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2016 Big Ten Tournament Seeding Scenarios: March 1

Indiana has clinched a share of the title, but four teams have a chance to join them. Seven are still fighting for four double-byes, and four more are vying for two Thursday starts.

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Weekend Results

Bold is an upset (based on the weekend projections); italics indicate a road win.

Northwestern 98, Rutgers 59
Purdue 83, Maryland 79
Michigan State 88, Penn State 57
Ohio State 68, Iowa 64
Wisconsin 68, Michigan 57
Illinois 84, Minnesota 71

No road wins this weekend, and only one surprise (and even that isn't much of one based on current form). Wisconsin now seems almost certain to make the NCAA tournament, and while I think Michigan's still more likely to make it than not, they should by no means feel safe yet. With 11 conference wins, Ohio State seems like they should be in better shape than they are, but only two of those wins are against the top eight in conference; at best they're a fringe candidate right now with plenty of work to do.

I'm not sure I've ever seen such a sharp fall from the title race as Iowa's. Two weeks ago, they were a game up on Maryland and Indiana with a 72% chance of an outright title. Now they're two back of Indiana, have lost the shot at an outright title entirely, and don't even have a 70% chance of getting a double-bye.


As a reminder, the Big Ten's tiebreakers are:

  1. Head-to-head winning percentage among all teams with equal conference records (the tiebreaker does not "reset" if one or more teams are eliminated)
  2. Winning percentage against individual teams or groups of tied teams from the top of the standings downward (record against the top team, then 2nd, etc., except that tied teams are treated as single group)
  3. Overall D-1 winning percentage (this reads as though it might be the record of D-1 opponents rather than record against, but that seems bizarre; I've assumed the latter in the cases where it matters, of which there are an abnormally large number)


The Top Eight

Indiana has clinched a share of the conference title and can win outright with a single win in either of their games. If they lose both, though, four teams have a chance to catch them. If that happens, Indiana could even have to start play on Thursday in the Big Ten tournament as the 5 seed.

Of the top eight, only Michigan cannot earn a double-bye. Aside from Indiana (who can go no lower than the 5 seed), only Maryland and Wisconsin are even assured of avoiding the 8 seed; MSU and Iowa cover the full range of possibilities.

Scenario Table (click for full-size)


I plan to try adding a live-updating Google Docs version of this Tuesday night.

There are a few ties in this table that are not fully broken by head-to-head or by record against various teams or groups among the top eight; these progress all the way down to the lower group and in some cases on to overall record. The four such cases are:

  • MSU-Indiana (as part of a three-way tie with Iowa, with Purdue-Maryland-Wisconsin tied at 12-6): MSU wins this tie if Penn State finishes ahead of Nebraska, or if the two are tied and Illinois is not part of the tie. If Nebraska finishes ahead, or both teams are tied with Illinois, Indiana wins.
  • MSU-Iowa (as part of a five-way tie for first, with Purdue-OSU tied at 11-7): MSU wins the tie as long as Penn State does not finish behind Nebraska.
  • Iowa-Indiana (tied for first either by themselves or with Maryland, with MSU-OSU-Wisconsin and possibly Maryland tied at 12-6, Purdue at 11-7, Michigan at 10-8): Iowa and Indiana both lost to the same team in the bottom group; however, Iowa split and Indiana lost the only matchup. If Penn State is by itself, that gives Iowa the edge; if, however, Nebraska or Illinois are tied with Penn State, the fact that Indiana played (and beat) them twice will offset that and Indiana will win.
  • Iowa-Purdue (tied at 12-6 with Wisconsin, MSU, and OSU, behind a Maryland-Indiana tie for first): Iowa wins the tie if Illinois finishes ahead of Penn State, or if they are tied and Nebraska is not part of the tie.
Projected Records and Remaining Schedule
Team Current Avg Wins Outright Share Top 4 BUBBLECON
Indiana 13-3 13.96 77.01% Yes 97.92% 5
Michigan State (+1) 11-5 12.93 21.33% 95.18% 5
Iowa (-1) 11-5 12.28 12.93% 66.47% 5
Maryland 11-5 12.27 21.78% 74.25% 5
Wisconsin 11-5 12.05 4.24% 37.04% 5
Purdue 10-6 11.52 28.99% 5
Ohio State (+1) 11-6 11.06 0.15% 2
Michigan (-1) 10-7 10.44 3 (-1)

