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Dererk Pardon made a game-winning lay-up as time expired to lift the Wildcats to a thrilling 67-65 victory over a red-hot Michigan team.
USA TODAY Sports

The Wisconsin Badgers are imploding.

Big time.

Losers of five consecutive games to unranked opponents, the Big Ten’s best team — once upon a time — is no more. In the same way Minnesota, on an eight game winning-streak, is trending upward, Wisconsin’s trajectory this March is as down as it gets. Ironically, the Badgers close out the regular season with a matchup against perhaps the hottest team in the country in the Gophers.

Thursday night’s disastrous loss to Iowa, which saw Wisconsin yield a 12-1 run and the Hawkeyes hit a game-winning three-pointer, was just the latest head-scratcher with this team. Meanwhile, Iowa has surged to be the first team out on the latest bracket.

BUBBLE TRACKER: Big Ten’s surge

NORTHWESTERN: Likely punches ticket off buzzer-beater

The question of whether the Badgers get their groove back has been a theme for a while now and that story line will undoubtedly elevate in the Big Ten tournament, where Wisconsin won’t be the top seed since Purdue trudged ahead to claim the Big Ten regular season title outright.

Whether riddled with injuries, namely to point guard Bronson Koenig, or facing a late-season identity crisis, the Badgers — now a No. 8 seed in USA TODAY Sports’ bracketology — are the team most opponents would be happy to draw on Selection Sunday. That wouldn’t have seemed the case earlier in the season, considering Koenig and Nigel Hayes provide the Greg Gard-led Badgers with more postseason experience than most teams.

Wisconsin’s struggles are both helping and hurting the Big Ten, which the selection committee made clear it’s not impressed with via its top 16 seeds preview a few weeks back. Bubble teams like Northwestern, Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State and now Iowa have used wins against the Badgers to add to their marquee win compartment of their résumé. While it’s inched most of them off the bubble, the win won’t be holding as much weight anymore on Selection Sunday.

MARCH PRIMER: Cinderellas, bracket-busters

► No. 1 seeds: Kansas, Villanova, North Carolina and Oregon

► Last four in: Seton Hall, Vanderbilt, Wichita State, USC

► First four out: Iowa, Wake Forest, Georgia, Ohio State

Moving in: Winthrop

Moving out: UNC-Asheville

► Others considered for at-large bids (in no particular order): Rhode Island, Clemson, Georgia Tech

► On life support: – Houston, Ole Miss, TCU, Kansas State, Alabama, Indiana, Pittsburgh, California

► No longer considered for at-large: UConn, Texas, Charleston, New Mexico, Boise State, LaSalle, Davidson, Chattanooga, Saint Bonaventure, Saint Joseph’s, BYU, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Temple, North Carolina State, Stanford, Nevada, Texas A&M, Memphis, Utah, Auburn, Texas Tech, Georgetown, Penn State

► Multi-bid conferences: ACC (9), Big Ten (8), Big East (7), Big 12 (5), SEC (5), Pac-12 (4), A-10 (2), AAC (2), MVC (2), WCC (2).

Conference Leaders

► Or highest RPI from projected one-bid conferences – (23 total): Vermont (America East), Florida Gulf Coast (Atlantic Sun), North Dakota (Big Sky), Winthrop (Big South), UC Irvine (Big West), UNC-Wilmington (CAA), Middle Tennessee State (Conference USA), Valparaiso (Horizon), Princeton (Ivy League), Monmouth (MAAC), Akron (MAC), N.C. Central (MEAC), Illinois State (Missouri Valley), Nevada (Mountain West), Mount Saint Mary’s (Northeast), Belmont (Ohio Valley), Bucknell (Patriot), East Tennessee State (Southern), New Orleans (Southland), Texas Southern (SWAC), South Dakota (Summit), Texas-Arlington (Sun Belt), CSU Bakersfield (WAC).

  • Banned from participating: Southern Mississippi, Alcorn State, Savannah State, Northern Colorado
  • Transition Schools, ineligible for the tourney: Abilene Christian (Southland), Grand Canyon (WAC), Incarnate Word (Southland), Massachusetts-Lowell (American East)    

***

Note: All RPI and statistical data is used from WarrenNolan.com.

About our bracketologist: Shelby Mast has been projecting the field since 2005 and has finished as one of the top 5 national bracketologists for his website, Bracket W.A.G. He’s predicted for The Indianapolis Star, collegeinsider.com and is an inaugural member of the Super 10 Selection Committee. Follow him on Twitter @BracketWag.

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