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Around the B1G: Basketball Week 7 Recap, Week 8 Preview

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The title race just got a lot more interesting, and the bubble picture in the Big Ten is becoming a little clearer.

NCAA Basketball: Iowa at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Last Week’s Results

Upsets (based on last week’s projections) are in bold; road wins are in italics.

Midweek

Penn State 70, Maryland 64
Illinois 68, Northwestern 61
Michigan 86, Michigan State 57
Ohio State 70, Rutgers 64
Minnesota 101, Iowa 89 (2OT)
Purdue 69, Indiana 64
Wisconsin 70, Nebraska 69 (OT)

Weekend

Minnesota 72, Rutgers 63
Penn State 83, Illinois 70
Maryland 86, Ohio State 77
Michigan State 77, Iowa 66
Michigan 75, Indiana 63
Northwestern 66, Wisconsin 59

If you had told me Northwestern would split the week, I wouldn’t have been the least bit surprised. But I would not have guessed a split featuring a home loss to an Illinois team that turned around and lost at home to Penn State, followed by a road win at a Wisconsin team that appeared to have an iron grip on the Big Ten title. Meanwhile, Michigan had a huge week, thumping both of their closest bubble competitors, and Indiana blew a pair of home opportunities (one of them being the aforementioned thumping by Michigan) to put themselves in dire shape.

Conference Projections

All projections are based on my margin-aware ratings. Ratings which ignore margin are available here. Ratings are current through Sunday's games.

Summary Table

Average wins and chances of 10+ wins are based on game-by-game odds. Chances for an outright title, share of the title, and top/middle/bottom tier finishes are based on 100,000 season simulations; tiebreakers are not incorporated into the simulations at this point, but instead the credit is split evenly (a tie for 4th, 5th, and 6th would give each team credit for 13 of a top 4 finish and 23 of a middle 6 finish). BUBBLECON is estimated from the projected record and RPI data from RPIForecast.com.

2017 BB Projections Wk 8 - Summary

Team Current Avg wins Outright Shared Top 4 Middle 6 Bottom 4 10+ Wins BUBBLECON
Team Current Avg wins Outright Shared Top 4 Middle 6 Bottom 4 10+ Wins BUBBLECON
Wisconsin 10-2 14.41 51.92% 78.73% 99.71% 0.29% <0.01% Yes 5
Purdue 9-3 13.61 13.17% 37.75% 99.32% 0.68% <0.01% 99.999% 5
Maryland 9-3 12.70 3.61% 14.15% 94.20% 5.80% <0.01% 99.93% 5
Northwestern 8-4 12.13 0.92% 6.82% 89.13% 10.87% <0.01% 99.24% 5
Minnesota 6-6 9.92 <0.01% 0.02% 9.07% 90.53% 0.40% 69.31% 5 (+1)
Michigan State 7-5 9.62 <0.01% 0.06% 6.40% 92.79% 0.81% 53.89% 3
Michigan 6-6 8.62 <0.01% <0.01% 1.89% 91.08% 7.03% 21.21% 3 (+1)
Iowa 6-7 8.03 <0.01% <0.01% 0.14% 84.30% 15.56% 4.38% 1 (-1)
Penn State 6-7 7.77 <0.01% <0.01% 0.12% 77.64% 22.24% 4.20% 1
Ohio State 5-8 7.36 <0.01% 0.03% 64.58% 35.40% 1.51% 2
Indiana 5-8 6.60 <0.01% 0.01% 35.63% 64.37% 0.15% 1 (-1)
Illinois 4-9 6.30 <0.01% 26.83% 73.17% 1
Nebraska 4-8 5.97 <0.01% <0.01% 18.98% 81.02% 0.03% 1
Rutgers 2-11 2.96 <0.01% >99.99% 1

Purdue now projects to within a win of Wisconsin’s total and holds the tiebreaker. Minnesota is now a near-lock for the tournament given the RPI advantages of their schedule and good non-conference results, and Michigan is solidly back on the bubble after answering the previous weeks’ losses to Michigan State and Ohio State.

For the teams that dropped, Iowa was already a fringe candidate at best, though neither loss this week was a bad one. Indiana, on the other hand, bombed out twice on their home court, once to a bubble team, and now needs a miracle. Wins over Kansas and North Carolina might get them a glance from the committee, but their current RPI rank of 93 (!!) would limit it to just a glance. That’s what happens when you schedule too many of the absolute dregs of Division I (four games against the RPI top 15 and 9 against teams below 150, including six at 270 or worse).

