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Projecting the 2015 Big Ten Basketball Race: January 7

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A potential challenger emerges for Wisconsin's place atop the league, but the fight for the 3 and 4 seeds is looking wild.

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Last Week's Games

I've included the win probability projection for the winning team in each game, just to give an idea of which results are the biggest swings. Road wins are in italics, upsets (after factoring in home court advantage, so in some of these cases the higher-ranked team winning is still considered an "upset") in bold.

December 30-31

Northwestern 51, Rutgers 47 (26%)
Iowa 71, Ohio State 65 (11%)
Michigan 73, Illinois 65 (56%)
Maryland 68, Michigan State 66 (38%)
Wisconsin 89, Penn State 72 (97.5%)
Purdue 72, Minnesota 68 (38%)
Indiana 70, Nebraska 65 (40%)

January 3-5

Maryland 70, Minnesota 58 (82%)
Purdue 64, Michigan 51 (73%)
Ohio State 77, Illinois 61 (88%)
Rutgers 50, Penn State 46 (52%)
Wisconsin 81, Northwestern 58 (91.7%)
Michigan State 70, Indiana 50 (82%)
Iowa 70, Nebraska 59 (84%)

January 6

(Ordinarily I'll try to get this article out Tuesday morning, but I couldn't this week. Projections are based on the ratings through Sunday's games.)

Michigan 73, Penn State 64 (22%)
Ohio State 74, Minnesota 72 (34%)

Lots of upsets in the midweek games so far (7 out of 9), but none over the weekend. That's a bizarre pattern. Only Illinois and Wisconsin have had all their conference games to date go as expected; Minnesota has two upset losses (although neither was a huge surprise) and Ohio State has been on each end of an upset.

Conference Projections

Projections are based on ratings through Sunday's games; however, the results of the Monday and Tuesday games are included. Margin-aware ratings with preseason adjustment are available here; other versions of the ratings, without considering margin and/or without any previous-season bias, are also available. The preseason adjustment has very little impact on major-conference teams at this point; it's mostly significant for very low-end Division 1 teams who have played a significant number of non-D1 opponents (which are not counted in the ratings at all). Differences from last week are also included.

Team Avg wins Outright Shared Top 4 Middle 6 Bottom 4
Wisconsin 15.81 (+0.45)
68.01% (-1.25%)
83.39% (-0.87%)
99.89% (+0.44%)
0.11% (-0.44%)
<0.01%
Maryland 14.20 (+1.42)
14.97% (+8.22%)
29.23% (+13.89%)
97.21% (+15.20%)
2.79% (-15.14%)
<0.01% (-0.06%)
Ohio State 11.55 (-1.02)
0.71% (-4.84%)
2.54% (-10.64%)
64.86% (-13.85%)
34.83% (+13.64%)
0.32% (+0.22%)
Michigan State (+1)
10.67 (-0.29)
0.11% (-0.58%)
0.58% (-1.90%)
43.77% (-0.99%)
55.12% (+0.92%)
1.12% (+0.07%)
Iowa (+3)
10.41 (+1.97)
0.21% (+0.18%)
0.87% (+0.71%)
37.89% (+30.84%)
60.27% (-17.67%)
1.84% (-13.17%)
Indiana (+1)
10.30 (+0.83)
0.07% (+0.01%)
0.40% (+0.06%)
35.68% (+19.36%)
62.54% (-15.50%)
1.78% (-3.86%)
Minnesota (-3)
8.77 (-2.27)
<0.01% (-0.94%)
0.02% (-3.04%)
8.61% (-37.56%)
82.75% (+29.69%)
8.65% (+7.87%)
Illinois (-2)
8.16 (-1.78)
<0.01% (-0.12%)
0.01% (-0.57%)
5.23% (-17.18%)
77.77% (+3.39%)
17.00% (+13.78%)
Purdue (+3)
7.90 (+1.74)
<0.01% 0.01% (+0.01%)
4.48% (+4.06%)
74.69% (+34.36%)
20.84% (-38.42%)
Michigan 7.37 (+0.81)
<0.01% <0.01% 1.99% (+1.25%)
67.78% (+18.82%)
30.23% (-20.07%)
Northwestern (+2)
5.59 (+1.03)
<0.01% <0.01% 0.17% (+0.14%)
26.75% (+14.54%)
73.08% (-14.69%)
Penn State (-3)
5.50 (-1.71)
<0.01% <0.01% (-0.02%)
0.11% (-1.27%)
24.06% (-40.10%)
75.83% (+41.36%)
Nebraska (-2)
5.32 (-1.12)
<0.01% <0.01% 0.09% (-0.45%)
21.56% (-24.56%)
78.35% (+25.01%)
Rutgers 4.45 (-0.04)
<0.01% <0.01% 0.02% 9.01% (-1.97%)
90.97% (+1.97%)

