Projecting the 2013 Big Ten Basketball Race: January 29

USA TODAY Sports

A clear favorite has emerged, one of the former favorites for the top three is no longer a favorite to earn a bye, Illinois appears to be pulling a repeat of last year's collapse ... and poor, poor Penn State.

When we last looked at the projected standings two weeks ago, Minnesota was the favorite to win the conference (with Michigan and Indiana close behind), the fourth bye was a toss-up between MSU, OSU, and Wisconsin, and Penn State was looking at odds of winning out in the quadrillions-to-1 range (at least, according to the margin-aware system). Since then, Michigan has won at Minnesota (who is now the not-so-proud owner of a four-game losing skid), MSU has beaten both of the teams they were fighting for fourth, and Penn State now appears to be staring an 0-fer in the face after losing at home to Nebraska. Let's look at the tables (ratings here, championship and top-4 percentages based on 100,000 season simulations):

Basic Method

Team Avg wins 11-7 12-6 13-5 14-4 15-3 16-2 17-1 18-0 Outright Shared Top 4
Michigan 14.86 0.49% 2.73% 9.88% 22.87% 32.06% 24.34% 7.58% N/A 69.08% 84.78% 99.55%
Indiana 12.67 14.02% 24.47% 26.99% 18.64% 7.74% 1.74% 0.16% N/A 7.86% 18.04% 87.80%
Michigan State 12.28 17.99% 27.33% 25.87% 14.33% 4.09% 0.43% N/A N/A 4.39% 12.09% 82.82%
Ohio State 11.29 25.42% 24.07% 14.65% 5.35% 1.02% 0.07% N/A N/A 1.06% 3.92% 59.56%
Wisconsin 10.37 24.51% 14.69% 5.58% 1.29% 0.17% 1 in 11,000 N/A N/A 0.23% 1.09% 33.42%
Minnesota 10.33 25.62% 15.23% 4.92% 0.65% N/A N/A N/A N/A 0.06% 0.56% 32.96%
Iowa 7.59 1.75% 0.22% 0.01% N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A <0.01% <0.01% 1.45%
Illinois 7.50 1.31% 0.15% 1 in 15,000 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A <0.01% <0.01% 1.28%
Purdue 7.09 0.87% 0.14% 0.01% 1 in 130k 1 in 5.35M N/A N/A N/A <0.01% <0.01% 0.78%
Northwestern 6.84 0.28% 0.02% 1 in 212k N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A <0.01% <0.01% 0.36%
Nebraska 5.22 1 in 15,500 1 in 545k N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A <0.01% <0.01% 0.02%
Penn State 1.95 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A <0.01% <0.01% <0.01%

Team Avg wins 0-18 1-17 2-16 3-15 4-14 5-13 6-12 7-11 8-10 9-9 10-8
Michigan 14.86 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 1 in 2.28B 1 in 21.4M 1 in 512k 1 in 23,000 0.06%
Indiana 12.67 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 1 in 428k 1 in 11,200 0.14% 1.09% 5.01%
Michigan State 12.28 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 1 in 87,900 0.03% 0.33% 2.03% 7.57%
Ohio State 11.29 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 1 in 38,100 0.06% 0.51% 2.60% 8.40% 17.85%
Wisconsin 10.37 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 0.02% 0.26% 1.92% 7.56% 17.81% 26.17%
Minnesota 10.33 N/A N/A N/A 1 in 1.56M 1 in 37,800 0.04% 0.39% 2.13% 7.49% 17.28% 26.24%
Iowa 7.59 N/A N/A 1 in 10,600 0.18% 1.37% 5.83% 15.08% 24.74% 26.06% 17.49% 7.25%
Illinois 7.50 N/A N/A 1 in 18,600 0.13% 1.25% 6.02% 16.35% 26.44% 26.23% 16.09% 6.01%
Purdue 7.09 N/A N/A N/A N/A 2.00% 10.43% 22.80% 27.86% 21.34% 10.82% 3.73%
Northwestern 6.84 N/A N/A N/A 0.29% 3.11% 12.37% 24.94% 28.72% 19.87% 8.33% 2.06%
Nebraska 5.22 N/A N/A 0.98% 7.78% 21.42% 29.57% 23.74% 11.86% 3.78% 0.77% 0.09%
Penn State 1.95 9.48% 27.70% 32.67% 20.52% 7.61% 1.75% 0.25% 0.02% 1 in 87,300 1 in 3.26M 1 in 321M

Michigan's win at Minnesota changes the equation significantly for them, and with still just one loss on the year, they're far enough ahead in the ratings to be favored in every remaining game (albeit very narrowly at Indiana and at MSU - 52% and 55%, respectively). Minnesota's losing streak drops them all the way from first to sixth; their chances of finishing in the top four now are lower than their chances of an outright Big Ten title were two weeks ago.

Illinois seems in serious danger of falling out of the NCAA tournament, but don't be fooled by Iowa's slightly better projection - because of their nonconference results, Illinois has a reasonable chance at making the tournament at 8-10, but 9-9 probably won't be good enough for Iowa and even 10-8 might not be. That loss to Purdue may prove very costly; Iowa's non-conference schedule was mostly terrible and they only play five games against the top four in conference, so their margin for error is pretty much nonexistent. Purdue's horrid nonconference record will similarly hold them back. Northwestern might actually be a better chance for the eighth bid than either Iowa or Purdue.

And then, at the bottom, there's Penn State. A historic 0-18 season is now a 1-in-11 chance, and they're nearly 3-to-1 favorites to become the first Big Ten team in four years not to at least win three conference games.

