The Big Ten could send 10 teams to the 2020 March Madness college basketball tournament, but Rutgers and Indiana are both fighting to avoid the dreaded bubble.
The Scarlet Knights recently ended an untimely losing streak with an upset victory over #9 Maryland. Rutgers has a shot at their first March Madness college basketball tournament appearance in 29 years.
Rutgers has never been known as a basketball powerhouse and has appeared in March Madness only six times in school history. In 1976, Rutgers went to the Final Four, but were knocked off by Michigan. In 1979, Rutgers advanced to the Sweet 16, and that’s as deep as they’ve gone in 40 years.
Big Ten Standings
Maryland 13-6 (23-7)
Michigan State 13-6 (21-9)
Wisconsin 13-6 (20-10)
Illinois 12-6 (20-9)
Penn State 11-8 (21-9)
Iowa 11-8 (20-10)
Ohio State 10-8 (20-9)
Rutgers 10-9 (19-11)
Michigan 9-9 (18-11)
Indiana 9-10 (19-11)
Rutgers has been absent from the postseason tournament since 1991, but all that can change this season.
According to a recent update from KenPom, Rutgers is fairly high with a #27 overall ranking. ESPN’s Bracketology has Rutgers with a #8 seed, which means they will avoid the bubble in the upcoming March Madness college basketball tournament.
10 from the Big Ten
Schools from weaker conferences, or mid-majors, often find themselves unlucky with at-large bids on Selection Sunday. On the flip side, deep-power conferences such as the Big Ten often snatch up potential spots from smaller schools like Saint Mary’s.
This has been an unusual season in college basketball, however. There’s been a huge shuffle at the top of the rankings, with eight different teams all holding the #1 spot this season. Meanwhile, the Big Ten is stacked with good teams, but there hasn’t been a truly dominant force in the conference this season like Michigan or Michigan State have been in previous years.
A quick glance at the AP Top 25 shows that #9 Maryland is the lone Big Ten representative in the Top 10. Other ranked Big Ten schools include #16 Michigan State, #18 Iowa, #19 Ohio State, #20 Penn State, #23 Illinois, #24 Wisconsin, and #25 Michigan. That’s eight Big Ten schools in the Top 25.
Toss in Indiana and Rutgers from the bubble, and there are your 10, Big Ten teams that could end up a part of March Madness.
In case you’re wondering, Nebraska and Northwestern are the basement dwellers in the Big Ten with only two conference wins apiece. Purdue and Minnesota both having losing conference records in the Big Ten this season.
At one point, Rutgers hovered in the Top 25. They started out 16-5 before they hit the doldrums in February. They went 2-6 over an eight-game stretch that included a three-game losing streak with losses against Michigan, Wisconsin, and #16 Penn State.
Rutgers found themselves in a tough spot with a home game against #9 Maryland. However, the Scarlet Knights didn’t back down with a March Madness bubble looming overhead.
Jacob Young came off the bench and scored 17 points in the upset over Maryland. The Terps did a good job of keeping Rutgers’ tops scorer, Ron Harper, Jr., in check. They held him to 9 points on 3-for-9 shooting.
“We have won a lot of games in the best league in the country,” said head coach Steve Pikiell. “We have had the No. 1 schedule in the country, not just in the league, the last seven or eight games. We won against a lot of really good teams. This is another one today. We have one more with Purdue and then the conference tournament.”
“Give Rutgers credit,” said Maryland coach Mark Turgeon. “They earned a bid.”
In his fourth year with Rutgers, Pikiell finally posted a winning season. It’s been a difficult transition to the Big Ten for New Jersey’s state school. After one of their best seasons in three decades, Rutgers has a shot at their first March Madness appearance in 29 years.
On Deck: Purdue Boilermakers
Ron Harper, Jr., a 6-foot-6 sophomore guard, leads Rutgers with 12.0 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. He lit up Iowa for 29 points earlier in the season. He’s the son of ex-NBA star, Ron Harper, who won five NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls in the mid-1990s and the LA Lakers at the turn of the century.
The win over Maryland was Rutgers’ 18th victory at home this season at the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC). That set a new school record for most home wins.
Rutgers hits the road for a final game of the season at Purdue. A win for Rutgers will keep them away from the bubble. They picked off Purdue 70-63 a couple of weeks ago, and held Purdue to 27.3% shooting from the perimeter. Jahaad Proctor came off the bench to lead Purdue in scoring with 19 points. Purdue’s top scorer, 6-foot-9 forward Trevion Williams, added 17 points and 13 rebounds in the loss.
Caleb McConnell, a 6-foot-7 swingman, only averages 6.9 ppg. McConnell led Rutgers with 16 points in the victory, including a perfect 12-for-12 from the free-throw line. Harper had a rough night shooting and finished with 10 points.
- Remaining Games: (1) at Purdue
- Key Wins: Maryland, Seton Hall, Illinois, Penn State, Wisconsin, Indiana
- Losses: Iowa, Michigan State, Penn State (twice), Michigan (twice), Maryland, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Illinois, Pitt
For OG’s coverage of other March Madness bubble teams, check out: Wichita State, USC, Stanford, Xavier, Oklahoma, Utah State, Cincinnati, Saint Mary’s, Richmond, Providence, Rhode Island, and East Tennessee State/Furman.