After a split in the final week of the regular season, No. 4 Michigan and Michigan State now enter the Big Ten Tournament with different postseason futures at stake. The Wolverines are aiming to secure a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, while the Spartans are looking to strengthen their resume to earn an at-large bid.
According to DraftKings, the Spartans’ 70-64 win over Michigan secured the team’s spot in the NCAA Tournament. MSU's sports betting odds were -152 a week ago to make the tournament, but they're now -1000 to at least receive an at-large bid.
Michigan also strengthened its case for a No. 1 seed after clinching the Big Ten regular-season title on Thursday with a dominant 69-50 victory against MSU. The Wolverines remain at -10000 to earn a No. 1 seed on DraftKings.
Michigan enters this week’s Big Ten Tournament as the favorite at +175 to win the postseason tourney, while MSU is +5000.
Illinois (+375), Iowa (+425), Purdue (+500) and Ohio State (+685) are the other leading favorites for the tournament.
The two in-state rivals could meet again in the Big Ten Tournament. MSU opens with Maryland at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday. The winner of that matchup will advance to face the Wolverines on Friday at 11:30 a.m. It would be the third matchup between Michigan and MSU in the span of eight days.
ESPN’s latest bracket projection has MSU as one of the last four teams avoiding the First Four play-in games. Currently, ESPN has MSU as a No. 11 seed playing No. 6 USC in the first round.
MSU’s opponent, Maryland, figures to be in as well, but the Terrapins are reeling a bit since beating MSU 73-55 on Feb. 28. Maryland has lost two in a row to the conference’s bottom-feeders, including Northwestern 60-55 on Wednesday and a 66-61 defeat by Penn State on Sunday.
ESPN has Maryland as a No. 10 seed. Both MSU and the Terrapins should be in, but conference tournament week has the potential to create chaos. If any surprise underdog teams win their conference tourneys to steal an automatic bid, the number of at-large selections will dwindle. With Maryland struggling and MSU making a late rally, neither would prefer to leave their tournament fates up to the committee. It’s likely both will get in, but still, a win against the other to open the Big Ten tournament could serve as a play-in game for one of the key at-large bids.
It’s highly unlikely Michigan enters the NCAA Tournament as anything other than a No. 1 seed. But a bad showing in the Big Ten Tournament and recency bias could keep the Wolverines off the top line if every single thing went against them this week.
It would take a horrendous showing against MSU or Maryland in the Big Ten quarterfinals. A bad loss would mark three defeats in the team’s last four games. Then, Illinois and Alabama would have to win the Big Ten and SEC Tournaments in dominant fashion to somehow jump the Wolverines.
A case could be made for an Illinois group that’s won 11 of 12 to close the season and would make it 14 of 15 if it won the Big Ten Tournament. Illinois is currently -250 to get a top seed.
But Alabama, who is +125 to earn a No. 1 seed, would be a bit harder of a sell. The Crimson Tide have won six of their last seven but none have come against ranked teams. Their only matchup versus a team ranked in the top 25 was against Arkansas, and Alabama lost 81-66.