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Point/Counterpoint: How many Big Ten teams will go to the NCAA tournament?

BY DI STAFF | FEBRUARY 19, 2013 5:00 AM

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Eight

As unlikely as it may have seemed, the Big Ten will put in eight—yes, eight— teams in the tournament.

There are five locks: Indiana, Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, and Wisconsin. I think Illinois has turned around its season and has the signature wins [Maui Invitational champions, Indiana and Gonzaga — now both top-three teams] to get by with a lesser record in the Big Ten. Minnesota has a favorable schedule to get to 9-9 with games against Penn State, Purdue, and Nebraska.

That leaves the eighth team missing. That team can be Iowa.

Iowa has a great end-of-season schedule after being put through the ring of fire to open conference play. The Hawks finish with two games against Nebraska, a home game versus a struggling Purdue, a home game against Illinois, and an away game against Indiana (count that as a loss).

Finishing 4-1 would put Iowa at 10-8 in the Big Ten and right in the thick of things come Selection Sunday. Couple that with a win in the Big Ten Tournament and Iowa will be more in the tournament than out.

It helps the Hawkeyes that some teams that figured to be in not too long ago are now on the outside looking in.

Kentucky now finds itself without its star player Nerlens Noel, who is lost for the season with a knee injury.  CBS Sport’s Jerry Palm has Kentucky in his “First Four Out” after a 30 drubbing courtesy of Tennessee.

Palmer also has Iowa State on the outside looking in after losing to 11-14 Texas. Iowa State lacks a signature win in a down Big 12 and has had some bad losses.

Combine these teams’ untimely rough patches along with the weak nature of the SEC and Pac 12 this season; a few at large spots are opening up for Iowa — and the Big Ten — to steal.

— by Kevin Glueck

Six

The Big Ten arguably could have eight teams selected into the field of 68, however, with Minnesota’s recent self-implosion and Iowa coming on too little too late, the Big Ten will be represented by Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Illinois. Here’s why.

The first five teams mentioned are locks, which leaves Illinois, Minnesota, and Iowa fighting each other to sneak into the field. Of the three, only one has proven it can win on the road. Illinois has beaten both then-No. 10 Gonzaga and then-No. 18 Minnesota away from Assembly Hall, and it has also sprinkled in wins against top-ranked Indiana and No. 8 Ohio State. If Illinois can upset either Ohio State or Michigan on the road, that will give them five wins against top 25 teams and all but solidify them into the field of 68.

As for the teams on the outside looking in, Minnesota has continued its treacherous fall from the top 10 by getting blown out by an unranked Iowa team after leading by as much as 16. Minnesota has lost seven of its last 10 games and has fallen to 6-7 in conference play.

It doesn’t get any easier for Tubby Smith’s Golden Gophers — their next two games are at Ohio State and home against Indiana. Smith can do his own version of the Harlem Shake all the way into the NIT Tournament.

Last but not least come your Iowa Hawkeyes. As much as it pains me to say it, we will join our friends from the north in the NIT, because the Hawkeyes have turned it on just a tad bit late. I understand Iowa has been in just about every game this season, but when the NCAA committee looks at the Hawks’ résumé and sees the best win is over a sliding Minnesota team, the members won’t be too impressed. We have lost all five games against ranked teams, and our only conference road wins come against Northwestern and Penn State. Big whoop.

The only way I see this changing as if the Illini fall apart, as they did in their wonderful football season, and lose a bunch of games down the stretch. Iowa needs to continue to stay hot and beat Illinois at home and a road win at Indiana in Bloomington on March 2 wouldn’t hurt for the late-surging Hawkeyes. The game to watch: Illinois at Iowa in Carver-Hawkeye on March 5.

— by Nick Delaquila


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