Projecting the 2014 Big Ten Basketball Race: February 12

Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Ten seems no closer to sorting itself out as both main contenders dropped road games and the gap between the last bye and 9th place is just one game in the loss column.

Last week, Michigan State had a projected half-game edge on Michigan for first, while everything else (apart from Iowa sitting solidly in third) was total chaos. Michigan and MSU both dropped road games against the top half and blew out teams near the bottom, but Michigan added a win at Ohio State as well last night. The muddled middle, however, appears just as muddled. Minnesota won a massive bubble battle with Indiana ... after losing to Purdue in triple OT. Ohio State took a big step forward with the win at Iowa but blew a chance for another big resume win against Michigan. After all of that, how do the projected standings look? As always, the ratings are here and title/bye percentages are calculated from 100,000 simulations of the remaining games. The transition to using individual scenarios and tiebreakers is at least two weeks off, maybe three because of the sheer chaos in the middle.

At this point, I think it's safe to say MSU, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Ohio State are all going to make the NCAA tournament. We'll make the same assumptions as last week about what each team needs: Minnesota has a 50-50 shot at 8-10, Indiana a 1-in-3 shot at 9-9, Nebraska needs 10-8, Northwestern 50-50 at 11-7.

(Note: Ratings are through Monday's games, but Michigan's win at Ohio State is included in the projections.)

The Contenders

Basic Method
Team Avg wins 6-12 7-11 8-10 9-9 10-8 11-7 12-6 13-5 14-4 15-3 16-2 Outright Shared Top 4
Michigan 14.19 N/A N/A N/A N/A 0.05% 0.87% 5.74% 18.97% 33.42% 30.08% 10.88% 42.13% 65.18% 99.84%
Michigan State 14.03 N/A N/A N/A 1 in 46,000 0.08% 1.02% 6.62% 21.94% 36.25% 26.91% 7.18% 33.97% 56.83% 99.76%
Iowa 11.36 N/A 0.04% 0.70% 4.93% 16.99% 30.99% 29.98% 14.04% 2.33% N/A N/A 0.30% 2.28% 80.53%
Wisconsin 10.81 1 in 14,700 0.18% 1.87% 9.61% 25.80% 35.28% 22.18% 5.08% N/A N/A N/A 0.03% 0.56% 67.02%
Ohio State 10.16 0.05% 0.88% 5.92% 19.54% 33.85% 29.53% 10.23% N/A N/A N/A N/A <0.01% 0.02% 42.26%

Including Ohio State as a "contender" is stretching things a bit, but they're a virtual tournament lock and there's a big gap between them and sixth place. The four byes are very likely to come from this group - the chances of any of the other seven taking Thursday off in the second week of March are just over 10%. The remaining schedules of Michigan and MSU are interesting: MSU has the two toughest remaining games (@Mich, @OSU) but also the three easiest (home vs. Northwestern, Nebraska, and Illinois). Michigan has four games between 59 and 67% in addition to an 81 and 86; they're favored in every game but even without the MSU game they would be only about 1 in 5 to win out. Iowa is a long shot to share the title; even in the best case they need two games' worth of help. Wisconsin and Ohio State need significantly more.

Margin-Aware Method
Team Avg wins 6-12 7-11 8-10 9-9 10-8 11-7 12-6 13-5 14-4 15-3 16-2 Outright Shared Top 4
Michigan 14.31 N/A N/A N/A N/A 0.03% 0.58% 4.41% 16.64% 32.93% 32.66% 12.75% 38.47% 62.18% 99.79%
Michigan State 14.30 N/A N/A N/A 1 in 1.20M 1 in 14,200 0.21% 2.80% 16.01% 37.93% 33.44% 9.60% 36.84% 60.40% 99.90%
Iowa 11.89 N/A 1 in 68,400 0.08% 1.25% 8.15% 24.81% 36.73% 24.11% 4.87% N/A N/A 0.36% 2.98% 87.74%
Wisconsin 10.85 1 in 59,300 0.08% 1.17% 7.98% 25.85% 38.51% 22.24% 4.17% N/A N/A N/A <0.01% 0.22% 60.08%
Ohio State 10.52 1 in 16,200 0.24% 2.61% 12.73% 30.92% 36.63% 16.86% N/A N/A N/A N/A <0.01% 0.01% 46.71%

Here it's even more likely that the byes come from this group; the other seven have less than a combined chance of 6% to get a bye. One of Michigan's moderately tough games (at Purdue) improves to 76%, but MSU's easy trio goes to all 95%+ instead of around 90. Iowa's shot at a share improves slightly but it's still around 1 in 33.