Maryland closes the gap by about 1 full win with the road win at Michigan State; they're the only serious contender to steal the crown from Wisconsin at this point. Minnesota has fallen to the fringes of the hunt for a double bye, with Iowa and Indiana joining Michigan State and Ohio State in the hunt for the 3 and 4 seeds. Michigan and Purdue have achieved some separation from the bottom four, with Penn State's strong non-conference record looking increasingly like a mirage.

Projections by record:

Team 0-18 1-17 2-16 3-15 4-14 5-13 6-12 7-11 8-10
Wisconsin 1 in 4.61e+17 1 in 1.40e+15 1 in 9.80 T 1 in 119 B 1 in 2.26 B 1 in 62.5 M 1 in 2.45 M
Maryland 1 in 12.0 T 1 in 71.3 B 1 in 994 M 1 in 24.6 M 1 in 975,000 1 in 58,600 0.02%
Ohio State 1 in 167 M 1 in 2.88 M 1 in 115,000 0.01% 0.11% 0.64% 2.60%
Michigan State 1 in 281 M 1 in 4.69 M 1 in 181,000 1 in 12,300 0.08% 0.48% 2.10% 6.46%
Iowa 1 in 3.51 M 1 in 86,700 0.02% 0.17% 0.95% 3.49% 8.95%
Indiana 1 in 55.2 M 1 in 1.11 M 1 in 52,300 0.02% 0.18% 0.94% 3.47% 9.10%
Minnesota 1 in 86.2 M 1 in 1.43 M 1 in 55,400 0.03% 0.23% 1.36% 5.22% 13.33% 22.61%
Illinois 1 in 2.88 M 1 in 79,500 0.02% 0.18% 1.02% 3.91% 10.28% 18.77% 23.94%
Purdue 0.01% 0.20% 1.38% 5.35% 12.99% 21.05% 23.64%
Michigan 0.02% 0.39% 2.46% 8.51% 17.97% 24.63% 22.76%
Northwestern 0.19% 1.77% 7.03% 16.09% 23.64% 23.50% 16.27% 7.95%
Penn State 0.02% 0.28% 1.96% 7.35% 16.68% 24.34% 23.67% 15.68% 7.17%
Nebraska 0.03% 0.43% 2.70% 9.10% 18.58% 24.64% 22.14% 13.84% 6.11%
Rutgers 1.22% 7.33% 18.50% 26.20% 23.56% 14.41% 6.25% 1.97%

