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Big Ten Tournament 2017: Maryland basketball’s easiest path to a double-bye is a win over Michigan State

The Terps can make things a lot easier on themselves by winning on Saturday.

NCAA Basketball: Maryland at Rutgers Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

A week ago, Maryland basketball was contending for the Big Ten regular-season title. That ship sailed officially when Purdue clinched it Tuesday night, even if it would’ve taken a Hail Mary for the Terps to get back in the title race after they lost to Minnesota or Iowa.

Without a conference title to chase, the most important thing left for Maryland is Big Ten Tournament seeding. The top four seeds in the tournament, which will take place at the Verizon Center in D.C. next week, receive a double-bye. The Terps’ back-to-back losses to the Hawkeyes and Gophers put that double-bye, which once seemed a certainty, in doubt. Now, things are more clear.

Northwestern’s buzzer-beating win over Michigan Wednesday night moved the Wildcats up to the No. 5 spot in the conference standings, which could come into play if the Terps lose to Michigan State on Saturday. Wisconsin lost to Iowa Thursday night, which puts another variable into the mix.

Here are the Big Ten standings as of Friday morning:

Big Ten Standings

Team Overall Conf
Team Overall Conf
Purdue 24-6 13-4
Wisconsin 22-8 11-6
Minnesota 23-7 11-6
Maryland 23-7 11-6
Northwestern 21-9 10-7
Michigan St. 18-12 10-7
Michigan 19-11 9-8
Iowa 16-14 8-9
Illinois 18-12 8-9
Ohio St. 17-13 7-10
Indiana 16-14 6-11
Penn St. 14-16 6-11
Nebraska 12-17 6-11
Rutgers 13-17 2-15

The Terps can take out a lot of the guesswork with a win over Michigan State. Aside from that game, they have two games to keep an eye on: Minnesota-Wisconsin and Northwestern-Purdue.

Even though the Terps are tied for second with Wisconsin and Minnesota, they can’t surpass both because those teams play each other. The winner of that game will finish 12-6 and earn the No. 2 seed.

Here’s an in-depth look at what could happen:

How Maryland gets the No. 3-seed:

Maryland beats Michigan State.

Full stop.

If the Terps win on Saturday, they’re the No. 3-seed no matter what else happens. Got it? Good. Let’s proceed.

Scenario 1: Maryland beats Michigan State and Wisconsin beats Minnesota.

Maryland moves into sole possession of third place with a 12-6 finish, with Wisconsin nailing down the No. 2-seed.

Scenario 2: Maryland beats Michigan State and Minnesota beats Wisconsin.

Minnesota would move up to the No. 2-seed, and Wisconsin would move down to No. 4. Maryland’s sandwiched in the middle of these teams with a win.

How Maryland would end up as the No. 4-seed:

Maryland loses to Michigan State and Wisconsin beats Minnesota.

The Terps would be in a tie with Michigan State and Minnesota. The tiebreaker here is best combined record against those teams. The Spartans would be the 3-seed, while Maryland would edge out the Gophers for fourth. Northwestern would actually lose this big tiebreaker, so their result doesn’t matter to Maryland if Wisconsin wins.

How Maryland would end up as the No. 5-seed:

Scenario 1: Maryland loses to Michigan State, Minnesota beats Wisconsin and Northwestern beats Purdue.

This doomsday scenario has Minnesota moving up to No. 2, while Michigan State, Wisconsin, Maryland and Northwestern would all finish at 11-7. Michigan State, with its wins over Maryland, Wisconsin and Minnesota, would go to No. 3. Northwestern has the goes to No. 4 by virtue of a complicated tiebreaker, Maryland goes to No. 5 and Wisconsin ends up as the No. 6-seed.

Scenario 2: Maryland loses to Michigan State, Minnesota beats Wisconsin and Purdue beats Northwestern.

This case wouldn’t result in a four-way tie, but it would end with Wisconsin edging Maryland out for the No. 4-seed. The Terps, Badgers and Spartans would be in a three-way tie, and Michigan State would hold the tiebreaker by virtue of beating the other two. Wisconsin would be fourth by virtue of beating Maryland.

Maryland’s easiest path out of this is to beat Michigan State on Saturday. If that doesn’t happen, things could get dicey.