With one game remaining in the regular season, Rutgers men’s basketball is currently alone in sixth place in the Big Ten standings. A No. 6 seed would be the highest for the program since joining the league but the possibility to finish even higher remains. With losses by Michigan and Michigan State on Thursday night, the Scarlet Knights cannot finish worse than sixth with is still being possible to earn a double bye as the No. 4 seed in the Big Ten Tournament.
The good news for Rutgers is that based on owning wins against every team from 1st to 10th place, they are in favorable position when it comes to tiebreakers. This is the opposite of prior years including 2020, when a four way tie for fifth place resulted in the No. 8 seed for Rutgers. That Big Ten Tournament was ultimately cancelled due to Covid-19. Last season, they tied for sixth place but lost the tiebreaker to Wisconsin and were the No. 7 seed.
Let’s review possible scenarios.
Here is the order of tiebreakers for the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament:
Two Team Tiebreakers
- Head to Head Competition
- Record vs. First place team in Big Ten standings. If a tie still exists, it moves to record vs. second place, then third place, etc.
Tiebreakers for Three or more Teams
- Head to Head Competition based on winning percentage (2-0 is not better than 1-0)
- Record vs. First place team in Big Ten standings. If a tie still exists, it moves to record vs. second place, then third place, etc. All based on winning percentage (2-0 is not better than 1-0)
- Won-loss percentage against Division 1 opponents
Let’s walk through the possible scenarios for Rutgers.
Even if Rutgers loses to Penn State on Sunday while Michigan and Michigan State both beat Ohio State and Maryland respectively, they would win the tiebreaker between the three teams.
In regard to a potential three-way tie with Michigan and Michigan State, here are the records against each other this season:
Rutgers 2-1 vs. Michigan and Michigan State
Michigan 2-2 vs. Michigan and Michigan State
Michigan State 1-2 vs. Michigan and Michigan State
Rutgers wins the tiebreak and would earn the No. 6 seed in that scenario.
If Michigan wins on Sunday and Rutgers loses, they’d be tied at 11-9 and split the season series. In that situation, the tiebreak would be defined by records against the first place team in the standings. As of now it is Wisconsin, who Rutgers went 1-1 against and Michigan went 0-1. If Illinois ends up tying Wisconsin for first place, Rutgers would still win the tiebreak over Michigan with a combined 2-2 record against them while the Wolverines are 0-3.
Now let’s look at an even more intriguing seeding scenario for Rutgers.
If they win on Sunday and finish at 12-8, they could finish alone in sixth place. However, Iowa and Ohio State are just one game ahead and would tie with Rutgers if they lose on Sunday.
If only Ohio State or Iowa lose but not both, Rutgers owns the tiebreaker over both teams due to beating them in their only meeting this season.
If all three teams tie at 12-8, Rutgers would EARN THE DOUBLE BYE as the No. 4 seed because of a 2-0 record against Iowa and Ohio State. The Hawkeyes would earn the No. 5 seed because they beat the Buckeyes in there lone meeting.
The reason the double bye would be huge for Rutgers is two-fold.
First, you only have to win three games to win the Big Ten Tournament.
Second, you are guaranteed of avoiding any potential bad loss in regard to metrics. As the No. 5 or or No. 6 seed, Rutgers would play either the winner of the No. 12/13 game or No. 11/14 game. Minnesota and Nebraska could win those games and be the eventual opponent for Rutgers in their second round game of the Big Ten Tournament. Both would result in Quad 3 opportunities and a loss could prove fatal to their NCAA Tournament chances.
As a Rutgers fan, you obviously root for the Scarlet Knights to win on senior day on Sunday. Then you root for Iowa to loss at Illinois and Ohio State to lose at home to Michigan.
Prediction: Rutgers wins, Iowa loses and Ohio State wins. Rutgers earns the No. 5 seed and plays the winner of the 12/13 game which could be either Minnesota, Penn State, Maryland or Northwestern.
Here is Sunday’s schedule in the Big Ten and what to watch for: