Well that was a fun week of basketball. Michigan State’s loss at Indiana put Purdue in the driver’s seat for a Big Ten title, but it’s still a three-team race for the one seed, and there’s still lots of uncertainty farther down in the Big Ten. If you need a refresher on the tiebreakers, take a look at last week’s article. Otherwise, here is an updated probability graph, based on KenPom probabilities as of Sunday night.
Purdue has a better-than-coin-flip chance of grabbing the top seed, but by virtue of the tiebreakers, if they drop a game to Minnesota or Northwestern, the winner of the Michigan-Michigan State rematch would hold the tiebreaker over Matt Painter’s squad.
As for that rematch, KenPom likes Sparty to sweep the Wolverines, but these probabilities don’t adequately reflect the fact that Nick Ward and Charles Matthews are both almost certainly likely to still be out for that game. Ward was out for these two teams’ first battle, so if you’re handicapping these numbers you might drop down Michigan’s chances to something even lower, but momentum is a thing in college basketball, and Michigan has it after a gritty road win at Maryland. Michigan State is hoping to get it back against Nebraska on Tuesday.
Wisconsin has the inside track to the last double-bye, but Maryland is still alive. The Terms just need to beat Minnesota in the Xfinity Center on senior night and hope that the Badgers drop a game to either Iowa or Ohio State. Since Maryland and Wisconsin split the season series with each other, the tiebreaker would come down to the best record against the top team(s) in the league, where Maryland’s win over Purdue will pay big dividends.
Iowa is the six seed, barring some absolutely off-the-wall results.
Ohio State is a team that isn’t going to help themselves much, but they could fall all the way down to playing on Wednesday if things break the wrong way against them. With Kaleb Wesson still suspended, that isn’t a totally unreasonable possibility.
Minnesota looks like the eight seed, but they have two tough games against Purdue at home and at Maryland. You have to figure that they’ll drop one of those, and if Ohio State also goes 1-1, the two teams will tie at 9-11, with the Buckeyes holding the tiebreaker by virtue of their win on December 2.
Illinois has the widest possible variance. If they win out over Indiana and Penn State—tricky but possible—and the Gophers and Buckeyes both falter, the Illini could find themselves in the upper half of the league. On the other hand, they have about a 1-in-3 chance of playing on Wednesday. I’m kind of hoping they do fall that far back, since having both Northwestern and Illinois playing Wednesday games will be good for attendance, and I’m going to be in Chicago for all thirteen games, including Wednesday, and I want to see a good crowd. Sorry, Illini fans.
Rutgers is pretty much the exact same story as Illinois—they even finish against the same two opponents—but their average finish is slightly worse since Brad Underwood’s team bested the Scarlet Knights in overtime during their only meeting on February 9.
Indiana is right there with Illinois and Rutgers. (Man how depressing would it be for a Hoosier fan who’s been in a coma since December to wake up and read those words?) One of those three teams is probably going to play itself down to Wednesday. The good news for the Hoosiers is that the control their own destiny there, since they play both the Illini and the Scarlet Knights.
Penn State made a valiant run, but it looks like their close loss in Madison is going to be what keeps them stuck playing a first-round game, though there is still a 13.9% chance they could play up to the ten seed line. Of the teams in the bottom half of the league, the Nittany Lions scare me the most. They have rebounders and playmakers, and Lord knows they’re comfortable playing games in a half-full arena.
And then there’s Nebraska and Northwestern. Not a good year to be a fan of either NU.
If you want to see exactly who has to win/lose for your school to get its best seed, you can play around on this site.
See y’all in Chicago.