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Projecting the 2015 Big Ten Basketball Race: February 3

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At the halfway point, Wisconsin's in first, but the rest of the top half is a B1G mess.

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Last Week's Games

Bold indicates an upset (meaning less than 50% chance of winning based on ratings through the previous Sunday); italic indicates a road win.

January 27-29

Michigan 58, Nebraska 44 (70%)
Penn State 63, Minnesota 58 (49.3%)
Purdue 83, Indiana 67 (49.6%)
Michigan State 71, Rutgers 51 (77%)
Ohio State 80, Maryland 56 (67%)

January 31-February 1

Illinois 60, Penn State 58 (81%)
Wisconsin 74, Iowa 63 (71%)
Indiana 72, Rutgers 64 (94.1%)
Minnesota 60, Nebraska 42 (81%)
Purdue 68, Northwestern 60 (44%)
Michigan State 76, Michigan 66 (OT) (88%)

All three of the closest games in terms of odds were upsets, but no others. With Indiana and Maryland both picking up losses and MSU, Purdue, and OSU all winning out for the week, the result is a total logjam: a five-way tie for second place in the current standings at the midway point, with Michigan just a half-game behind that group.

Conference Projections

Projections are based on ratings through Sunday's games. Margin-aware ratings are available here; no-margin ratings are here. Differences from last week'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.

Team Record Avg wins Outright Shared Top 4 Middle 6 Bottom 4 10+ Wins BUBBLECON
Wisconsin 7-1 15.33 (+0.45) 84.57% (+16.69%) 94.93% (+9.59%) 99.79% (+0.61%) 0.21% (-0.61%) <0.01% 446,000-to-1 fav 5
Maryland 6-3 12.48 (-0.54) 2.32% (-6.55%) 8.59% (-13.46%) 81.25% (-8.06%) 18.74% (+8.05%) 0.01% (+0.01%) 98.97% (-0.61%) 5
Ohio State (+1) 6-3 12.15 (+0.34) 1.32% (-0.22%) 5.84% (-0.47%) 72.73% (+7.84%) 27.26% (-7.80%) 0.01% (-0.04%) 98.12% (+2.59%) 5 (+1)
Michigan State (+1) 6-3 11.57 (+0.59) 0.46% (+0.15%) 2.32% (+0.60%) 56.15% (+16.25%) 43.81% (-15.89%) 0.04% (-0.36%) 94.56% (+8.70%) 4
Indiana (-2) 6-3 11.32 (-0.73) 0.25% (-1.64%) 1.40% (-5.49%) 48.67% (-22.53%) 51.26% (+22.51%) 0.06% (+0.01%) 92.23% (-4.66%) 4
Purdue (+2) 6-3 10.20 (+1.48) 0.02% (+0.02%) 0.15% (+0.12%) 17.53% (+13.14%) 82.05% (-4.03%) 0.42% (-9.11%) 71.73% (+43.01%) 2
Iowa (-1) 4-4 10.03 (-0.31) 0.01% (-0.17%) 0.17% (-0.95%) 16.24% (-7.45%) 82.31% (+7.46%) 1.45% (-0.02%) 64.95% (-6.81%) 3
Michigan (-1) 6-4 9.31 (+0.37) <0.01% 0.03% (-0.01%) 6.37% (+1.11%) 92.25% (+3.41%) 1.38% (-4.52%) 42.94% (+9.92%) 3
Illinois 4-5 8.43 (+0.01) <0.01% <0.01% 1.21% (-0.24%) 92.19% (+4.48%) 6.61% (-4.23%) 17.63% (-1.17%) 2
Nebraska 4-5 6.63 (-0.80) <0.01% <0.01% 0.05% (-0.57%) 49.95% (-14.91%) 50.01% (+15.49%) 1.12% (-5.89%) 1
Minnesota 3-7 6.55 (-0.37) <0.01% <0.01% 0.01% (-0.09%) 48.04% (-4.05%) 51.95% (+4.14%) 1 in 250 1
Penn State (+1) 2-7 4.83 (+0.62) <0.01% <0.01% <0.01% 8.92% (+4.84%) 91.08% (-4.84%) 1 in 7300 1
Northwestern (-1) 1-7 3.73 (-0.70) <0.01% <0.01% <0.01% 2.37% (-2.68%) 97.63% (+2.68%) 1 in 136,000 1
Rutgers 2-8 3.45 (-0.40) <0.01% <0.01% <0.01% 0.64% (-0.82%) 99.36% (+0.82%) 1 in 2.33 M 1

Wisconsin's projected lead at the top grows to almost three games, making them an enormous favorite to claim the title (nearly 6-to-1 to win it outright, 19-to-1 to win at least a share), and Maryland's blowout loss pulls them back to the rest of the pack in the hunt for second (though still at the head of it). MSU becomes a slight favorite for the fourth bye, though Indiana is close behind and Iowa and Purdue are lurking on the fringes. At the bottom end, Rutgers and Northwestern are near locks for Wednesday games, with Penn State also likely to join them and Minnesota and Nebraska fighting for the 10th seed and the right to skip the preliminary round.