Team Mar 1-3 Mar 5-6 10-8 11-7 12-6 13-5 14-4 15-3
Indiana @ Iowa (28%) vs Mary (68%) 23.02% 58.00% 18.98%
Michigan State @ Rut (98.4%) vs OSU (94.2%) 0.09% 7.27% 92.64%
Iowa vs Ind (72%) @ Mich (56%) 12.23% 47.28% 40.49%
Maryland vs Ill (94.6%) @ Ind (32%) 3.68% 66.12% 30.19%
Wisconsin @ Minn (82%) @ Pur (22%) 13.70% 67.90% 18.40%
Purdue @ Neb (74%) vs Wisc (78%) 5.72% 36.51% 57.77%
Ohio State Bye @ MSU (5.8%) 94.2% 5.8%
Michigan Bye vs Iowa (44%) 56.2% 43.8%

Seeding Odds
Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Indiana 77.01% 1.14% 8.77% 10.99% 2.08%
Michigan State 9.35% 46.43% 32.95% 6.45% 2.37% 1.98% 0.46% 1 in 26,200
Iowa 0.56% 32.99% 9.67% 23.18% 21.47% 4.96% 6.68% 0.41%
Maryland 12.93% 8.86% 24.51% 27.95% 23.99% 1.65% 0.11%
Wisconsin 0.14% 10.21% 16.60% 10.10% 12.68% 49.60% 0.68%
Purdue 0.38% 7.43% 21.18% 32.09% 27.62% 8.56% 2.74%
Ohio State 1 in 1.38M 1 in 13,600 0.14% 5.32% 14.14% 79.20% 1.19%
Michigan 0.04% 4.31% 95.65%

The Race for the 9 and 10 Seeds

Illinois is a game back of the other three and in deep trouble on tiebreakers, having lost to Nebraska and Northwestern (they haven't played Penn State yet). If they lose to Penn State, they are the 12 seed automatically, and a loss to Maryland also forces them to start Wednesday (although possibly as the 11 seed instead). However, they do have a chance to reach the 10 seed with two wins.

Scenario Table


As it shows in the picture, there are a few possible ties that depend on the order of the top eight. Since Penn State beat Indiana and the Hoosiers have clinched at least a share of the title, they generally have the advantage (and, thanks to the win over Iowa, they win any tie that manages to make it past that step by having the other team's lone upset win in that group as well). In detail:

  • Northwestern-Nebraska (tied without Penn State but possibly with Illinois, with Nebraska beating Northwestern to even out the head-to-head): Northwestern beat Wisconsin and Nebraska beat MSU, so the ordering of those two teams decides it. If those two are tied, the question becomes how many of each team's dual-plays are also in the tie. For Northwestern, that could be Maryland and/or Ohio State; for Nebraska, it's Purdue and/or Indiana. The team with fewer of the dual-plays involved will have a better record and win the tiebreaker (if it's MSU-Wisc-OSU, Nebraska would be 1-2 and Northwestern 1-3). If they're equal, Northwestern wins on better overall record.
  • PSU-Northwestern (either tied alone after Northwestern wins their game or a four-way tie after Penn State does): Because of PSU's wins over Indiana and Iowa, Northwestern's only chance is to win the tiebreaker at the first step by having Wisconsin tied with Indiana plus one of Penn State's dual-plays (other than Iowa, whose inclusion gives Penn State an obvious win) and without any of Northwestern's (Maryland) The only such team that could be tied is MSU. So a three-way tie for the title between Indiana, Wisconsin, and MSU gives Northwestern the advantage here. Otherwise, it's Penn State.
  • Three-way unresolved tie (all three split head-to-head): If neither MSU nor Wisconsin ties for the conference title with Indiana, Penn State takes the 9 seed and the other two are decided as if Penn State wasn't part of the tie. If at least one of them is:
    - If MSU ties for the title and Wisconsin doesn't, Penn State is the 9 and Nebraska the 10. (Nebraska cannot leap-frog Penn State as Northwestern can, because they got swept by Indiana; both they and PSU are 1-2 against MSU/Indiana, and there's no other team that can be tied that PSU went 0-2 against).
    - If Wisconsin ties without MSU, Penn State is the 9 and Northwestern the 10, by the same logic as the two-way unresolved tie above between those two.
    - If both MSU and Wisconsin tie and no one else, Northwestern wins at 1-2 against the title teams while PSU and Nebraska are both 1-3. Therefore Northwestern gets the 9 and Penn State the 10.
    - If MSU, Wisconsin, and another team tie Indiana, Northwestern loses that advantage (either through their dual-play against Maryland or through Penn State's win over Iowa) and the order reverts to Penn State 9, Northwestern 10.
Projected Records and Remaining Schedule
Team Current Avg wins Mar 1-3 Mar 5-6 5-13 6-12 7-11 8-10 Bottom 4
Penn State 6-10 7.29 vs NW (58%) vs Ill (70%) 12.29% 46.55% 41.16% 12.53%
Northwestern 6-10 7.16 @ PSU (42%) vs Neb (75%) 14.79% 54.17% 31.03% 21.62%
Nebraska 6-10 6.51 vs Pur (26%) @ NW (25%) 55.55% 37.96% 6.48% 66.98%
Illinois 5-11 5.35 @ Mary (5.4%) @ PSU (30%) 66.61% 31.79% 1.60% 98.87%

