and face Purdue if they win. We’ll be rooting for Penn State, who needs to beat Iowa for Michigan to finish in a better spot that the 8-seed. If that does happen, whoever wins the Ohio State – Indiana game will be awaiting the Wolverines in the 7/10 game; the winner of that game will face the 2-seed, who will be the winner of Wisconsin – Minnesota.



March 3rd, 2017 at 4:27 PM ^

That's only true because there are no actually good teams in the big ten. Beating Purdue was great but that's still a team that had lost Nebraska and gone to ot with Rutgers in the previous two weeks.

People keep saying this thing like Michigan can beat anyone in the country because of the Purdue win. The reality is the big ten has no elite teams. Michigan played one elite team this year in ucla, we played our best offensive half of the season and still lost by 20.


March 3rd, 2017 at 5:17 PM ^

I think there are a lot of good teams in the big team, just no great team or teams.  This year there is just not a head and shoulders great team so the conference as a whole looks weak.  But there are still a ton of teams that will make the tourney.


March 3rd, 2017 at 3:54 PM ^

Minnesota at #4 drives me insane.  They are playing well enough, but they are not the #4 team in this conference by any means.

Michigan at 8/9 sucks simply because Illinois is playing well, while one seed down is broken-down OSU ready for the plundering.

What does crack me up is the number of people who bemoan Michigan's road record in conference (2-6) while MSU's is also 2-6.  And yet, they're sitting at the 5 seed because they beat OSU, basically.


March 3rd, 2017 at 4:28 PM ^

they are the 3 (!!!) seed and they certainly aren't the third best team in the conference.  But who even is?!  So much parity in the conference this year.  I would actually argue that after Purdue, us, Minnesota and Maryland (they've been bad recently and shouldn't have beaten us) are tightly contested and close behind for the second best team in the conference.  Wisconsin, who has been terrible for a month, MSU and NW are my 5/6/7 teams.  Illinois and Iowa aren't far behind them at 8/9 though. 


March 4th, 2017 at 3:07 PM ^

a 20 game conference schedule.  Especially if it meant fewer games against 300th ranked opponents. I have to think trading a home game against a tomato can for a road game against a conference opponent would be made up in increased television revenues from more conference games.

But to echo the point made before, we did have a pretty easy conference schedule this year with only one game against Purdue, Minnesota and Maryland (only partially offset by only playing Rutgers once).


March 4th, 2017 at 8:15 AM ^

Yeah, OSU is a problem for us until proven otherwise. Both this year and last year, they had Michigan on the back foot with their energy/aggressiveness. They took Michigan completely out of its offense—at Crisler, no less—to the point of launching 35 threes out of 51 shots.


March 3rd, 2017 at 4:08 PM ^

Obviously the answer is yes in the sense that it helps to play easier opponents early on in the bracket, but if this past month has proven anything, this team is pretty damn good.  We haven't been seeing the same lethargic attitude that plagued our defense early in the season, and the offense is really hitting its stride.  At the end of the day we're realistically going to have to play the best B1G 10 teams at some point within the tournament, so why not play them early.  On the plus side, an 8 seed would mean that Maryland and Wisconsin would eliminate each other if we are fortunate enough to make it to the championship game.  On the other hand, I could be a little biased.  If Michigan lands the 7 seed, I'm going to miss most of the game sitting in my 7:00 pm exam.  Either way, I'm more anxious to see how the team responds against a pesky Nebraska team.  Go Blue!


March 3rd, 2017 at 4:44 PM ^

This year more than any in memory, the conference is marked by parity. We can beat anyone on any given day and can lose to anyone that we'd possibly play.  Honestly, I don't think there's a single potential matchup for us that would be more than a 60/40 chance either way. EDIT: Unless we get the 6 seed and Rutgers wins the 11/14. But odds of all that is like 1 percent.

It's more about which matchups we'd LIKE to see.  Some want OSU again in the first round, I wouldn't mind wearing the blues again against Illinois. Some want to avoid the 1 seed, I think we have more to gain and just as good a chance of beating Purdue as anyone else.


March 3rd, 2017 at 6:21 PM ^

I'd love a rematch against OSU. I just wish I wouldn't miss half the game sitting in an exam. Also, I agree that we have the most to gain with a rematch against the Illini, and then playing Purdue in the second round. Also avoiding a pseudo road game against Maryland in the second round is a nice plus.


March 3rd, 2017 at 4:24 PM ^

Please get that 7 seed. Playing OSU and then Wisconsin seems like a much better path to at least two wins in the tourney than Illinois and Purdue. I'm amazed Wisconsin is the #2 seed with how they have played lately.


March 3rd, 2017 at 4:35 PM ^

Not that it matters since 8 and 9 play each other but is there no way UM can fall to the 9 seed?  They could find themselves tied with Illinois and/or Iowa and Illinois with a 9-9 league record.


March 3rd, 2017 at 4:56 PM ^

8 seed is the lowest we can be.  If we lose, Illinois wins, and Iowa loses, we're all tied at 9-9 for 7/8/9 and Illinois would get the 7 on account of beating Iowa twice (for a 3-1 record against us and Iowa). Interestingly, the tiebreaker between us and Iowa at 1-2 against the other two teams is not head-to-head, but each teams record against the one seed on down until there is a winner.  Our win against Purdue wins us that tiebreaker.


March 3rd, 2017 at 5:42 PM ^

I'm going to go to the tournament - anybody have thoughts on whether or not it makes sense to buy tickets now before they announce the final seeding or wait until after?


Does anybody know if teh tickets allow you in and out of the stadium during the day or if once you're in  you have to stay in for the whole day?


March 3rd, 2017 at 10:03 PM ^

I have the same question about when to buy. Tix are pretty cheap, which makes me happy.

Pretty sure you can't leave and come back. Your tix would cover both games in your session (right now, looks like UM will be session 2). This Thursday daytime will be pretty empty with pretty cheap tickets.


March 3rd, 2017 at 9:10 PM ^

Any advice on when to buy tix? Right now you can get pretty good seats for the morning session for under $20. Will these be cheaper/more expensive once the teams have been officially assigned?.... taking my two boys!!!


March 4th, 2017 at 7:27 PM ^

Anyone know where the Big Ten Tournament scenario simulation site is?  I used it yesterday, can't find it today.  Cannot sleep without knowing if Michigan will be a 6, 7, or 8 seed.  


March 4th, 2017 at 9:28 PM ^…

With three games played today, the Wisky/Minn game tomorrow having no effect, and three other games to be played tomorrow, we're down to eight scenarios. 

We'll play the Wednesday winner of PSU/OSU on Thurs as the 6th if

  • We beat Nebraska
  • PSU beats Iowa
  • NW beats Purdue

We'll play Indiana on Thurs as the 7th if

  • We beat Nebraska
  • PSU beats Iowa
  • Purdue beats NW

Otherwise we play Illinois on Thurs as the 8th seed



March 4th, 2017 at 11:54 PM ^

Just trying to sneak this in somewhere, so that I can harken back to it later. I think we get the 8 seed, upset the 1 in round 2, and take their seed, Irvin comes alive, and Walton and Wagner go bananas in taking us to the final 4. Sound too crazy?!?. Crazy, yes, but not insane. The offense is becoming wicked good!