Projecting the Big Ten Basketball Race: Halfway Home

As we have passed the halfway point of conference play, it's time to revisit the title race. Projections after the first quarter of conference play can be found here. As a reminder, these are based on my modified Bradley-Terry rating systems; the full ratings can be found here.

As before, title and first-round bye chances are based on 100,000 simulations - there are way too many combinations to do exhaustive computation at this point.

Basic (W-L only) Method

Avg Wins Outright title Share of title Bye
Ohio St 12.50 35.06% 56.05% 91.67%
Wisconsin 11.82 13.97% 31.46% 85.75%
Michigan St 11.49 10.94% 25.71% 77.72%
Michigan 11.46 8.71% 22.93% 77.17%
Illinois 9.58 0.53% 2.60% 24.79%
Indiana 9.37 0.02% 0.62% 18.86%
Purdue 9.34 0.23% 1.44% 19.31%
Minnesota 7.76 * 0.06% 2.82%
Northwestern 7.18 * 0.02% 1.29%
Iowa 6.90 * * 0.51%
Nebraska 6.05 * * 0.10%
Penn St 4.54 * * *

Ohio State has re-emerged as the favorite, but even they are expected to lose another 3 or 4 games - road trips to all three of the other major contenders await. Below the top four is a respectable tier of three likely tournament teams (Purdue is the only one that has any real reason for concern at the moment, due to a couple of awful losses). Minnesota and Northwestern are both in the hunt for an NCAA bid as well, although each will likely have to get to 8-10 in conference at minimum. Iowa is an extreme longshot due to an abominable non-conference record.

Win distribution chart (click for bigger):


This shows Ohio State slightly out in front, Wisconsin not far behind, and MSU and Michigan almost completely indistinguishable. Purdue, Indiana, and Illinois have near-identical win distributions as well, though not quite as nearly identical as MSU and Michigan.

Margin-aware system after the jump.

Margin-Aware System

Avg Wins Outright title Share of title Bye
Ohio St 13.55 54.96% 75.84% 98.58%
Michigan St 12.19 11.64% 27.68% 90.57%
Wisconsin 11.86 5.95% 17.82% 88.83%
Michigan 11.24 2.49% 9.32% 72.63%
Indiana 9.72 * 0.23% 22.83%
Illinois 9.14 0.03% 0.24% 13.12%
Purdue 9.04 0.02% 0.21% 11.34%
Northwestern 7.25 * * 0.98%
Minnesota 7.25 * * 0.86%
Iowa 6.63 * * 0.23%
Nebraska 5.77 * * 0.03%
Penn St 4.36 * * *

Some minor shuffling in the order here: two of our losses being one-pointers reduces their impact on our rating, vaulting us back into second. Similarly, Indiana passes Illinois and Minnesota falls back to Northwestern.

Win distribution chart:


Ohio State and Michigan State have shifted out in front of the rest (Ohio State more so), and Indiana has separated themselves from the middle tier slightly. Northwestern and Minnesota have nearly identical averages, but Northwestern's distribution is a little flatter (which gives them a better chance of overachieving by enough to make the tournament).

One more update will be posted with two weeks to go in conference play, then Big Ten and NCAA tournament bracket probabilities.

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