Seeding Odds
Team 9 10 11 12
Penn State 62.65% 24.81% 0.61% 11.92%
Northwestern 31.50% 46.87% 21.38% 0.24%
Nebraska 5.84% 27.18% 66.09% 0.89%
Illinois 1.13% 11.92% 86.95%

The Bottom Two

Minnesota and Rutgers are guaranteed the bottom two spots, but the order is yet to be decided. If Rutgers wins out and Minnesota loses to Wisconsin, the teams are tied at 2-16 and the tiebreaker will depend on the relative positions of Maryland and MSU. With Rutgers playing MSU twice, though, a direct tie between Maryland and MSU still gives the edge to Minnesota (1-1 to 1-2). Even adding Michigan (who Minnesota played twice) doesn't help, because Minnesota would hold the tiebreaker on overall record. So Rutgers can only get the 13 seed if:

  • They win twice
  • Minnesota loses to Wisconsin
  • MSU beats Ohio State, and
  • Maryland loses twice to finish behind MSU

The odds of this are ... not good.

Team Current Avg Wins Mar 1-3 Mar 5-6 0-18 1-17 2-16 3-15 4-14 13 Seed
Minnesota 2-14 2.79 vs Wisc (18%) @ Rut (62%) 31.54% 57.57% 10.88% 99.98%
Rutgers 0-16 0.40 vs MSU (1.6%) vs Minn (38%) 60.70% 38.68% 0.62% 0.02%

Midweek Games

All times ET. Odds based on the margin-aware ratings.

Purdue at Nebraska - Tuesday, 8:00, BTN (Purdue 74%, projected margin +6)
Indiana at Iowa - Tuesday, 9:00, ESPN (Iowa 72%, +5.5)
Michigan State at Rutgers - Wednesday, 7:00, BTN (Michigan State 98.4%, +23)
Wisconsin at Minnesota - Wednesday, 9:00, BTN (Wisconsin 82%, +8.5)
Illinois at Maryland - Thursday, 7:00, ESPN (Maryland 94.6%, +16)
Northwestern at Penn State - Thursday, 9:00, ESPNU (Penn State 58%, +2)

Bye: Ohio State, Michigan

Iowa has a chance to right the ship after a big slump and keep the title hunt alive for several teams Tuesday night, but most of the games are across groups (not within the top 8 or the 9-12 seeds). That changes for the weekend, where the top eight all play against each other and so do the 9-12 seeds.

Updated Scenarios and Percentages

Here's a Google Docs version which I will update as games finish. The embed is kind of small, so here is a direct link. The "math" tabs have probabilities for each specific combination of results and the totals for each possible seed for each team; the others have the tables trimmed to remove results already decided (and to update previously undetermined ties when possible).