Margin-Aware Method

Team Avg wins 11-7 12-6 13-5 14-4 15-3 16-2 17-1 18-0 Outright Shared Top 4
Michigan 15.52 0.03% 0.36% 2.73% 12.17% 30.36% 37.54% 16.80% N/A 79.90% 92.07% 99.90%
Indiana 13.22 7.49% 19.37% 29.25% 25.80% 12.78% 3.16% 0.28% N/A 6.29% 16.05% 91.22%
Ohio State 11.90 22.55% 29.48% 22.62% 9.15% 1.58% 0.09% N/A N/A 0.63% 2.78% 67.37%
Michigan State 11.62 26.35% 29.20% 18.32% 6.02% 0.89% 0.04% N/A N/A 0.50% 2.35% 59.89%
Minnesota 11.26 29.89% 27.97% 13.35% 2.48% N/A N/A N/A N/A 0.02% 0.42% 48.95%
Wisconsin 10.68 28.66% 18.23% 6.77% 1.43% 0.16% 1 in 13,800 N/A N/A 0.06% 0.47% 31.03%
Iowa 8.35 3.24% 0.31% 0.01% N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A <0.01% <0.01% 1.31%
Purdue 6.92 0.39% 0.04% 1 in 35,200 1 in 989k 1 in 70.8M N/A N/A N/A <0.01% <0.01% 0.20%
Illinois 6.81 0.14% 1 in 13,800 1 in 799k N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A <0.01% <0.01% 0.10%
Northwestern 6.53 0.06% 1 in 50,300 1 in 5.03M N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A <0.01% <0.01% 0.04%
Nebraska 4.15 1 in 8.31M 1 in 1.06B N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A <0.01% <0.01% <0.01%
Penn State 1.03 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A <0.01% <0.01% <0.01%

Team Avg wins 0-18 1-17 2-16 3-15 4-14 5-13 6-12 7-11 8-10 9-9 10-8
Michigan 15.52 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 1 in 13.0T 1 in 26.7B 1 in 183M 1 in 2.69M 1 in 73,600
Indiana 13.22 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 1 in 32.8M 1 in 309k 0.01% 0.20% 1.65%
Ohio State 11.90 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 1 in 1.04M 1 in 25,100 0.07% 0.59% 3.19% 10.67%
Michigan State 11.62 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 1 in 38,800 0.07% 0.78% 4.37% 13.96%
Minnesota 11.26 N/A N/A N/A 1 in 1.22B 1 in 7.71M 1 in 151k 0.02% 0.19% 1.44% 6.55% 18.12%
Wisconsin 10.68 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 1 in 70,900 0.05% 0.63% 4.01% 13.79% 26.27%
Iowa 8.35 N/A N/A 1 in 722k 1 in 14,700 0.12% 1.12% 5.72% 17.12% 29.71% 28.58% 14.07%
Purdue 6.92 N/A N/A N/A N/A 1.78% 11.01% 25.84% 30.13% 20.18% 8.38% 2.24%
Illinois 6.81 N/A N/A 1 in 23,600 0.17% 2.21% 11.52% 26.82% 31.24% 19.63% 6.90% 1.35%
Northwestern 6.53 N/A N/A N/A 0.21% 3.56% 15.88% 30.24% 29.30% 15.49% 4.54% 0.72%
Nebraska 4.15 N/A N/A 3.15% 25.18% 37.59% 24.01% 8.21% 1.64% 0.20% 0.01% 1 in 171k
Penn State 1.03 31.20% 41.46% 21.06% 5.43% 0.78% 0.07% 1 in 31,800 1 in 1.18M 1 in 83.8M 1 in 13.2B 1 in 6.68T

Again, Michigan is a significant favorite to win the conference, with Indiana having a bigger lead for second place. Michigan State has overtaken Wisconsin and nearly caught Ohio State for third. Minnesota only falls to fifth here. Iowa is a little closer to the 10-8 record they need to have a real chance at a tournament bid, but Illinois is further back. And Penn State's run at perfect futility looks much more likely under the margin-aware system - almost 1 in 3 (and 15-to-1 favorites to lose at least 16).

Michigan State's Remaining Games

From the previous projection:

@ Penn State: won by 9; projected 76% win probability by the basic system / 86% by margin-aware / +9.5 points margin (as of January 13 ratings)
Ohio State: won by 3; 69% / 66% / +3.5
@ Wisconsin: won by 2; 51% / 39% / -2.5
@ Indiana: lost by 5; 24% / 9% / -12

Remaining games, in schedule order:

Illinois: 79% / 84% / +8.5 (was 71% / 80% / +7)
Minnesota: 70% / 58% / +1.5 (was 51% / 42% / -1.5)
@ Purdue: 73% / 66% / +3.5 (was 76% / 71% / +5)
Michigan: 45% / 29% / -4.5 (was 51% / 38% / -2.5)
@ Nebraska: 71% / 77% / +6.5 (was 65% / 72% / +5)
Indiana: 62% / 49% / -0.5 (was 53% / 40% / -2)
@ Ohio State: 41% / 23% / -6.5 (was 38% / 23% / -6)
@ Michigan: 19% / 7% / -14 (was 22% / 9% / -12)
Wisconsin: 80% / 78% / +6.5 (was 79% / 80% / +7.5)
Northwestern: 89% / 91% / +12.5 (was 89% / 93% / +13.5)

The Minnesota and Michigan games at home have both slid out of the "toss-up" category, but in opposite directions. Winning every game that's a toss-up or better gets us to 13-5; to do better than that, we'll have to steal one as an underdog (either of the Michigan games or at Ohio State).

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