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Big Ten Tournament 2017: Seeding scenarios for the remaining schedule

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With one week left in the season, the tight standings mean this year’s scenarios are especially difficult to figure out.

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

Last Week’s Games

You know the drill. Upsets in bold, road wins in italics.


Purdue 74, Penn State 70 (OT)
Illinois 66, Northwestern 50
Iowa 96, Indiana 90 (OT)
Michigan 68, Rutgers 64
Minnesota 89, Maryland 75
Michigan State 88, Nebraska 72
Ohio State 83, Wisconsin 73


Minnesota 81, Penn State 71
Michigan 82, Purdue 70
Iowa 83, Maryland 69
Indiana 63, Northwestern 62
Michigan State 84, Wisconsin 74
Illinois 73, Nebraska 57

Does anyone want to win the Big Ten? Wisconsin, Maryland, and Purdue combined to go 1-5 last week, and the win was in overtime against Penn State. Minnesota and Michigan State reached the 10-win plateau, Michigan got to 9, and Illinois appears to be sneaking up on the bubble as well. Meanwhile, Northwestern seems to be trying to test just how close they can cut it with their potential tournament berth; at this point they’re probably seventh in the conference’s pecking order behind MSU and Michigan.

Scenario Tables

Projections with seed and game probabilities will be added later, but I want to get the giant rainbow charts out as soon as they’re done. Unfortunately, with the standings as tightly packed as they are, they’re especially difficult to do this year because there’s no natural breaking point where the top and bottom can be easily separated, and the number of teams involved in each half mean a huge number of games can affect each side.

Upper Half

Eight teams can finish with 10 or more wins, and 11 of the remaining 14 games include at least one of those teams. That’s a total of 2048 scenarios, far more than usual at this time of the season. So I’ve broken these out into eight separate charts, based on the outcomes of the first three of those games (Maryland-Rutgers, Indiana-Purdue, and Michigan-Northwestern). Teams that end with 8 or 9 wins (Michigan/Northwestern if they lose both, Iowa if they lose either) are removed from the seed list and will be shown on the seed list for the lower half instead in those scenarios. View those charts here (all linked rather than displayed directly because they’re just too big):

Maryland, Indiana, and Michigan win
Maryland, Indiana, and Northwestern win
Maryland, Purdue, and Michigan win
Maryland, Purdue, and Northwestern win
Rutgers, Indiana, and Michigan win
Rutgers, Indiana, and Northwestern win
Rutgers, Purdue, and Michigan win
Rutgers, Purdue, and Northwestern win

Some places are left with ties that aren’t resolved; that means that the tiebreaker depends on the order of finish of teams outside the top group in a way that is affected by the three games not included on these charts.

Detailed tables will be added later, but for now, a brief summary:

  • Purdue will be the 1 seed if they win even one more game; they’re already guaranteed no worse than the 2.
  • Wisconsin can guarantee a double-bye with one win and are the only team to have a chance at an outright title other than Purdue, but they could fall as low as the 6 seed if they lose twice.
  • Minnesota needs two wins to guarantee a double-bye, but they can possibly get one even if they lose both games. They can get the 1 seed but could fall as low as the 7.
  • The MSU-Maryland winner is almost guaranteed a double-bye (both have very few scenarios where they could end up as the 5 seed despite that win). Both can fall anywhere from the 2 seed to the 7. Maryland cannot get a double-bye if they lose both games; MSU can (though they need lots of help, obviously).
  • Michigan and Northwestern still have a chance at the double-bye (even the 3 seed in a few cases), but must win twice to do so. If they win one game, they could still end up as low as the 8 seed. Losing out (and dropping to the lower half table) could see them fall to the 9, but no lower.
  • Iowa cannot get a double-bye even if they get to 10 wins, though they can end up as high as the 5 seed. The Hawkeyes could have to start Wednesday as the 11 or even 12 seed if they lose twice (shown on the lower half table).

Lower Half

Eight teams can end up between 6-12 and 9-9 (though at least one of them will not, since Michigan and Northwestern play each other). As with the upper half, 11 games involve at least one of those teams, so there are the same number of scenarios and they are split into eight charts (based on Indiana-Purdue, Ohio State-Penn State, and Michigan-Northwestern). Michigan, Northwestern, and Iowa appear on here in the scenarios where they do not reach 10 wins; if they do, they’re on the upper-half table.

Indiana, Ohio State, and Michigan win
Indiana, Ohio State, and Northwestern win
Indiana, Penn State, and Michigan win
Indiana, Penn State, and Northwestern win
Purdue, Ohio State, and Michigan win
Purdue, Ohio State, and Northwestern win
Purdue, Penn State, and Michigan win
Purdue, Penn State, and Northwestern win

As above, some ties depend on the results of the three games not included here and are thus not fully broken. There are quite a few more of them on the bottom-half chart since the tiebreakers start (after head-to-head) with record against the top teams, so games among the top teams are more likely to affect bottom-half seeding than vice versa.

Summarizing the available results for each team:

  • Michigan and Northwestern are guaranteed no worse than the 9 seed.
  • Iowa can finish anywhere from 7 to 9 with a single win. If they lose both games, the Hawkeyes could still finish as high as the 8 seed but can fall to the 12.
  • Any of Illinois, Indiana, Penn State, Nebraska, and Ohio State could finish as low as the 13 seed. Illinois’s best-case scenario is the 7 and Ohio State’s is the 9; the rest can reach the 8 seed.
  • Rutgers has locked up last place, so I didn’t even bother including them in the table.