The Rest

Basic Method
Team Avg wins 3-15 4-14 5-13 6-12 7-11 8-10 9-9 10-8 11-7 12-6 Top 4
Minnesota 8.14 N/A N/A 0.61% 6.17% 21.87% 34.25% 25.89% 9.48% 1.63% 0.11% 4.17%
Nebraska 7.98 N/A 0.17% 2.03% 9.52% 23.13% 31.05% 23.05% 9.17% 1.75% 0.11% 3.33%
Northwestern 7.56 N/A N/A 2.64% 14.94% 31.33% 31.16% 15.61% 3.88% 0.43% 0.02% 1.23%
Indiana 7.32 N/A 0.75% 6.13% 19.17% 30.16% 26.43% 13.21% 3.64% 0.49% 0.03% 1.66%
Purdue 6.44 N/A 3.25% 17.21% 33.01% 29.41% 13.50% 3.23% 0.37% 0.02% N/A 0.16%
Illinois 5.23 5.33% 21.94% 33.60% 25.71% 10.72% 2.43% 0.27% 0.01% N/A N/A 0.01%
Penn State 4.79 12.55% 30.48% 31.52% 17.97% 6.10% 1.23% 0.14% 1 in 15,400 N/A N/A 0.01%

That loss to Purdue really hurt Minnesota; a win there and (with the win over Indiana) they would be looking at better than 80% odds given the assumption that 8-10 gives them a 50-50 shot. Instead they're squarely on the bubble, at a 6-to-5 favorite (down from 3-to-2 last week). Indiana really needed the game against Minnesota; they're now looking at about a 3 in 35 chance; a win at Minnesota would have made that a little better than 1 in 4. Northwestern is looking at around 1 in 400 now. Only Nebraska improved their chances this week; they're up to 1 in 9, ahead of Indiana.

Margin-Aware Method
Team Avg wins 3-15 4-14 5-13 6-12 7-11 8-10 9-9 10-8 11-7 12-6 Top 4
Minnesota 8.29 N/A N/A 0.23% 3.54% 18.29% 36.43% 29.69% 10.20% 1.54% 0.08% 2.86%
Nebraska 7.92 N/A 0.11% 1.56% 8.88% 24.59% 34.18% 22.60% 7.11% 0.95% 0.03% 1.55%
Indiana 7.54 N/A 0.34% 3.77% 15.36% 29.61% 29.85% 16.08% 4.42% 0.55% 0.02% 1.21%
Northwestern 6.98 N/A N/A 7.10% 26.60% 36.00% 22.53% 6.81% 0.92% 0.04% 1 in 162k 0.15%
Purdue 5.88 N/A 6.85% 29.69% 38.30% 19.84% 4.76% 0.53% 0.02% 1 in 259k N/A 0.01%
Illinois 4.87 7.78% 30.16% 36.20% 19.74% 5.37% 0.71% 0.04% 1 in 117k N/A N/A <0.01%
Penn State 4.65 14.65% 33.05% 31.01% 15.73% 4.67% 0.81% 0.08% 1 in 33,400 N/A N/A <0.01%

Similar story here: Minnesota drops from 5-to-2 to a 3-to-2 favorite, but would be almost 7-to-1 if they hadn't lost at Purdue. Indiana falls to about 3 in 29 but could have been near 1 in 3 with a win over Minnesota. Northwestern is back down to 1 in 5000 or so, while Nebraska improves to a little under 1 in 12 (not quite surpassing Indiana's odds as they did in the basic system).

Michigan State's Remaining Games

Last week:

Penn State: W 82-67 (projected 93% basic / 95% margin-aware / +15.5 average margin)
Wisconsin: L 60-58 (projected 46% / 40% / -2)

Remaining games:

Northwestern: 92% / 97% / +18 (was 91% / 97% / +17.5)
Nebraska: 89% / 95% / +15 (was 91% / 95% / +15)
@ Purdue: 73% / 86% / +9 (was 76% / 85% / +9)
@ Michigan: 41% / 44% / -1 (was 42% / 42% / -1.5)
Illinois: 90% / 95% / +15 (was 91% / 95% / +15)
Iowa: 74% / 74% / +5.5 (was 75% / 72% / +5)
@ Ohio State: 44% / 39% / -2.5 (was 52% / 43% / -1.5)

Both projections last week hit the margin near dead on, so no real drift in our rating for the margin-aware method. Only noticeable change is the Ohio State game, as they had a couple of good performances. Their loss to Michigan will pull that back some (although the Michigan game will move the other direction as well). Apart from that, the basic method drifted down slightly on the projections but margin-aware held flat or went up.

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