Projections by Record

2017 BB Projections Wk 8 - Top 4

Team 8-10 9-9 10-8 11-7 12-6 13-5 14-4 15-3 16-2
Team 8-10 9-9 10-8 11-7 12-6 13-5 14-4 15-3 16-2
Wisconsin 0.01% 0.39% 3.50% 14.79% 32.16% 34.61% 14.53%
Purdue 1 in 84,600 0.08% 1.36% 9.99% 31.29% 40.15% 17.14%
Maryland 0.07% 1.37% 9.54% 29.53% 39.13% 17.87% 2.50%
Northwestern 0.02% 0.74% 5.91% 20.43% 34.86% 28.82% 9.21%

2017 BB Projections Wk 8 - Middle 5

Team 6-12 7-11 8-10 9-9 10-8 11-7 12-6 13-5
Team 6-12 7-11 8-10 9-9 10-8 11-7 12-6 13-5
Minnesota 0.02% 0.61% 5.80% 24.27% 42.75% 22.99% 3.56%
Michigan State 1.24% 11.60% 33.27% 35.23% 15.70% 2.80% 0.16%
Michigan 2.15% 13.57% 30.78% 32.29% 16.73% 4.10% 0.38%
Iowa 4.57% 23.46% 40.97% 26.62% 4.20% 0.18%
Penn State 9.08% 31.58% 36.77% 18.37% 3.92% 0.28%

2017 BB Projections Wk 8 - Bottom 5

Team 2-16 3-15 4-14 5-13 6-12 7-11 8-10 9-9 10-8
Team 2-16 3-15 4-14 5-13 6-12 7-11 8-10 9-9 10-8
Ohio State 2.42% 17.11% 36.52% 31.04% 11.39% 1.51%
Indiana 12.83% 34.86% 34.53% 14.96% 2.66% 0.15%
Illinois 4.19% 19.28% 34.07% 28.86% 11.75% 1.85%
Nebraska 7.00% 26.66% 36.73% 22.49% 6.30% 0.78% 0.03%
Rutgers 31.54% 44.95% 20.04% 3.30% 0.17% 1 in 41,500

Bubble Tracking

Let’s take a look at what the teams fighting for NCAA tournament spots need.

Already In

Wisconsin, Purdue, and Maryland are all almost surely safe even if they lose out. No need to do any deep digging here.

Just Don’t Screw Up Too Badly

Northwestern

Current RPI rank, as of Monday morning (via Crashing the Dance): 33
Remaining schedule (with current projected win probability): Maryland (70%), Rutgers (95.5%), at Illinois (63%), at Indiana (52%), Michigan (79%), Purdue (53%)
Projected RPI rank: 32 at 12-6, 40 at 11-7, 49 at 10-8, 60 at 9-9

It should be pretty clear why Northwestern’s chances look good. They’re favored in all six remaining games (though very slightly in two) and only need two wins to get to 10 in conference (usually safe unless you really screwed up in non-conference or scheduled abominably) and a top 50 projected RPI. Three wins would make them absolutely safe; two would likely be fine barring catastrophe in the Big Ten tournament (and might be even then).

Minnesota

Current RPI rank: 24
Remaining schedule: Indiana (82%), Michigan (77%), at Maryland (33%), Penn State (88%), Nebraska (91.8%), at Wisconsin (22%)
Projected RPI rank: 26 at 10-8, 30 at 9-9, 38 at 8-10, 47 at 7-11

While Minnesota has two tough games left, they also have four in which they’re significant favorites and need only two wins to project to a top 40 RPI (a mark which is almost always safe for power-conference schools). It would take a serious collapse for Minnesota to be in any real trouble at all.

Too Close for Comfort

Michigan State

Current RPI rank: 41
Remaining schedule: Ohio State (73%), at Purdue (9.6%), Nebraska (84%), Wisconsin (36%), at Illinois (42%), at Maryland (18%)
Projected RPI rank: 37 at 11-7, 46 at 10-8, 56 at 9-9

MSU needs three wins to get to 10-8, a likely top 50 RPI, and avoid a potential 15th loss in the Big Ten tournament (15 would be the most losses ever by an at-large team). There are two relatively easy games left, two long shots, and two that are close to toss-ups (though in both cases MSU is the slight underdog). A tournament berth is likely to come down to the Wisconsin and Illinois games; one win in those two is likely to be enough (assuming no screw-ups in the easier games) and two certainly would be.

Michigan

Current RPI rank: 61
Remaining schedule: Wisconsin (43%), at Minnesota (23%), at Rutgers (73%), Purdue (40%), at Northwestern (21%), at Nebraska (61%)
Projected RPI rank: 42 at 10-8, 52 at 9-9, 64 at 8-10

Michigan’s remaining schedule doesn’t have much that’s easy left on it, with only two home games out of the remaining six and those two against the top two teams in the conference. Splitting the final six, most likely by winning the two easier road games and one of the home games, is likely to be enough, but it might not be.

Need to Finish Strong

Ohio State

Current RPI rank: 63
Remaining schedule: at Michigan State (27%), Nebraska (80%), Wisconsin (31%), at Penn State (36%), Indiana (62%)
Projected RPI rank: 40 at 10-8, 49 at 9-9, 60 at 8-10

Though difficult, the Buckeyes have a plausible route to a tournament-worthy resume. They need both of the games in which they’re favored and two out of the tougher three. Those are better odds than a couple of teams ahead of them in the projected standings, mostly because of a respectable non-conference performance (though the loss to Florida Atlantic hurts badly).

