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Projecting the 2015 Big Ten Basketball Race: February 20

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Wisconsin can officially wrap up a double bye this weekend (with some help), while two of the other three favorites for top 4 finishes have fallen back.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Midweek Results

Bold is an upset (based on ratings through Sunday's games), italic is a road win.

Michigan State 80, Michigan 67 (62%)
Wisconsin 55, Penn State 47 (88%)
Northwestern 72, Minnesota 66 (11%)
Purdue 67, Indiana 63 (25%)
Maryland 69, Nebraska 65 (89.6%)
Iowa 81, Rutgers 47 (92.9%)

Good week for road teams, with only the two biggest home favorites holding serve. Northwestern seems to be enjoying the role of spoiler, putting what's likely the final nail in the coffin for Minnesota's tournament chances just days after doing serious damage to Iowa's hopes. Iowa, meanwhile, took out their frustrations on a Rutgers team that looked even more hapless than usual. And Maryland is somehow at 10-4 in conference despite a total scoring margin in conference play of -3 (Minnesota is 5-9 with a total scoring margin of -14).

Conference Projections

Projections are based on ratings through almost all of Thursday's games (four were still in progress at the time of update). Margin-aware ratings are available here; no-margin ratings are here. Differences from Friday's projections are included. Conference titles and tiered finishes are based on 100,000 simulations of the remainder of the season (ties for the various tiers are given split credit to each team rather than breaking the tie); records are based on individual game projections. Tiebreaker notes will come in next week, with the full scenario grids the week after.

Team Current Avg wins Outright Shared Top 4 Middle 6 Bottom 4 10+ Wins BUBBLECON
Wisconsin 12-1 15.99 (+0.21) 97.56% (+1.30%) 99.79% (+0.26%) >99.99% <0.01% Yes 5
Maryland 10-4 12.68 (+0.11) 0.15% (-0.24%) 2.11% (-1.30%) 91.08% (+0.82%) 8.92% (-0.82%) Yes 5
Purdue (+2) 10-4 12.00 (+0.79) <0.01% 0.16% (+0.06%) 70.48% (+30.61%) 29.52% (-30.61%) Yes 4 (+1)
Michigan State (+2) 9-4 11.69 (+0.52) 0.03% (=) 0.42% (+0.06%) 57.17% (+15.42%) 42.83% (-15.41%) <0.01% 120-to-1 fav 4
Ohio State (-1) 8-5 11.51 (=) <0.01% 0.07% (-0.17%) 50.49% (-6.15%) 49.51% (+6.15%) <0.01% 98.18% (=) 5
Indiana (-3) 8-6 10.63 (-0.91) <0.01% 18.75% (-38.30%) 81.25% (+38.30%) <0.01% 88.46% (-8.87%) 4
Iowa 7-6 10.04 (+0.17) <0.01% 7.11% (-0.42%) 92.85% (+0.67%) 0.04% (-0.25%) 71.07% (+6.11%) 3
Illinois 7-6 9.72 (-0.08) <0.01% 4.93% (-1.79%) 95.00% (+1.97%) 0.07% (-0.18%) 59.07% (-3.49%) 3
Michigan 6-8 7.68 (-0.47) <0.01% 96.08% (+1.01%) 3.92% (-0.80%) 1.20% (-6.78%) 1
Minnesota 5-9 6.19 (-1.00) <0.01% 50.36% (-28.63%) 49.64% (+28.63%) 1 (-1)
Nebraska 5-9 6.05 (-0.12) <0.01% 40.75% (+18.20%) 59.25% (-18.20%) 1
Northwestern (+1) 3-10 4.82 (+1.07) 8.27% (+7.56%) 91.73% (-7.56%) 1
Penn State (-1) 3-11 4.40 (-0.18) 4.63% (+1.61%) 95.37% (-1.61%) 1
Rutgers 2-12 2.62 (-0.08) 0.02% (+0.01%) 99.98% (-0.01%) 1

Maryland and Purdue, with 10 wins, are now assured of not finishing in the bottom 4 no matter what happens the rest of the way. Nine technically isn't enough yet in the event that Minnesota and Nebraska both win out, although this is ... shall we say, not likely. Michigan State and (with help) Ohio State and Indiana can also officially clinch a rest day for March 11 (the opening day of the Big Ten tournament) this weekend; a loss by either Minnesota or Nebraska or a win would do it for MSU, while OSU and Indiana need to win and get a loss from one of the current 9-loss teams.

