By Kyle Beery

Selection Sunday is less than two weeks away, and it’s time to start getting a feel for teams around the country. I’ll be writing a series of posts to give fans a snapshot of each “Power Conference” team that has a shot of making the NCAA Tournament — as well as a handful of mid-major teams.

I’ll look at each team’s best wins and worst losses, a key stat for each team, and a wild-card fact to know about each squad. Check back all the way up until the tournament tips off, as posts will be updated periodically to reflect most recent results.


Purdue Boilermakers (24-6 overall, 13-4 Big Ten) — No. 20 RPI

Best wins/worst losses

Best wins: *Notre Dame (No. 22 RPI); at Maryland (No. 27); Wisconsin (No. 33)
Worst losses: at Iowa (No. 92); at Nebraska (No. 87)

Purdue lost a marquee matchup against Villanova on its home floor in the second game of the season. The Boilermakers went on to win 11 of their next 12. They have not lost back-to-back games this season, but have looked a little shaky at times with a few close wins against some less-than-average teams.

The Boilers won their first Big Ten regular season title since 2010, nonetheless. It’s hard to imagine, but the highest-seeded Big Ten team in the Big Dance likely won’t be higher than a No. 4-seed for the first time in more than a decade. Purdue is a solid team, but doesn’t quite have that uber-impressive win to send them over the edge.

Key stat

The Boilermakers’ 41 percent from three-point range ranks fifth in the nation. Obviously, that makes them a lethal threat, but everybody knows you can’t live and die by the three.

And Purdue has confirmed that a couple times this season, shooting 31 and 32 percent from deep in losses against Michigan and Minnesota, respectively.


7-footer Caleb “Biggie” Swanigan is an absolute monster. The Wooden Award candidate is the heart and soul of this Purdue team, averaging 18.6 points and 12.6 rebounds per game. He has had 24 double-doubles this season.

Not only do the Boilers have Swanigan anchoring the post, fellow 7-footer Isaac Haas is another formidable big man in the paint. That massive duo, along with hot hands from three-point range make for a tough out in the NCAA Tournament, regardless if Purdue has a truly great win on its resume.

Wisconsin Badgers (22-7 overall, 11-5 Big Ten) — No. 33 RPI

Best wins/worst losses

Best wins: at Minnesota (No. 17); Maryland (No. 27); Michigan (No. 47)
Worst losses: at Ohio State (No. 62); Northwestern (No. 50)

Beating a rival in Minnesota on the road is most certainly a good win. But the Badgers are just 3-6 against the RPI top 50 and don’t really have a win that jumps off the page as overly impressive.

The Badgers reached as high as No. 7 in the AP Top 25 a couple weeks ago, but have lost four of their last five, which were all winnable games.

Key stat

While the Badgers are no slouch, their recent slide is reflected by their free throw woes. Wisconsin is 304th — out of 351 Division I teams — in free throw percentage at 65.8 percent.

We all know how important free throws can be throughout the course of a game, especially in March. Senior Bronson Koenig (90.6 percent) is the only real bright spot for the Badgers from the free throw line.


Wisconsin makes up for its poor free throw shooting on the defensive end. The Badgers rank 15th in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to They allow 93.6 points per 100 possessions, adjusted to the quality and tempo of their opponents.

Maryland Terrapins (23-7 overall, 11-6 Big Ten) — No. 27 RPI

Best wins/worst losses

Best wins: at Minnesota (No. 17); Oklahoma State (No. 29); at Michigan (No. 47); at Northwestern (No. 50)
Worst losses: at Penn State (No. 95); Iowa (No. 92); Nebraska (No. 87)

Maryland, much like Wisconsin, has found itself in a late-season funk, having lost three in a row before beating Rutgers on Tuesday.

The Terps went 12-1 in non-conference play, but had a pretty week non-conference schedule, ranking 192nd in the nation, according to kenpom. The one-point win over Oklahoma State was the only one that really panned out to carry much weight.

