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Week Sixteen: BTP Game of the Week: Michigan at Penn State

A Race for the Fourth Double-bye and a Scrum at the Bottom Frame the Season’s Last Week

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Penn State Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

The top of the league has mostly settled out, with Michigan State only needing to beat two of the league’s worst teams to win their first outright title since 2009 (legitimately shocking). Now the main question becomes whether the Big Ten can sneak a fifth team into the NCAA Tournament – Penn State is already starting to gain buzz as the 11 or 12 seed no one wants to face in March.

Secondarily, the race to the bottom has really gained some heat, especially after Rutgers and Illinois picked up much-needed wins last week. All four three-win teams have much higher aspirations for next year, but inevitably some of these teams will find themselves stuck to the bottom of the barrel for years to come. Who can use the final week to build momentum for the future?

Game of the Week:

-Michigan Wolverines at Penn State Nittany Lions

Pretty simple – this is a must-win game for Penn State as they look to add a third quality win to their season-long domination of Ohio State while Michigan looks to improve their seed and potentially secure a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament.

Other than the post-season implications, there are certainly some compelling individual matchups: Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Charles Matthews & co. will try to slow down the red-hot Tony Carr while two of the league’s best Power Forwards, Mike Watkins vs. Moritz Wagner, face off.

Honorable Mention:

-Iowa Hawkeyes at Minnesota Golden Gophers

THE BATTLE FOR LAST IS ON.

Fran McCaffery’s contract extension, which gave the Iowa coach a raise while increasing his buyout, tells you most of what you need to know about the Hawkeyes season. Next year, Iowa will expect a return to the adequacy that has defined McCaffery’s tenure.

Now riding a nine game losing streak, Gopher fans could be forgiven for hitting the panic button on the Richard Pitino administration once again. The Gophers’ personnel issues have been well-documented, but a team with two all-conference caliber players should not be fighting to avoid last place.

- Illinois Fighting Illini at Rutgers Scarlet Knights,

For Rutgers and Illinois, this season has been a mild disappointment, though these fanbases have enough patience to allow their new coaches time to change institute a cultural rebuild (which are never without growing pains).

Rutgers beat Illinois in the final game of the regular season last year to kick them off the bubble. The same result this year would be more a slap in the face than last year’s gut punch for the Illini, but you can bet the Scarlet Knights won’t lay down like they did in Champaign as they look to avoid finishing last in the Big Ten for the first time.

-Penn State Nittany Lions at Nebraska Cornhuskers

Real talk, this is my honorable mention pick to click. After both teams lost Sunday (Nebraska in devastating fashion to Illinois), both probably find themselves on the wrong side of the bubble with work to do. Penn State, in addition to being the obvious “eye test” favorite, has much more upward potential in their schedule, as seen above. They’re a tournament team, and I think they’ll prove that this week.

Worst Game of the Week:

-Northwestern Wildcats and Iowa Hawkeyes

No thanks.

Season Stats:

Game of the Week Appearances by Team:

  • Iowa – 1
  • Maryland – 2
  • Michigan – 7
  • Michigan State – 5
  • Nebraska – 1
  • Northwestern – 1
  • Ohio State – 1
  • Penn State – 1
  • Purdue – 5
  • Wisconsin – 1

Game of the Week Honorable Mention Appearances by Team:

  • Illinois – 2
  • Indiana – 3
  • Iowa – 2
  • Maryland – 6
  • Michigan – 1
  • Michigan State – 4
  • Minnesota – 7
  • Nebraska – 6
  • Northwestern – 3
  • Ohio State – 6
  • Penn State – 5
  • Purdue – 2
  • Rutgers – 1
  • Wisconsin – 4

Total Appearances by Team:

  • Illinois – 2
  • Indiana – 3
  • Iowa – 3
  • Maryland – 8
  • Michigan – 7
  • Michigan State – 9
  • Minnesota – 7
  • Nebraska – 7
  • Northwestern – 4
  • Ohio State – 7
  • Penn State – 6
  • Purdue – 7
  • Wisconsin – 5

Worst Game Appearances by Team:

  • Illinois – 4
  • Indiana – 1
  • Iowa – 4
  • Michigan – 1
  • Michigan State – 1
  • Minnesota – 1
  • Nebraska – 1
  • Northwestern – 2
  • Ohio State – 1
  • Purdue – 1
  • Rutgers – 3
  • Wisconsin – 4