Projecting the 2014 Big Ten Basketball Race: January 28

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan's successful run of their first gauntlet in conference shakes up the odds again.

Heading into last week, Michigan State was a clear favorite to win the conference and Michigan appeared headed for third or fourth place. After finishing off an impressive run with wins against Iowa and Michigan State, how far does Michigan move up? As always, ratings (through Sunday's games) are here and title/bye percentages are 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 14.80 1.04% 4.33% 12.08% 22.53% 27.65% 21.26% 9.22% 1.71% 51.83% 71.34% 99.35%
Michigan State 13.97 2.25% 9.46% 22.69% 30.98% 23.57% 9.26% 1.46% N/A 21.97% 40.09% 98.74%
Wisconsin 12.08 19.98% 28.89% 25.18% 11.75% 2.21% N/A N/A N/A 1.76% 6.71% 83.90%
Iowa 11.87 21.58% 26.06% 20.80% 10.40% 2.90% 0.34% N/A N/A 2.29% 7.18% 78.28%
Minnesota 9.67 18.79% 6.77% 1.22% 0.08% N/A N/A N/A N/A 0.01% 0.11% 18.11%
Ohio State 9.63 18.26% 7.59% 1.69% 0.15% N/A N/A N/A N/A 0.02% 0.18% 19.10%
Indiana 7.43 1.63% 0.26% 0.02% 1 in 128k N/A N/A N/A N/A <0.01% <0.01% 1.63%
Nebraska 6.80 0.40% 0.03% 1 in 101k N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A <0.01% <0.01% 0.37%
Purdue 6.59 0.28% 0.03% 1 in 63,400 1 in 2.72M N/A N/A N/A N/A <0.01% <0.01% 0.40%
Northwestern 5.97 0.03% 1 in 73,800 1 in 4.13M N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A <0.01% <0.01% 0.08%
Illinois 5.32 0.01% 1 in 257k N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A <0.01% <0.01% 0.04%
Penn State 3.87 1 in 375k 1 in 19.8M 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 14.80 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 1 in 5.10M 1 in 117k 0.02% 0.16%
Michigan State 13.97 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 1 in 7.44M 1 in 115k 0.02% 0.30%
Wisconsin 12.08 N/A N/A N/A N/A 1 in 26.4M 1 in 480k 1 in 20,700 0.06% 0.50% 2.58% 8.85%
Iowa 11.87 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 1 in 180k 0.02% 0.17% 1.13% 4.55% 12.06%
Minnesota 9.67 N/A N/A N/A N/A 1 in 31,200 0.08% 0.81% 4.36% 13.63% 25.55% 28.70%
Ohio State 9.63 N/A N/A N/A 1 in 208k 0.02% 0.19% 1.34% 5.54% 14.45% 24.31% 26.45%
Indiana 7.43 N/A N/A N/A 0.15% 1.63% 7.29% 17.59% 25.79% 24.33% 15.13% 6.19%
Nebraska 6.80 N/A N/A 0.06% 0.82% 4.39% 13.01% 23.49% 26.81% 19.52% 8.96% 2.51%
Purdue 6.59 N/A N/A N/A 0.67% 5.20% 16.12% 26.66% 26.34% 16.40% 6.59% 1.71%
Northwestern 5.97 N/A N/A N/A 1.78% 10.49% 24.62% 30.18% 21.28% 8.99% 2.29% 0.35%
Illinois 5.32 N/A N/A 1.22% 7.65% 19.67% 27.80% 24.09% 13.41% 4.85% 1.12% 0.16%
Penn State 3.87 N/A 2.77% 12.88% 25.37% 27.93% 19.18% 8.65% 2.62% 0.53% 0.07% 1 in 17,200

Wins at Wisconsin and Michigan State and home against Iowa vault Michigan to the top, in part because they've cleared out several of the most difficult games on the schedule already. Michigan State still has the highest rating in the conference in both methods, but the more difficult remaining schedule projects to keep MSU from making up the half-game by which they trail Michigan in the current standings.

Interestingly, the top 6 seem to have stratified out in pairs. The two Michigan schools are the clear title favorites, Iowa and Wisconsin sit about two games further back but are heavy favorites to get the remaining two byes, and Ohio State and Minnesota are mostly fighting for the 5 and 6 spots with a long-shot chance at a bye. All six should feel fairly safe about reaching the tournament (Minnesota and Ohio State still have a little work to do, but their non-conference schedules were both very RPI-friendly, so it's hard to imagine either missing out short of an utter collapse). Behind them is a muddle of teams beating each other up and occasionally reaching up to bite one of the top teams; at this point, the odds of any of them playing in the Big Dance are poor. There's no truly awful team getting separation at the low end like Penn State last year; while they're at the back of the pack again for now, they aren't a foregone conclusion to finish 12th this year.