Seeding Odds

Entries in the table marked with a * have a possible unresolved tie not included in the raw percentages there (odds for such ties are listed after the tables). For top 4 and bottom 4, I’ve split credit for the unresolved ties equally; that’s unlikely to be totally accurate but they’re unlikely enough in the top 4 that it shouldn’t matter, and for the bottom 4 it shouldn’t move anyone more than a percentage point or so.

All odds are based on my margin-aware ratings.

2017 BB Seeding Odds - Top 7

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Top 4
Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Top 4
Purdue 96.18% 3.82% Yes
Wisconsin 3.17% 78.98% 14.04%* 1.55%* 1.48%* 0.77%* 97.74%
Minnesota 0.65% 12.32% 21.02% 33.44% 26.60% 5.55% 0.42% 67.43%
Maryland 0.17% 42.26%* 38.89%* 15.06%* 3.39%* 0.22% 81.32%
Michigan State 4.71% 22.53% 22.64% 22.98% 20.52% 6.62% 49.88%
Michigan 0.04% 1.98% 19.17% 19.36%* 39.32%* 2.02%
Northwestern 0.10%* 1.50%* 14.66%* 49.64%* 25.43%* 1.60%
Iowa 0.03% 0.76%* 15.72%*
Illinois 12.26%

2017 BB Seeding Odds - 8-13 Seeds

Team 8 9 10 11 12 13 Bottom 4
Team 8 9 10 11 12 13 Bottom 4
Michigan 20.11%* *
Northwestern 8.03%* 0.62%
Iowa 33.61%* 36.34%* 12.85% 0.65% 0.01% 0.66%
Illinois 28.96% 41.94%* 9.47%* 4.21%* 2.51%* 0.22%* 7.10%
Indiana 0.42%* 6.61%* 19.36%* 14.79%* 19.39%* 38.46% 73.28%
Nebraska 0.08%* 0.73%* 20.96%* 25.25%* 45.53%* 5.99%* 78.09%
Penn State 8.77% 10.14% 16.04%* 20.95%* 12.17%* 31.90%* 65.05%
Ohio State 3.35%* 20.80%* 32.91%* 18.48%* 22.68%* 75.81%

Unresolved ties:

  • Maryland, Wisconsin, and Northwestern: 1 in 78,700 chance for the 3-5 seeds, 1 in 20,600 for 4-6
  • Iowa, Michigan, and Northwestern: 1 in 36,300 chance for the 6-8 seeds
  • Iowa and Michigan: 1 in 6,100 chance for the 8-9 seeds
  • Nebraska and Indiana: 1 in 45,000 chance for the 8-9 seeds, 0.07% for 9-10
  • Ohio State and Nebraska: 1 in 27,800 chance for the 9-10 seeds, 0.02% for 10-11, 0.46% for 11-12, 0.72% for 12-13
  • Iowa and Indiana: 1 in 38,800 chance for the 9-10 seeds, 1 in 13,800 for 10-11
  • Illinois and Indiana: 0.18% chance for the 9-10 seeds
  • Nebraska, Illinois, and Indiana: 1 in 9,500 chance for the 9-11 seeds, 0.15% for 10-12
  • Penn State and Illinois: 1 in 57,400 chance for the 10-11 seeds
  • Ohio State, Illinois, and Indiana: 0.06% chance for the 10-12 seeds
  • Ohio State and Indiana: 0.50% chance for the 11-12 seeds
  • Ohio State, Illinois, Penn State, and Nebraska: 0.03% chance for the 10-13 seeds

This Week’s Games

All times ET.


Maryland at Rutgers (Tuesday, 6:30, BTN) - Maryland 77% (projected margin +6.5)
Indiana at Purdue (Tuesday, 7:00, ESPN2) - Purdue 88% (+11)
Ohio State at Penn State (Tuesday, 8:30, BTN) - Penn State 59% (+2)
Michigan at Northwestern (Wednesday, 7:00, BTN) - Northwestern 66% (+3.5)
Michigan State at Illinois (Wednesday, 9:00, BTN) - Illinois 60% (+2)
Nebraska at Minnesota (Thursday, 7:00, ESPN) - Minnesota 92.1% (+13.5)
Iowa at Wisconsin (Thursday, 9:00, ESPN) - Wisconsin 88% (+10.5)


Indiana at Ohio State (Saturday, Noon, ESPN) - Ohio State 61% (+2.5)
Illinois at Rutgers (Saturday, Noon, ESPNU) - Illinois 65% (+3.5)
Michigan State at Maryland (Saturday, 2:00, BTN) - Maryland 72% (+5)
Penn State at Iowa (Sunday, 1:00, BTN) - Iowa 71% (+5)
Purdue at Northwestern (Sunday, 4:30, CBS) - Purdue 54% (+1)
Minnesota at Wisconsin (Sunday, 6:00, BTN) - Wisconsin 67% (+4)
Michigan at Nebraska (Sunday, 8:00, BTN) - Michigan 67% (+3.5)