In a battle between two projected No. 1 seeds, Ohio State fell to Michigan 92-87 on Sunday at home.
The Buckeyes (18-5, 12-5) and top No. 2 seed Illinois are so close that Ohio State would have dropped from its No. 1 seed with a loss to any other Big Ten team besides Michigan.
The Fighting Illini (16-5, 12-3) haven't lost since Jan. 16, a head-to-head meeting with the Buckeyes that is the difference maker right now.
When applying a blind résumé test, Ohio State has eight Quadrant 1 (top-25 home, top-75 away) victories compared to Illinois' seven. But the Illini have a better NET score of 4 compared to OSU's 7, partially due to playing two fewer games, which included a postponement of their scheduled Feb. 11 clash with Michigan (now slated for March 2).
Ohio State Buckeyes forward E.J. Liddell (32) goes up for a shot against Illinois Fighting Illini forward Giorgi Bezhanishvili (15) during the second half at the State Farm Center. (Photo: Patrick Gorski, USA TODAY Sports)
Ohio State has a better strength of schedule, but Illinois could shorten the margin by playing four of its last five on the road – with all of those Quad 1 opportunities. OSU, meanwhile, only has three games in Big Ten play remaining.
Gonzaga, Baylor and Michigan are close to solidifying No. 1 seeds. Should this battle for the final top seed remain tight, a March 6 meeting between Ohio State and Illinois – the Big Ten finale for both teams – could be a crucial outcome for the NCAA selection committee entering Selection Sunday, which is March 14.
The NCAA Tournament tips off March 18.
No. 1 seeds
Gonzaga, Baylor, Michigan, Ohio State.
Last four in
Seton Hall, Minnesota, Maryland, Syracuse.
First four out
Georgia Tech, Indiana, Connecticut, Utah State.
Next four out
St. Johns, Stanford, Ole Miss, SMU.
Others considered for at-large bids (no particular order): Memphis, Richmond, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, UAB, Georgia, Duke.
On life support: TCU, Marquette, Providence, Marshall, Utah, Arizona State, Oregon State, Mississippi State, Kentucky, South Carolina, Texas A&M, St Mary's, San Francisco, Michigan State, North Carolina State, Dayton, Davidson, Nevada, Penn State.
Multi-bid conferences: Big Ten (9), Big 12 (7), ACC (6), SEC (6), Pac-12 (4), Big East (4), Mountain West (3), Atlantic 10 (2), Missouri Valley (2), West Coast (2).
Leaders or highest NET from projected one-bid conferences – (20 total): America East – UMBC, Atlantic Sun – Liberty, Big Sky – Eastern Washington, Big South – Winthrop, Big West – UCSB, CAA – Northeastern, C-USA – UAB, Horizon – Wright State, MAAC – Siena, MAC – Toledo, MEAC – Norfolk St., Northeast – Bryant, OVC – Belmont, Patriot – Navy, Southern – UNCG, Southland – Sam Houston, SWAC – Prairie View A&M, Summit – South Dakota, Sun Belt – Texas State, WAC – Grand Canyon
- Banned from participating: Alabama State, Alabama A&M, Delaware State, Auburn, Arizona
- Transition schools, ineligible for the tournament: Cal Baptist, North Alabama, Merrimack, Dixie State, Tarleton State, Bellarmine, UC San Diego
- COVID-19: Ivy League, Bethune-Cookman, Maryland-Eastern Shore, Howard, Maine
Note: Most statistical data is used from WarrenNolan.com. The NET rankings (NCAA Evaluation Tool) also are a reference point.
About our bracketologist: Shelby Mast has been projecting the field since 2005 on his website, Bracket W.A.G. He joined USA TODAY in 2014. In his eighth season as our national bracketologist, Mast has finished as one of the top three bracketologists in the past seven March Madnesses. He’s also predicted for The Indianapolis Star, collegeinsider.com and is an inaugural member of the Super 10 Selection Committee. Follow him on Twitter @BracketWag.
Follow college basketball reporter Scott Gleeson on Twitter @ScottMGleeson
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