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 14.56 1.19% 5.23% 14.56% 25.74% 28.24% 18.10% 5.99% 0.77% 43.67% 65.50% 98.70%
Michigan State 13.95 1.59% 8.87% 24.24% 32.92% 23.09% 8.05% 1.10% N/A 22.41% 41.99% 98.20%
Iowa 12.79 12.04% 23.00% 28.38% 21.36% 8.62% 1.34% N/A N/A 6.12% 16.74% 87.32%
Wisconsin 12.13 19.62% 30.16% 26.53% 11.62% 1.93% N/A N/A N/A 1.66% 6.98% 78.67%
Ohio State 10.33 26.92% 14.63% 3.91% 0.39% N/A N/A N/A N/A 0.03% 0.38% 22.44%
Minnesota 9.96 23.40% 8.24% 1.35% 0.08% N/A N/A N/A N/A 0.01% 0.09% 13.60%
Indiana 7.50 1.54% 0.22% 0.02% 1 in 207k N/A N/A N/A N/A <0.01% <0.01% 0.84%
Nebraska 7.05 0.41% 0.03% 1 in 169k N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A <0.01% <0.01% 0.21%
Purdue 5.69 0.01% 1 in 186k 1 in 7.85M 1 in 805M N/A N/A N/A N/A <0.01% <0.01% 0.01%
Northwestern 5.21 1 in 118k 1 in 6.47M 1 in 918M N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A <0.01% <0.01% <0.01%
Illinois 4.69 1 in 115k 1 in 6.63M N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A <0.01% <0.01% <0.01%
Penn State 4.16 1 in 469k 1 in 31.3M 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 14.56 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 1 in 9.42M 1 in 164k 0.01% 0.17%
Michigan State 13.95 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 1 in 86.5M 1 in 718k 1 in 15,700 0.14%
Iowa 12.79 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 1 in 12.4M 1 in 203k 0.01% 0.14% 0.94% 4.16%
Wisconsin 12.13 N/A N/A N/A N/A 1 in 216M 1 in 2.22M 1 in 60,600 0.03% 0.31% 1.97% 7.83%
Ohio State 10.33 N/A N/A N/A 1 in 11.2M 1 in 159k 0.02% 0.22% 1.61% 6.79% 17.53% 27.97%
Minnesota 9.96 N/A N/A N/A N/A 1 in 273k 0.02% 0.25% 2.02% 9.13% 23.19% 32.33%
Indiana 7.50 N/A N/A N/A 0.10% 1.25% 6.32% 16.76% 26.16% 25.48% 15.85% 6.29%
Nebraska 7.05 N/A N/A 0.02% 0.36% 2.55% 9.69% 21.51% 28.71% 23.00% 10.83% 2.90%
Purdue 5.69 N/A N/A N/A 2.15% 13.96% 29.54% 30.05% 17.10% 5.82% 1.22% 0.16%
Northwestern 5.21 N/A N/A N/A 5.90% 22.38% 33.33% 25.15% 10.45% 2.45% 0.32% 0.02%
Illinois 4.69 N/A N/A 2.95% 14.93% 28.36% 28.45% 17.07% 6.44% 1.54% 0.23% 0.02%
Penn State 4.16 N/A 1.20% 8.34% 22.24% 29.97% 23.17% 11.02% 3.33% 0.65% 0.08% 1 in 17,800

Michigan's lead is slightly smaller here, and both the 3-4 and 5-6 pairings are reversed. In particular, Iowa looks like slightly less of a long shot to grab the title away from the Michigan schools. Additionally, Indiana and Nebraska put a little extra distance between themselves and the bottom four.

Michigan State's Remaining Games

First, a word about injuries: neither of these models takes injuries into account in any way. Apart from the difficulty in coming up with a reasonably accurate model for how much any given injury should affect the difficulty of a game, tracking injury data for 350 teams is far more work than I really want to do. If I had to estimate, I'd say lower the projections for the next few games (until Adreian Payne returns) by maybe 2-3 points, but raise them by a similar amount for the last few games once Branden Dawson is expected to return.

Last week's games:

Indiana: W 71-66 (projection: 92% no-margin / 96% margin-aware / +17 average margin)
Michigan: L 80-75 (81% / 88% / +10.5)

Remaining schedule:

@ Iowa: 46% / 35% / -3.5 (was 51% / 39% / -2.5)
Georgetown (non-conference, neutral site): 85% / 90% / +12 (didn't include in last week's projections)
Penn State: 95% / 96% / +17.5 (was 96% / 98% / +19.5)
@ Wisconsin: 37% / 34% / -3.5 (was 42% / 38% / -2.5)
Northwestern: 94% / 98% / +20.5 (was 96% / 98.6% / +22.5)
Nebraska: 92% / 95% / +16 (was 95% / 98% / +19.5)
@ Purdue: 76% / 85% / +9.5 (was 76% / 87% / +10)
@ Michigan: 38% / 40% / -2 (was 56% / 56% / +1.5)
Illinois: 91% / 95% / +16 (was 92% / 96% / +17.5)
Iowa: 75% / 73% / +5.5 (was 78% / 78% / +7)
@ Ohio State: 53% / 44% / -1.5 (was 56% / 45% / -1)

Drop-offs across the board as the rating dropped from a closer-than-expected win against Indiana and the loss to Michigan. Even so, the chances of getting at least two wins out of the four toughest road trips according to margin-aware are just under 50% (with a slightly better than 15% chance of at least three and 2% chance of all four).

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