As brutal as this season has felt at times for the Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball program, they still have a good chance of making the NCAA tournament. Wisconsin is currently part of the “First Four Out” group according to bracketology guru Joe Lunardi. This means the Badgers are on the outside looking in at the moment. Even though that doesn’t sound great, they can play themselves into the big dance with a solid showing in the B1G tournament.
Even with a less than ideal record, Bucky has a decent tournament resume with 6 quad 1 wins. They also don’t have any awful losses as the Wake Forrest loss was early in the season and the Nebraska loss was on the road. Most years, this type of season would be an easy call for the selection committee and Wisconsin would be a lock for the NIT. This year however, there are a lot of schools in a similar boat. With the middle of so many conference standings being jammed, more teams are in the mix to fill in the back of the NCAA tournament field.
B1G Tournament Scenarios
Wisconsin controls their own destiny and they don’t have to win the tournament to lock themselves in for a spot in the dance (although it would be fun). The road for Wisconsin to get a few wins in Chicago is actually set up pretty nicely. With their first matchup against a team they beat on the road this season, and Iowa waiting in the second round, these are two teams the Badgers are perfect against this season.
If we see the Badgers bow out of the B1G tournament before Friday, their chances are getting an NCAA tournament bid are virtually 0. They would need a lot to happen in other conference tournaments to still be considered and even then, it would look bleak.
If Wisconsin beats Ohio State and Iowa, they are sitting in a solid spot with a matchup against a MSU team they should have beat without Tyler Wahl. That win would guarantee them a spot but I think two wins is all they need to be playing in the big dance. That would add a couple of neutral site wins over conference opponents and would force teams in other conferences to make deep runs. Anything past Friday is gravy and just improves their potential seeding.
Teams to Keep an Eye On
There are a lot of teams looking to put a stamp on their NCAA tournament resumes in their respective conference tournaments. A handful of them will be competing in the same building as Wisconsin as Penn State, Rutgers and Michigan are firmly on the bubble as well. The Rutgers vs Michigan matchup in round 2 of the B1G tournament will be huge as whoever wins it likely gets a spot in the tournament. Penn State with a win over Illinois likely locks up a spot as well.
The ACC conference tournament will be huge as as NC State, Pitt, UNC and Clemson are all sitting on the bubble. Wisconsin is hoping for some big second round upsets in Greensboro, North Carolina. Wisconsin is lucky enough to have a win over #6 Marquette on their resume as that’s the biggest issue for a lot of these teams. They have a better records than the Badgers, but have struggled to beat ranked teams.
The Mountain West conference will be big as well with Boise State, Utah State and Nevada all hanging out on the bubble. If any of these teams lose their first game of the tournament, they’re likely out as they just haven’t had the level of competition all season long. If they all advance to the semi-finals, it’ll be interesting to see who gets their name called on Sunday. Wisconsin needs San Diego State to win that conference tournament otherwise they are another at large bid gone.
Finally, a few teams to track this week are Mississippi State, Oklahoma State, Arizona State, Charleston and Oregon. In the smaller conferences, Wisconsin needs the top seeds to win those tournament to limit any chance of an at large bid being used there.
Wisconsin has a solid path to compete in March Madness. If they are able to get two wins, I think they are in a good spot but three wins locks them in. Even though it has been a rough season, the fact they are still in the discussion for an NCAA tournament spot is incredible. We’ve seen Gard led teams hit their stride late in the season before, will it happen this year?
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