Need a Miracle

Iowa

Current RPI rank: 105
Remaining schedule: Illinois (65%), Indiana (54%), at Maryland (11%), at Wisconsin (6.8%), Penn State (65%).
Projected RPI rank: 62 at 11-7

If you’re wondering why the Hawkeyes are behind Ohio State when it comes to tournament hopes, that explains it; they need to win out to get even close to the historical norms for RPI of at-large selected teams. They dug themselves too big a hole in non-conference play.

Penn State

Current RPI rank: 70
Remaining schedule: at Nebraska (43%), Purdue (24%), at Minnesota (12%), Ohio State (64%), at Iowa (35%)
Projected RPI rank: 44 at 11-7, 54 at 10-8, 64 at 9-9

Penn State’s non-conference record is the same as Iowa’s (and Michigan State’s, for that matter), but unlike Iowa, they did a good job of avoiding RPI 300+ opponents. They still need to win at least four of their last five to have any shot (and they’re only favored in one), but their path is semi-plausible.

Indiana

Current RPI rank: 93
Remaining schedule: at Minnesota (18%), at Iowa (46%), Northwestern (48%), at Purdue (10.0%), at Ohio State (38%)
Projected RPI rank: 43 at 10-8, 53 at 9-9, 65 at 8-10

Indiana has already played eight of their conference home games to only five road games, and they’re 5-8. Given the committee’s disdain for non-conference schedules with lots of 300+ RPI opponents (and Indiana fits that bill all too well, despite their four high-profile opponents), they likely need to win out and aren’t favored in a single game. At best they can afford one loss, and even that puts them in a dangerous spot.

Illinois

Current RPI rank: 71
Remaining schedule: at Iowa (35%), Northwestern (37%), at Nebraska (43%), Michigan State (58%), at Rutgers (57%)
Projected RPI rank: 47 at 9-9, 58 at 8-10

This one’s fairly straightforward. The Illini are in a similar position to Ohio State from non-conference play, but have already dug a deeper hole for themselves in conference. Illinois needs to win out, and most of the games are pretty close to coin flips.

Nebraska

Current RPI rank: 86
Remaining schedule: Penn State (57%), at Ohio State (20%), at Michigan State (16%), Illinois (57%), at Minnesota (8.2%), Michigan (39%)
Projected RPI rank: 53 at 10-8

I nearly put Nebraska in the next category down, as even winning out leaves them (if they do not win the Big Ten tournament) with 15 losses. But their RPI would be in plausible territory if they win out, although the schedule is difficult enough that that’s very unlikely.

Need the Auto-Bid

Even winning out wouldn’t put Rutgers anywhere near a reasonable tournament resume. Doing so is unlikely enough that RPIForecast doesn’t have a projected RPI rank for them at 7-11 in conference, but at 6-12 it’s 113, and I don’t think one win would improve it 50 spots.

This Week’s Games

All times ET.

Midweek

Rutgers at Purdue (Tuesday, 7:00, BTN) - Purdue 97.5% (projected margin +19.5)
Ohio State at Michigan State (Tuesday, 9:00, ESPN) - Michigan State 73% (+5)
Penn State at Nebraska (Tuesday, 9:00, BTN) - Nebraska 57% (+1.5)
Maryland at Northwestern (Wednesday, 7:00, BTN) - Northwestern 70% (+4.5)
Indiana at Minnesota (Wednesday, 9:00, BTN) - Minnesota 82% (+8)
Wisconsin at Michigan (Thursday, 7:00, ESPN) - Wisconsin 57% (+1.5)

Idle: Iowa, Illinois

Weekend

Illinois at Iowa (Saturday, 2:00, BTN) - Iowa 65% (+3.5)
Michigan State at Purdue (Saturday, 4:00, ESPN) - Purdue 90.4% (+12)
Rutgers at Northwestern (Saturday, 6:00, ESPNU) - Northwestern 95.5% (+16)
Nebraska at Ohio State (Saturday, 6:00, BTN) - Ohio State 80% (+7.5)
Maryland at Wisconsin (Sunday, 1:00, CBS) - Wisconsin 79% (+7)
Michigan at Minnesota (Sunday, 7:00, BTN) - Minnesota 77% (+6.5)

Idle: Indiana, Penn State

Maryland has a big week for their title chase, visiting two other top four teams. Wisconsin has a trip to Michigan that suddenly looks far more difficult than it did a few weeks ago before hosting the Terps, while Purdue has a week at home as big favorites.

On the bubble, MSU can’t afford to slip up at home against the Buckeyes with a trip to West Lafayette looming. Michigan has a pair of tough games but both are big opportunities. Ohio State’s trip to East Lansing is their most difficult remaining game, but a sweep of the week would put them solidly back in contention for a tournament trip. Iowa-Illinois will finish off the loser once and for all, though both teams still have a lot of work to do even if they win that game.