Michigan’s path to land the No. 4 seed and last double-bye for the Big Ten tournament is clearer.
However, it also got much more difficult.
With Nebraska’s 66-57 win over Indiana late Tuesday night, the Cornhuskers improved to 12-5 in conference play to move a win ahead of the Wolverines (11-5) and leave no margin for error.
Since Nebraska also owns the head-to-head tiebreaker between the teams, Michigan must win out — at Penn State and at Maryland — to even have a chance at leapfrogging the Cornhuskers in the Big Ten standings, which will be no easy feat.
If Michigan slips up and drops either of its final two games, Nebraska will secure the fourth seed and advance directly to the quarterfinals of the conference tournament. The Cornhuskers can also lock down the spot with a win Sunday at home against Penn State in the regular-season finale.
While it’s still possible Michigan can jump up in seeding, it’s also possible it could drop down to the No. 6 seed if it loses out and Penn State (9-7) wins out. In that scenario, both the Wolverines and Nittany Lions would finish at 11-7, and Penn State would hold the head-to-head tiebreaker.
A win over Penn State on Wednesday night, though, would guarantee Michigan at least the No. 5 seed.
Of the three possible spots Michigan could wind up, No. 6 seeds have had the most success throughout the Big Ten tournament’s 20-year history with a 30-18 record, one championship and two runner-up finishes.
No. 4 seeds are 15-19 with four runners-up finishes and No. 5 seeds are 12-20 with one title game appearance.
But since the conference began rewarding double-byes following the addition of Maryland and Rutgers in the 2014-15 season, five of the six teams to reach the tournament final have been top-four seeds.
The lone exception was Michigan, which won the tournament for the first time last season as the No. 8 seed by rattling off four victories in four days to become the lowest seed to take home the title. The Wolverines also placed first in the inaugural tournament in 1998 as the fourth-seeded team, but that championship was vacated due to NCAA sanctions.
The Big Ten tournament will take place Feb. 28-March 4 at Madison Square Garden in New York.