For BUBBLECON, I've used the numbers at RPIForecast.com as a rough guide to figuring out what record various teams need to have a good shot at making the tournament, and at this point my best guess is that for most of the top 9, 10 conference wins gets the job done (though most of them won't feel totally comfortable on Selection Sunday without another win or a decent conference tournament run). For Iowa and Illinois, 10-8 is probably good enough but a little sketchier than for MSU, OSU, or Indiana. Michigan probably needs 11-7, and Purdue probably needs 12-6 (which is why they're still at BUBBLECON 2 despite having a 70% chance of hitting 10 wins). Minnesota has a decent shot if they can even get to 9-9, but that's looking quite unlikely at this point. Borderline decisions this week were moving Ohio State up to 5 (two more losses than expected leaves them still probably in but no longer certain) and leaving Michigan at 3 (they could probably still be at 2, given that they likely have to exceed their projection by more than one game to make it, but it felt unreasonable to move them down after a week that boosted their average win projection by 3/8 of a game).

Projections by record:

Team 1-17 2-16 3-15 4-14 5-13 6-12 7-11 8-10 9-9
Wisconsin 1 in 2.90 B 1 in 22.5 M 1 in 455,000
Maryland 1 in 660,000 1 in 16,300 0.10% 0.92%
Ohio State 1 in 307,000 0.01% 0.20% 1.67%
Michigan State 1 in 29,400 0.08% 0.84% 4.52%
Indiana 1 in 12,500 0.16% 1.35% 6.25%
Purdue 0.06% 1.05% 6.76% 20.40%
Iowa 1 in 65,400 0.05% 0.52% 3.05% 10.25% 21.18%
Michigan 0.52% 5.85% 19.66% 31.02%
Illinois 0.02% 0.50% 4.11% 16.11% 31.51% 30.11%
Nebraska 2.33% 14.78% 30.40% 29.88% 16.27% 5.22%
Minnesota 0.13% 2.33% 13.70% 32.89% 32.01% 15.00% 3.53%
Penn State 2.04% 12.02% 26.82% 30.43% 19.51% 7.34% 1.62% 0.20%
Northwestern 2.97% 14.13% 27.56% 28.84% 17.85% 6.80% 1.61% 0.23% 0.02%
Rutgers 19.09% 36.66% 28.70% 12.06% 3.00% 0.45% 0.04% 1 in 48,900

Team 10-8 11-7 12-6 13-5 14-4 15-3 16-2 17-1
Wisconsin 1 in 17,600 0.09% 0.79% 4.56% 15.91% 31.93% 33.12% 13.59%
Maryland 4.78% 15.00% 28.15% 30.32% 16.95% 3.76%
Ohio State 7.60% 20.00% 30.53% 26.29% 11.65% 2.03%
Michigan State 14.24% 26.80% 29.71% 18.17% 5.20% 0.42%
Indiana 17.32% 29.08% 28.43% 14.41% 2.85% 0.15%
Purdue 31.60% 25.84% 11.32% 2.65% 0.31% 0.01%
Iowa 27.62% 22.67% 11.26% 3.06% 0.34%
Michigan 26.44% 12.69% 3.35% 0.44% 0.02%
Illinois 14.12% 3.19% 0.31% 1 in 11,400
Nebraska 1.00% 0.11% 1 in 15,200 1 in 631,000
Minnesota 0.38% 0.01%
Penn State 0.01% 1 in 283,000
Northwestern 1 in 137,000 1 in 11.8 M
Rutgers 1 in 2.33 M

This Week's Games

All times ET.

Tuesday, February 3

Indiana at Wisconsin (7:00, ESPN): Wisconsin 92.7% (+14 projected margin)
Northwestern at Nebraska (7:30, BTN): Nebraska 78% (+7)
Rutgers at Illinois (9:30, BTN): Illinois 89% (+11.5)

Wednesday, February 4

Ohio State at Purdue (6:30, BTN): Ohio State 56% (+1.5)
Penn State at Maryland (8:30, BTN): Maryland 90.5% (+12)

Thursday, February 5

Iowa at Michigan (7:00, ESPN): Michigan 59% (+2)

Midweek byes: Michigan State, Minnesota

Saturday, February 7

Illinois at Michigan State (Noon, ESPN): Michigan State 86% (+10)
Purdue at Minnesota (3:00, BTN): Minnesota 75% (+6)
Nebraska at Penn State (4:00, ESPNU): Penn State 71% (+5)
Northwestern at Wisconsin (5:30, BTN): Wisconsin 98.2% (+21.5)

Sunday, February 8

Michigan at Indiana (1:00, CBS): Indiana 82% (+8)
Maryland at Iowa (3:15, BTN): Iowa 53% (+0.5)
Ohio State at Rutgers (5:30, BTN): Ohio State 83% (+8.5)

Key games this week:

  • Purdue has another chance to get a quality win at home against Ohio State before a dangerous game against Minnesota. Win both and it's time to start taking them seriously as a tournament threat; a split keeps them in the discussion but they have very little room for error thanks to a pair of horrific non-conference losses.
  • Michigan hosts Iowa in a big bubble battle Thursday, then both get a chance to knock off a team in probable tournament position on Sunday. Neither team can really afford to get swept this week.
  • Illinois's fringe hopes are fading fast; a road trip to the Breslin Center is a chance to move the needle in a fairly big way. A loss wouldn't hurt much, but Illinois needs to do quite a bit more than just avoid hurting their case at this point. For MSU, a win would keep them on pace to make the tournament fairly comfortably; lose and things start looking ominous.