A Wisconsin win and Ohio State loss would clinch a double bye for the Badgers. With Purdue off, they cannot yet clinch a share of the Big Ten title, but at this point it's only a matter of time.

At the other end, technically nine wins could be enough to reach fourth place, so Minnesota and Nebraska remain alive for the double-bye (not yet considering tiebreakers). A loss eliminates them, as would an MSU win or an Indiana win (since MSU and Indiana play each other later, one would have to reach 10 wins). Rutgers is close to clinching a Wednesday start; a loss would be enough, given their tiebreaker situation.

Having Ohio State at BUBBLECON 5 and MSU at 4 is a little bit weird, but I think at the same conference record Ohio State's chances would be better. Both are very near the 4-5 border.

Projections by record:

Team 12-6 13-5 14-4 15-3 16-2 17-1
Wisconsin 0.01% 0.38% 4.49% 21.57% 43.29% 30.26%

Team 7-11 8-10 9-9 10-8 11-7 12-6 13-5 14-4
Maryland 0.47% 7.02% 31.80% 45.93% 14.78%
Purdue 1.43% 22.40% 53.38% 20.61% 2.18%
Michigan State 0.82% 8.94% 31.57% 39.55% 17.59% 1.54%
Ohio State 0.08% 1.74% 11.87% 33.50% 39.09% 13.72%
Indiana 1.23% 10.30% 30.84% 39.42% 18.21%
Iowa 0.42% 5.63% 22.88% 38.00% 26.76% 6.31%
Illinois 0.71% 8.54% 31.68% 38.71% 17.67% 2.68%

Team 2-16 3-15 4-14 5-13 6-12 7-11 8-10 9-9 10-8
Michigan 5.28% 38.12% 41.41% 13.99% 1.20%
Minnesota 13.65% 57.53% 25.26% 3.44% 0.12%
Nebraska 27.55% 44.68% 23.25% 4.30% 0.23%
Northwestern 7.80% 29.80% 38.74% 19.73% 3.70% 0.23%
Penn State 17.19% 39.21% 31.70% 10.66% 1.24%
Rutgers 50.59% 38.13% 10.13% 1.11% 0.04%

This Weekend's Games

All times ET.

Saturday, February 21

Minnesota at Wisconsin (Noon, ESPN): Wisconsin 95.3% (+16.5 projected margin)
Penn State at Northwestern (3:00, ESPNU): Northwestern 59% (+2)

If Minnesota can run the table into the conference tournament, they might have a shot at an at-large at 9-9. But the road to 9-9 is not an easy one; their final four games include a home-and-home with Wisconsin. Penn State and Northwestern are probably going to play on Wednesday in the Big Ten tournament, but the winner will have a much better chance of escaping that.

Sunday, February 22

Ohio State at Michigan (1:00, CBS): Ohio State 70% (+4.5)
Iowa at Nebraska (3:00, BTN): Iowa 56% (+1.5)
Indiana at Rutgers (5:15, BTN): Indiana 77% (+6.5)
Michigan State at Illinois (7:30, BTN): Michigan State 50.8% (+0)

Ohio State is in pretty good shape to make the tournament, but a loss at Michigan would make them no longer appear to be a sure thing. Michigan needs this one to have any hope, though their chances are poor even with a win. Iowa can't really afford another bad loss, making the trip to Nebraska critical. Indiana is in somewhat better shape, but a loss to Rutgers after getting swept by Purdue would be a bit of a danger sign.

The Big Ten is saving its biggest bubble game of the week for last. Michigan State can all but wrap up a berth with a win and would still be in reasonably good shape with a loss; Illinois needs a few more good wins, and this is as good an opportunity as they're going to get.

Weekend Byes

Maryland and Purdue are off.