Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, February 1, 2018
With February here, it's time to focus more attention on how many Big Ten teams could make the NCAA tourney.
It looks like four schools are in good shape to make the Big Dance: Purdue (22-2 overall, 11-0 Big Ten), Ohio State (19-5, 10-1), Michigan State (21-3, 9-2) and Michigan (18-6, 7-4). Let's go ahead and call them "locks." But will any other conference teams make it?
Nebraska, Maryland and Penn State look to be in position perhaps to earn NCAA bids, but all three schools have work to do. The Huskers appear to be in the best position, playing a favorable schedule down the stretch that gives them a shot to win their last six games and finish 23-8 overall and 14-4 in the Big Ten. Check out the games left for Nebraska: at Minnesota; Rutgers; Maryland; at Illinois; Indiana; Penn State.
Even then, some wonder if Nebraska's resume will have enough juice. It may take a win or two in the Big Ten tourney–February 28-March 4 in New York–to solidify an NCAA bid for Tim Miles' crew.
The Terrapins (15-9, 4-7) and Nittany Lions (15-9, 5-6) look like longer shots. The Terps' remaining schedule offers few chances to impress: Wisconsin; at Penn State; Northwestern; at Nebraska; Rutgers; at Northwestern; Michigan.
The Nittany Lions' remaining slate is filled with opportunity, but can they deliver?: Iowa; Maryland; at Illinois; Ohio State; at Purdue; Michigan; at Nebraska.
Bottom line: You probably can lump in Maryland and Penn State with every other Big Ten team outside of Purdue, OSU, MSU, Michigan and Nebraska: They likely will need to win the league's automatic bid in the Big Ten Tourney to make the Big Dance.
So, that brings us back to this notion: The Big Ten may be just a four- or maybe five-bid conference. And that hasn't happened too often in recent Big Ten annals.
Since the 2000 NCAA tourney, the last time the Big Ten won the national championship with Michigan State cutting down the nets in the now-demolished Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis, the league has gotten five or fewer bids just six times.
The low was only three bids in 2004, as Illinois won the Big Ten regular-season title with a 13-3 mark. Wisconsin and Michigan State also earned bids after going 12-4 in Big Ten action. No other Big Ten squad won more than 18 games overall or nine in the league in 2003-04. In fact, seven of the 11 conference teams finished 8-8 or worse in Big Ten play.
The Big Ten got just four bids in 2008: Indiana, Michigan State, Purdue and Wisconsin. Ohio State just missed, going 10-8 in Big Ten play and 24-13 overall. Every other conference team had a losing Big Ten record.
The Big Ten received only five bids in 2010, 2005, 2003 and 2002.
The most bids the league has gotten in any one NCAA tourney since 2000? Seven, as it has happened seven times: 2017, 2016, 2015, 2013, 2011, 2009 and 2001.
Here is a look at how many bids the Big Ten received to the NCAA tourney in each of the last 18 years.
2017: 7, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Purdue, Wisconsin
2016: 7, Michigan, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan State, Purdue, Wisconsin
2015: 7, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin
2014: 6, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Ohio State, Wisconsin
2013: 7, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Wisconsin
2012: 6, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin
2011: 7, Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin
2010: 5, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin
2009: 7, Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin
2008: 4, Indiana, Michigan State, Purdue, Wisconsin
2007: 6, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin
2006: 6, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin
2005: 5, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota, Wisconsin
2004: 3, Illinois, Michigan State, Wisconsin
2003: 5, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan State, Purdue, Wisconsin
2002: 5, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin
2001: 7, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin
2000: 6, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin