Selection Sunday has come and gone, but many people were not surprised that the Wisconsin Badgers ended up with a seed that put them toward the middle of the pack. However, compared to many the surrounding teams, the number eight next to their name seemed a little low. After a stretch of the Badgers losing five of six from February 12th to March 2nd, many fans in Madison thought the team was trending towards a lower seed. To a pleasant surprise, the Badgers finished with an emphatic win over Minnesota at home on senior day.
The Badgers are the eighth seed in a balanced East region. We will start with the teams they are above in the region (seeding highest to lowest):
- Virginia Tech
- UNC Wilmington (Colonial Athletic Conference)
- East Tennessee State (Southern Conference)
- New Mexico State (Western Athletic Conference)
- Troy (Sun Belt Conference)
- Mount Saint Mary’s/New Orleans
Out of all of these teams I see the Badgers as much better. There is only a valid argument for Marquette or Virginia Tech. Seeing as the Badgers beat Marquette earlier this year and looked more consistent as a team, I would conclude they are the better team. It is tough to compare a team like Virginia Tech to a team like Wisconsin with very different playing styles in their respective conferences. Using all the metric statistics such as BPI and RPI, Wisconsin is better than Virginia Tech. Another argument to be made is that the Hokies have not played well against tough teams. Besides roughing up Duke early in the season by 14, the Hokies lost almost every other game against teams in the bracket. The Badgers fair little better, but for tournament play experience is invaluable and the Badgers have tons of it.
Now to look at the teams in the East above Wisconsin (highest to lowest):
- South Carolina
The only argument is the Badgers moving up to as high as a six seed. South Carolina ranks below the Badgers in both RPI and BPI, they also post only a .500 record against the top 25. The Badgers don’t boast as good of a winning percentage against the top 25, but aren’t far off and played three more games against the top 25. They also come in playing better basketball going 7-5 over their last 12 games compared to South Carolina who is coming in at 6-6 over the past 12 games. These are all conference games, which most people would say the Big Ten has a deeper tougher conference in contrast to a top heavy SEC.
The SMU Mustangs come in with a higher BPI and RPI than Wisconsin, but had all of this success in a weak American Athletic Conference. The American only has two teams in the tournament compared to the Big Ten’s seven. The Big Ten is hands down a much tougher conference, so it will interest me to see how SMU performs against tougher teams. I would say it’s a coin flip whether Wisconsin deserves to be a higher seed than them or not.
The Big Ten got seven teams into the tournament with Wisconsin being the only one in the East. The other teams that made it were: Purdue (4), Minnesota (5), Maryland (6), Michigan (7), Northwestern (8), and Michigan State (9). This puts the Badgers as tied for the second lowest seed of any Big Ten team. During the Big Ten season Wisconsin had five victories over those teams including Minnesota (twice), Maryland (by 11), Michigan, and Northwestern (by 28). That puts them at 5-4 against teams from the Big Ten in the tournament. The Badgers should be ranked ahead of Northwestern. Wisconsin ranks better in BPI and RPI, has a 3-4 record against the top 25 compared to Northwestern’s 1-5 record, was two games ahead of them in the conference standings, and embarrassed them by 28 in the semi-finals of the Big Ten Tournament. Don’t be mistaken, I love this young Northwestern team they show a ton of potential and will be a top Big Ten team possibly as soon as next year, but right now there is no doubt Wisconsin has a better team.
Michigan has a dangerous team as they showed Sunday afternoon in the Big Ten Tournament Championship game. They played against the Badgers three times and controlled the game in two of them and played the Badgers tough at the Kohl Center. Michigan is a better team right now and is arguably one of the hottest teams coming into the tournament.
Maryland receiving a six seed is puzzling. They tied with Wisconsin for second place in the Big Ten, but lost to them head to head. They hold a lower BPI and RPI and a worse record over the past 12 games. They also played only four top 25 teams posting a 2-2 record, compared to the Badgers seven (3-4). Maryland has a star in Melo Trimble, but their surrounding cast is thin and will be a major issue if they face a team with depth or Trimble gets in foul trouble. With all that being said, Wisconsin should be a higher seed than Maryland and Michigan should be too.
Minnesota received a five seed from the committee as the fourth place team in the Big Ten. This puts them as the second highest Big Ten seed in the tournament. Wisconsin beat Minnesota twice head to head and went further than them in the Big Ten Tournament. It’s obvious the committee valued how the Gophers have played recently, but it’s confusing how the committee didn’t take into consideration regular season results from the Big Ten which the Badgers finished higher in the standings and won both head to head matchups.
With all that being said, I would have slotted the Badgers as a six seed. You could make the argument for them being as high as a six in their own region, but I would argue they should be ranked higher than Minnesota who is a five seed in the South. They struggled as of recent, but still had two players on the Wooden Award watch list mid-way through the season and finished up as tied for second in one of the top conferences in the nation. Wisconsin also can boast that they have brought back all five starters from last year and four seniors. That kind of experience mixed with the improved play in their final home game against Minnesota and in the Big Ten Tournament. It seems like the Badgers could be dangerous if they play like they have of recent.
The committee clearly got the Badgers seed wrong. There is no denying that Wisconsin has had it’s struggles this year with consistency and playing to their competitions level. Let’s not fool ourselves though, this Wisconsin team is not what it has been over the past few years. It would be next to a miracle if this team made the Final Four or even the Elite Eight. Do not be mistaken though, this Wisconsin team is not an eight seed.