Key stat

While Maryland is a pretty efficient offensive team, they struggle a bit on the defensive end. They allow 99 points per 100 offensive possessions, ranked 66th in the country. The Terrapins allowed 73.25 points per game during February, posting a 3-5 record in the month.


Junior stud Melo Trimble has carried the Terps this season, as he has throughout his entire career at Maryland. He is averaging 17.1 points and 3.6 assists per game this season, which has made him a candidate for Big Ten Player of the Year.

But in order for success in March, Trimble will need his supporting cast to step up. Senior big man Damonte Dodd is a menace in the paint, and freshman guard Justin Jackson is a good Robin to Trimble’s Batman in the backcourt. They will both need to come up big in the postseason.

Minnesota Golden Gophers (22-7 overall, 10-6 Big Ten) — No. 17 RPI

Best wins/worst losses

Best wins: at Purdue (No. 20); at Maryland (No. 27); Arkansas (No. 32)
Worst losses: at Penn State (No. 95); at Ohio State (No. 62)

Minnesota went 12-1 outside of Big Ten play, with the lone non-conference loss coming at Florida State, now ranked 12th in the RPI.

The Gophers had a pair of agonizingly close home losses against Wisconsin and Michigan State. They saw a 13-point halftime lead over Michigan State disappear in a game decided in the final seconds of overtime. They lost another overtime game against the Badgers in which they let a lead slip away in the final minute.

Key stat

While the Gophers keep finding ways to win games — mainly because of an improved defense — they are still struggling in terms of effective field goal percentage, which is a formula that gives more weight to three-pointers: (.5 * three-point field goals made + field goals made) / field goals attempted.

Minnesota is ranked 252nd in the country in eFG% at 48.7 percent.


As previously alluded to, the Gophers have made drastic improvements from last season’s dismal eight-win season. Much of that can be attributed to a defense anchored by big man Reggie Lynch. Though he still has room to improve offensively, Lynch is a menace on the other end of the floor, averaging 6.3 rebounds and 3.4 blocks per game.

Northwestern Wildcats (21-9 overall, 10-7 Big Ten) — No. 50 RPI

Best wins/worst losses

Best wins: *Dayton (No. 21); at Wisconsin (No. 33); Wake Forest (No. 46); Michigan (No. 47)
Worst losses: at Indiana (No. 93); Illinois (No. 56) twice

Northwestern is on the path to history, as the Wildcats are on the cusp of reaching their first NCAA Tournament in program history. They’re starting to slip, though, having lost three of their last four games in February before beating Michigan on March 1.

While beating Dayton on a neutral court for their best win of the season may not seem all that sexy, the Wildcats have a very respectable 10 RPI top-100 wins. Their most recent such win came Wednesday night when Derek Pardon delivered a buzzer-beating shot that likely secured the Cats’ historic first NCAA Tournament bid.

Key stat

The 64.7 points per game that Northwestern’s defense allows per game ranks in the top 75 in the country. This is a sound defense that keeps itself in a lot of games. Only twice have the Wildcats lost a game by double figures, and they rarely allow teams to eclipse the 70-point mark. They are 3-5 when allowing more than 70.


Northwestern has three players averaging double figure points — veterans Bryant McIntosh and Scottie Lindsey, as well as sophomore Vic Law. This trio is what drives the Wildcats. They are the keys to success for this team, but it is McIntosh who is the true leader of the team.

Michigan State Spartans (18-12 overall, 10-7 Big Ten) — No. 41 RPI

Best wins/worst losses

Best wins: Minnesota (No. 17) twice; Wisconsin (No. 33); *Wichita State (No. 40)
Worst losses: Northeastern (No. 127); at Penn State (No. 95) at Indiana (No. 93)

This is your atypical Tom Izzo-led Michigan State team. It has been a down year for the Spartans and they have showed it with unbridled inconsistency. While the Spartans struggled with a top-50 non-conference schedule — perhaps understandably so with losses against four RPI top-15 teams (Baylor, Kentucky, Arizona and Duke) — those struggles carried over into Big Ten play.

Michigan State has played 21 games against the RPI top-100, but are just one game over .500 in those matchups. Those 11 wins likely have the Spartans as a lock for the NCAA Tournament, but a handful of agonizing losses have fans pulling out their hair on a nightly basis.

Key stat

Perhaps the one stat that singlehandedly encapsulates the Spartans’ woes is their turnover percentage. The Spartans turn the ball over on 21 percent of their possessions, ranked 315th in the country, according to kenpom.

While there are other issues with this team, ball security is a big red flag for this team as we move towards the madness of the postseason.


Izzo is dealing with a pretty young team this year, which can cause a lot of issues in and of itself. But when freshmen like Miles Bridges, Nick Ward and Cassius Winston are at their best, this can be a dangerous team. Now that senior guard Eron Harris is out for the season (ACL), four of the Spartans’ top five scorers are freshmen — that trio, along with Joshua Langford.

Bridges is the most explosive player on the team, averaging 16.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.

Michigan Wolverines (19-11 overall, 9-8 Big Ten) — No. 46 RPI

Best wins/worst losses

Best wins: *SMU (No. 19); Purdue (No. 20); Wisconsin (No. 33); Michigan State (No. 41)
Worst losses: at Iowa (No. 92); Ohio State (No. 62); at Illinois (No. 56)

Much like their in-state rivals, the Wolverines have shown a lot of inconsistency this season. They have come within two possessions of beating RPI top-50 teams on three occasions, but they’ve also had some deflating close losses, including Wednesday’s thriller in Evanston.

Since the win over SMU was on a neutral court all the way back in the fourth game of the season, Michigan’s most impressive win came on Senior Day against Purdue. Michigan was able to handle the Boilers’ menacing post presence to get a win that likely locked the Wolverines into the NCAAs.

Key stat

Unlike the Spartans, ball security is a strong suit for the Wolverines. They turn the ball over on just 14.7 percent of possessions, ranked best in the conference and fifth in the country.

They also force turnovers on a respectable 19.8 percent of possessions on the defensive end of the floor.


As is the status quo with a John Beilein-coached team, the Wolverines have a potent three-point attack. They shoot 38 percent from deep, and 38 percent of their points come from beyond the three-point line, but we all also know that can be a downfall of a John Beilein-coached team.

Michigan is 5-4 in its last nine games. In the four losses, the Wolverines shot under their average three-point percentage. In three of their five wins during that stretch, they shot well over that percentage. It’s safe to say that the Wolverines rely on the long ball.

Illinois Fighting Illini (18-12 overall, 8-9 Big Ten) — No. 56 RPI

Best wins/worst losses

Best wins: *VCU (No. 23); Michigan (No. 47); Northwestern (No. 50) twice
Worst losses: Penn State (No. 95) twice; at Indiana (No. 93); Winthrop (No. 78)

Illinois is really the only true bubble team in the Big Ten. Everyone else — though seeding may be an issue for them — is likely safely in the NCAA Tournament field. The Illini have some nice wins, but nothing that pops off the page.

Beating VCU on a neutral floor early in the season is a solid win, but beating Northwestern twice is probably Illinois’ best part of its resume. At 9-13 against the RPI top-100, Illinois is the only team on this list that has a sub-.500 record in such games.

This is a team that wasn’t even on the NCAA Tournament radar a couple weeks ago, but now finds itself just on the outside of the bubble. They’ll need to get a win at Rutgers over the weekend and win one or two in the conference tournament.

Key stat

Illinois also has ball security problems. It turns the ball over on 18.5 percent of its possessions. Turnovers have held the Illini back this season, causing them to fall under pressure in some big games.

Wednesday’s Senior Night win over Michigan State was a different story. They had just seven turnovers en route to one of their biggest wins of the season.


Malcolm Hill leads the Illini in points (17.3), assists (3.0) and steals (1.1) per game. The senior has undoubtedly been the leader of this team. He came through on Wednesday with 22 points and reminded us that college basketball players are not robots, showing just how badly he wants to make the Big Dance.


Make sure to check out my bracketology projections and keep tabs on the rest of the March Madness Snapshot series: ACC  |  Big East  |  Big 12