Happens every year.
The slate of games looks so long in November, March so far away.
Well, here we are. As suddenly as always.
This week marks the last week of regular-season play in the Big Ten, leading right up to the conference tournament.
As of now, the league boasts five certain NCAA tournament teams: Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Iowa and Ohio State.
Beyond that, everything is in flux.
Minnesota is one of four teams that are hovering on or around the bubble, and at the moment, the Gophers are also probably the safest.
But with the right results, that could change.
A look at the other league teams that could be creeping up:
Upcoming games: vs. Nebraska; at Michigan
What the Hoosiers need to do: A few weeks ago I wouldn't have believed we'd be having this conversation, but after consecutive wins over Iowa and Ohio State, Indiana has whipped itself into relevancy. Things are still kind of in long-shot status for the Hoosiers -- they'd likely have to win both of their final two games and then make a substantial run in the Big Ten tournament to collect some wins and boost their RPI. But hey, crazier things have happened. That Indiana has managed to get wins against four ranked teams is just kind of crazy to think about.
Threat level: Nothing-Another-Scotch-Can't-Handle [low]
Upcoming games: vs. Michigan; at Iowa
What the Illini need to do: Again, a situation where a team is trying to play itself in at the very end, but with Illinois as well, there isn't a lot of room for error. The Illini do not have a good RPI (74) and they have an entire collection of bad losses (remember that stretch where they won just one game in 11?) However, with three consecutive victories -- including Michigan State on the road, the Illini are rolling and are presented with the huge opportunity of facing two more ranked teams for their final pair. Win both, and they are likely dancing. What a weird year.
Threat level: Early-Deadline-In-A-Tied-Game [medium]
Upcoming games: at Indiana; vs. Wisconsin
What the Huskers need to do: Of the three, Nebraska has certainly been the most consistent, at least as of late after going through their losing streak (six of seven games) in December and January. The Huskers didn't get much worthwhile done in the non-conference schedule, so they've got to continue to make up for that now. But since the start of February, that hasn't been a problem -- the Huskers are playing better than ever. Finishing out the year with a pair of wins (whether these last two in the regular season or a split followed by a first-round win in the Big Ten tournament) probably puts them in. Gophers fans should root for Indiana on Wednesday.
Threat level: Bigfoot-With-Krav-Maga-Skills [high]