Which teams have the most to gain during Champ Week?

Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire

The ACC, SEC, Pac-12, Big East and Big Ten have all wrapped up their regular-season schedules and are moving on to conference tournaments. The Big 12 and American are right behind.

That means time is running out for teams to make a last big push for a NCAA tournament bid or for seeding.

As Champ Week opens, keep an especially close eye on the Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis, where a number of teams' fates will be determined.


The Boilermakers' spot in the NCAA tournament looked secure after they handled Maryland -- which was leading the Big Ten at the time -- fairly easily less than two week ago. Then came a bad fourth quarter at home against Michigan State on Saturday -- and Purdue is back in danger of falling out of the field. The Boilermakers face Rutgers in the 8/9 game on Thursday, and that could be shaping up to be an elimination game for more than just the Big Ten tournament.


The bubble is closely tied to the matters in Indianapolis, and that now includes the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers is in freefall and might have hit bottom after Sunday's dreadful loss at Northwestern. Despite an overall body of work that still looks solid, Rutgers has won just three of its past 12 games. A win over Purdue in the Big Ten tournament's second round might be necessary to hang onto a bid. If the Scarlet Knights hadn't knocked off Michigan three weeks ago, they would be on the outside looking in now.


The Golden Gophers have a little more cushion and saved themselves from a terrible loss with a comeback against Illinois on Saturday. Minnesota, the Big Ten's No. 4 seed, is set to meet fifth-seeded Iowa in the quarterfinals if the Hawkeyes advance as expected. If Minnesota beats Iowa, a bid should be secure.


Like Minnesota, the Cornhuskers are held back by a nonconference schedule that produced no meaningful wins against a largely poor collection of opponents. One significant problem for Nebraska is that the best two nonconference games it played were losses to a pair of teams now serving as chief bubble competition: Creighton and Buffalo. The good news is that the Cornhuskers earned the third seed in the Big Ten tournament and could potentially grab wins against Michigan and Maryland. They probably need them both.


Even though the Terps are safely in the field, their trip to Indy could be just as important as the bubble teams. Maryland was a top-16 NCAA tournament team according to the committee on Feb. 19, then went 1-3 to finish the regular season. If the Terps have any hope of hosting first- and second-round games, they need to get to the Big Ten title game -- and probably win it.

Oklahoma The Sooners played a brutal schedule and paid the price. With a 5-1 mark in February, they have only recently been able to put a little distance between themselves and the .500 mark. That moved them into NCAA tournament consideration, though Oklahoma is included in the "First Four Out" in Monday's bracketology. That one loss this month was also a competitive effort against Baylor, but what Oklahoma really needs now is a marquee win. An opportunity comes on Tuesday in the regular-season finale at Texas, but just as important would be if the Sooners can string together some wins at the Big 12 tournament in Oklahoma City. If the Sooners can do either, their chances of making the NCAA tournament would jump considerably. The door is open for them to grab a spot.


The Bulls are the enigma of bracketology. Their RPI is 14 and teams in the top 20 of the RPI just don't get left out of the field. Yet the rest of the résumé is hardly impressive, giving fuel to those who argue against the merits of the RPI. Buffalo has only two top-50 RPI wins and has played only three such games. The schedule strength is not impressive, and they aren't even leading the MAC. With their RPI number, committee history says they are in the field. But the Bulls should probably get to at least the finals of the MAC tournament, which is still more than a week away.


If the Cavaliers had lost to Wake Forest on Sunday, and it was precarious, they would have been out of the field already. With losses in five of its previous six games, and an offense that just can't find its way (a total of 87 points in the last two games), Virginia is still looking at some trouble. The No. 7 seed in the ACC tournament, the Cavaliers' first game will be against either Clemson or Georgia Tech, which wouldn't add much to the résumé. Because of the losing stretch, they put themselves in a position to play Notre Dame in the quarterfinals. A win would definitely put Virginia in the NCAA tournament, but the Irish are a bad matchup for just about anyone, especially the offensively challenged Cavaliers.

Arizona State

Right now, the Sun Devils are staring at a 7- or 8-seed in the NCAA tournament, meaning a second-round matchup with a No. 1 or 2. However, Arizona State is capable of a jump with a run to the Pac-12 final, one that would likely include victories over Oregon State and Stanford, both winnable games.