Team 9-9 10-8 11-7 12-6 13-5 14-4 15-3 16-2 17-1 18-0
Wisconsin 1 in 134,000 1 in 10,100 0.09% 0.65% 3.15% 10.52% 23.17% 31.57% 23.61% 7.22%
Maryland 0.15% 0.83% 3.27% 9.11% 18.03% 24.97% 23.52% 14.29% 5.03% 0.78%
Ohio State 7.44% 15.17% 22.16% 23.10% 16.95% 8.49% 2.76% 0.52% 0.04%
Michigan State 14.13% 21.96% 24.01% 18.13% 9.14% 2.92% 0.54% 0.05% 1 in 64,600
Iowa 16.44% 21.94% 21.42% 15.24% 7.80% 2.80% 0.67% 0.10% 1 in 12,800 1 in 484,000
Indiana 17.16% 23.23% 22.31% 14.85% 6.59% 1.83% 0.29% 0.02% 1 in 177,000
Minnesota 25.49% 19.03% 9.27% 2.86% 0.52% 0.05% 1 in 68,100
Illinois 21.30% 13.15% 5.55% 1.56% 0.28% 0.03% 1 in 63,100 1 in 3.70 M
Purdue 18.78% 10.68% 4.36% 1.27% 0.26% 0.04% 1 in 29,100 1 in 509,000 1 in 16.8 M 1 in 1.53 B
Michigan 14.48% 6.38% 1.94% 0.40% 0.06% 1 in 19,400 1 in 343,000 1 in 11.0 M 1 in 847 M
Northwestern 2.75% 0.67% 0.12% 0.01% 1 in 93,500 1 in 1.86 M 1 in 62.9 M 1 in 4.15 B 1 in 746 B
Penn State 2.28% 0.50% 0.08% 1 in 13,100 1 in 205,000 1 in 5.66 M 1 in 365 M
Nebraska 1.92% 0.43% 0.07% 1 in 14,300 1 in 207,000 1 in 4.96 M 1 in 226 M 1 in 27.2 B
Rutgers 0.46% 0.08% 0.01% 1 in 103,000 1 in 1.52 M 1 in 32.0 M 1 in 1.03 B 1 in 57.2 B 1 in 7.35 T

For the 10+ win benchmark that has traditionally meant a near-certain tournament berth, probabilities are:

Wisconsin: 127,000-to-1 favorite
Maryland: 580-to-1 favorite
Ohio State: 89.2%
Michigan State: 76.7%
Iowa: 70.0%
Indiana: 69.1%
Minnesota: 31.7%
Illinois: 20.6%
Purdue: 16.6%
Michigan: 8.8%
Northwestern: 125-to-1 underdog
Penn State: 170-to-1 underdog
Nebraska: 200-to-1 underdog
Rutgers: 1100-to-1 underdog

Several of these teams probably don't have to hit 10 wins to make the tournament. Ohio State and Michigan State will both benefit from having multiple quality non-conference opponents, despite not beating any especially strong ones (both best wins are over Marquette). MSU has more losses (and the only bad one of the two) but also has a lot fewer of the awful RPI anchors (sub-250 teams) to drag them down. Trying to guess where the cutoff line will be this early is an exercise in futility, but I would guess that both are likely but not certain to make the cut at 9-9 in conference. (Maryland and Wisconsin likely would too, but they aren't likely to push that boundary at all.) Iowa's non-conference schedule has several anchors weighing them down, but they also played five Kenpom top 50 teams, so they'll likely get a pass there. Indiana and Minnesota apparently have not learned how to game the RPI, with 10 sub-280 opponents between them; Indiana has enough strong opponents and quality wins to have an okay shot at overcoming that, but Minnesota might be in trouble. Penn State really lacks for quality wins but does have a decent number of road/neutral wins and at least avoided the total dregs of Division 1, which will limit the RPI damage somewhat.

This Week's Games

All times ET.

Wednesday, January 7

Purdue at Wisconsin (7:00, BTN): Wisconsin 97.8%, +21 projected margin
Maryland at Illinois (9:00, BTN): Maryland 65% (+3.5)

Thursday, January 8

Michigan State at Iowa (7:00, ESPN): Iowa 67% (+4)
Rutgers at Nebraska (9:00, ESPNU): Nebraska 83% (+8.5)

Midweek byes: Indiana and Northwestern

Saturday, January 10

Ohio State at Indiana (Noon, ESPN): Indiana 65% (+3.5)
Minnesota at Michigan (1:00, ESPNU): Minnesota 54% (+1)
Maryland at Purdue (2:30, BTN): Maryland 71% (+5)

Sunday, January 11

Northwestern at Michigan State (Noon, BTN): MSU 93.5% (+14.5)
Wisconsin at Rutgers (6:00, BTN): Wisconsin 92.5% (+13.5)
Illinois at Nebraska (8:30, BTN): Nebraska 64% (+3)

Weekend byes: Iowa and Penn State