(Note: I meant to post this Monday afternoon, but I was a bit delayed in getting it out. As a result, Illinois completely expected win over Nebraska on Monday night is not reflected in the data below. But, it doesn’t change the overall story.)
Did everyone has a nice weekend? I did. As much as I love college basketball and MSU basketball in particular, sometimes it is nice to have a little break. It was nice not to have to worry about what time the game was on, whether or not I was going to be able to rearrange family activities to catch it live, or if I would just catch it on “tape delay.” If nothing else, I didn’t have to worry about what a potential loss might do to MSU’s record or NCAA Tournament seed. It was nice.
As it turns out, sometimes the best thing that you can do is sit on the couch and watch. Because, as MSU was chilling out at home, both Penn State and Maryland posted “Ls” and MSU’s faint hope for a Big Ten title get a little bit stronger. How much so? Let’s start with the updated Big Ten wins matrix and trend charts
Somewhat naturally, MSU’s expected win total of slightly over 12 did not change much at all. However, Maryland and Penn State both got knocked back a half game or so. As it stands, Maryland now has slightly under a 2-game lead over Penn State.
But, Penn State is now on the verge of being caught by a pack of four teams (Illinois, Wisconsin, MSU, and Iowa) that are all projected to win slightly over 12 games. Of the current Top 6, only 4 will get one of those coveted Big Ten Tournament double byes, and it’s going to be a blood bath.
Perhaps the most notable change is the quiet rise of Wisconsin back into the Big Ten conversation following their 4th straight win this weekend. In terms of expected wins, the Badgers are now ahead of both MSU and Illinois. A peek at their remaining schedule tells the story. They close out the season @ Michigan, vs. Minnesota, vs. Northwestern, and @ Indiana. They project to only be favored in the two home games, but it is not hard to imagine them sweeping all four.
As for the updated Big Ten odds, those are shown here
Maryland is clearly still in the drivers seat. Despite their loss in Columbus, the fact that Penn State lost as well allowed the Terps odds to stay steady at right around 90%. After all, there are the odds to win OR tie, and at this point it is going to be pretty hard for Maryland to not at least tie.
Penn State odds seem to be in a free fall and at 13% they are now just one percentage better than MSU’s odds. Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa are all still hanging around at about 8%, with Michigan somehow still holding out hope at 2%.
For completeness, here is the updated enhanced Big Ten standings, including the +/- rating and luck (again, not including Monday night’s action)
With 5 total teams with 6 losses and 4 more with 7 or 8, the final weeks of the Big Ten regular season are going to be wild and likely very unpredictable. There is very likely going to be more than one multiple team ties, and the Big Ten Tournament could be bonkers.
As for MSU, the next four games will go a long way toward telling us whether this team is going to end the season with a bang or with a whimper. All the games are winnable... but they are also all lose-able. The most likely outcome is that MSU wins the home games (Iowa and Ohio State) but loses the road games to finish 12-8. That probably would be enough to secure a double bye, but it is not totally clear. There are too many potential outcomes out there to calculate easily (but I am working on it...)
Just as a taste, if I assume that all of the projected favorites win in the remaining Big Ten games, the final standings (including tie-breakers) would look like this:
- Maryland 16-4
- Illinois 13-7
- Penn State 13-7
- Michigan State 12-8
- Iowa 12-8
- Wisconsin 12-8
- Ohio State 11-9
- Michigan 11-9
- Indiana 10-10
- Rutgers 9-11
- Purdue 9-11
- Minnesota 8-12
- Nebraska 3-17
- Northwestern 1-19
In this scenario, MSU beats Iowa on Tuesday night and would therefore win a 3-way tiebreaker with Iowa and Wisconsin. MSU is also in good shape in a potential tiebreaker involving Illinois. But, a lot can and will happen in the next two weeks.
If MSU can beat Iowa, things will definitely get more interesting. If MSU can then find a way to win at Maryland, things will get VERY interesting. In a vacuum, those two wins would push MSU’s odds to share the Big Ten title back up to 40%. Honestly speaking, while MSU’s odds to run the table are only 7%, I think MSU would still share the Big Ten title with a 14-6 record. The odds suggest that Maryland is going to drop at least one of their other 3 games (@ Rutgers, @ Minnesota, and vs. Michigan).
Hope is still alive in East Lansing, folks. But, it all starts with the next game against Iowa this Tuesday. A loss would really hurt MSU’s chances at a double bye, while a win would make a double bye likely, in my estimation. A lot is on the line. If nothing else, March is right around the corner. It’s time for that Izzo magic to start taking effect. Go Green.