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Why it Won't Be Easy--Top Three

Reason # 3: New Year, Same Old Badgers
I’m sure Wisconsin and Ohio State fans enjoyed watching Saturday night’s game, but for the rest of the nation, it was probably like being forced to watch Billy Mays’ infomercials on loop.

The Badgers are using the same deliberate but successful formula that’s helped them make it to the tournament 10 years in a row. I’m not saying Penn State, Michigan or Minnesota are lighting up the scoreboards. But the Nittany Lions are the feel good story of the year in the Big Ten. Manny Harris is a superstar, and the entire country has been waiting for Tubby Smith to take the Gophers to the tournament.

Don’t get me wrong, I love watching UW methodically break a team’s spirit one defensive stop at a time, but I don’t get to pick the field of 65.

Reason # 2: Michigan
The Wolverines are 3-7 in their last ten games, but Michigan has something Wisconsin does not have, make that two things Wisconsin does not have—a win over UCLA and a win over Duke.

Let’s say the Badgers defeat the Wolverines in the last regular season game of the year. Wisconsin finishes 10-8. Michigan finishes 9-9. You’d think at that point Wisconsin would be a lock, but what if the Badgers lose in the first round of the Big Ten tournament and the Wolverines win a few. Because of Michigan’s big wins at the beginning of the year, I would not be shocked to see them slide ahead of UW.

Reason # 1: Stuck in the Middle with You
There’s a logjam at in the middle of the conference, and depending on how things shake-out in the final weeks of season, the logjam could still be there in March. Barring catastrophic meltdowns Michigan State, Illinois, Purdue and Ohio State will all be in the tournament. Minnesota will also probably clinch a berth with a few additional wins. I know the Big Ten is better this season, but I still think only six teams are going to make it in.

That leaves Michigan, Penn State and Wisconsin fighting for the final spot. The Badgers should feel good that they swept the Nittany Lions and could sweep the Wolverines. But I still think it’s going to come down to the Big Ten tournament. Despite their recent winning streak, despite their solid RPI, despite the strength of the conference, I believe the Badgers need at least 20 wins to feel safe on Selection Sunday.