Weekly predictions of how the Big Ten will finish.
TOP TIER- Teams that will make an big impact and have the best chances of winning the Big Ten title.
1.) Ohio State (11-0, 24-0) [ Last Projection: 1 ] - Ohio State's next game is at Wisconsin. I think if Ohio State wins that game, on the road at Wisconsin, although it will still mathematically possible for someone else to win the Big Ten, I think Ohio State will have locked the Big Ten regular season championship up. There only two road games after that are at Purdue and at Penn State. They might fall in one of those but that still gives Ohio State the Big Ten title. I don't think they will fall at home, so essentially, this is probably the most important game of the year for the Big Ten. If Ohio loses that game, it unlocks so many more opportunities for other teams to take advantage with Ohio State still having to play at Purdue and then Wisconsin a second time. The entire Big Ten excluding Ohio State will be cheering for the Badgers come Saturday. (Postseason Projection: NCAA Tournament)
(More projections after the jump)
2.) Purdue (7-3, 18-5) [ Last Projection: 2 ] - To have a shot at the Big Ten title, Purdue needs to win all of their remaining eight games. Their next game is at home against Indiana and then on the road against Illinois. Both are must wins for the Boilermakers if they have any hope of catching Ohio State, who has a three game lead. I think Purdue pulls through and wins both this week. I don't think Indiana has a chance to win at Mackey Arena this year, as it is a rival game and Purdue will be fired up. Illinois hasn't been playing up to par lately and I think Purdue goes into Illinois and gets a close but much needed road win. (Postseason Projection: NCAA Tournament)
MIDDLE TIER- Teams that have a chance to stir up the Big Ten race and make it interesting.
6.) Penn State (5-6, 12-10) [ Last Projection: 7 ] - Penn State took a huge hit to their NCAA hopes with a home loss to Michigan last week. They still have a chance to make the NCAA Tournament with their remaining schedule, as of now they are headed to the NIT. They still have big games coming up where they can prove to the committee that they belong. Their remaining schedule includes three homes games against Northwestern, Minnesota and top ranked Ohio State. Their remaining road games are at MSU, at Wisconsin, at Northwestern and at Minnesota. If they get some more top 25 ranked wins in the remaining stretch, then they are probably in. They need to get some great road wins though. (Postseason Projection: NIT)
7.) Michigan State (5-6, 13-10) [ Last Projection: 6 ] - Michigan State is headed to the NIT this year. I don't think given their tough remaining schedule and the way they are playing right now that they make the NCAA Tournament. Their next game is against Penn State, a game Penn State needs to win for the NCAA Tournament. Sparty would love to play spoiler and drag Penn State down with them. Michigan State can still make the NCAA Tournament, but it's going to take a drastic turnaround with games at Ohio State and at Minnesota and home games against Purdue and Illinois. Those games are just the very key match ups for the Spartans. They do have other filler games that are must wins. Overall they are huge games for MSU if they want to make the NCAA Tournament. Who would have ever thought we would be talking about MSU missing the NCAA Tournament right now? (Postseason Projection: NIT)
8.) Northwestern (4-7, 14-8) [ Last Projection: 8 ] - Northwestern got a win over a then-ranked Illini team at home in a rivalry game and now look to improve their record and resume with their remaining schedule. They have home games left against Minnesota, Penn State and Iowa and road games against Michigan, Penn State, Indiana and Wisconsin. Overall, they will finish behind MSU and Penn State, I think looking at how their remaining schedule and how up and down the Wildcats have been this season. (Postseason Projection: NIT)
9.) Michigan (4-7, 14-10) [ Last Projection: 9 ] - Michigan's remaining schedule has them playing at home against Northwestern, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan State. Their away games have them playing at Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota. Michigan has an outside chance at a NCAA Tournament bid, but they need to finish incredibly strong. They must defend their home court and snag a road win or two, preferably two. (Postseason Projection: NIT)
LOWER TIER- Teams that just aren't there yet.
10.) Indiana (3-8, 12-12) [ Last Projection: 10 ] - Indiana has beat some opponents that they weren't exactly supposed to beat. They have a rough schedule down the stretch. They still play Purdue twice, at Ohio State and host Wisconsin. Not exactly the easiest schedule and due to that I see Indiana fighting Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern for the bottom of the Big Ten. Indiana can make a push, they are only two games out of sixth. If they can make that push and finish sixth, it will be quite the surprise, unfortunately I don't see that happening. (Postseason Projection: No Postseason)
11.) Iowa (3-8, 10-13) [ Last Projection: 11 ] - Iowa had an impressive week. Winning two in a row in the Big Ten for the first time under Coach McCaffery. I'm impressed. They took down a Michigan State team at home by absolutely obliterating them and then went into a tough environment in Assembly Hall in Bloomington, where ranked teams were falling and won. Best week this year for the Iowa Hawkeyes in my book. They face a tougher week this week, hosting both Minnesota and Wisconsin, can they pull an upset? (Postseason Projection: No Postseason)