It seems a bit fitting that this weekend was Groundhog day. Not only did the best (don’t @ me) Super Bowl Ad pay homage to the classic Bill Murray film, but Saturday’s MSU game at Wisconsin had the feel of a movie that we had all seen a few too many times. MSU came out of the gate cold, got blitzed by the home team, went down double digits, slowly fought back, looked like they might steal a victory, but finally failed to execute in the final minutes only to lose by one.
In total, it was one of the more frustrating MSU games in recent memory. At various points in final 7 minutes (during which Wisconsin made exactly ZERO field goals) it seemed like MSU was almost trying to lose. I mean, seriously, how many missed layout, stupid turn-overs, and bad shots can one team make in a row? It was enough to almost make you want to kidnap the opposing team’s weasel of a mascot and drive off from a cliff...
But, the good news is that if you are an MSU fan, you have also seen this movie before and you also know that the guy in the Director’s chair knows what he is doing. People seem to have short memories, but MSU essentially goes through this phase pretty much every year. Sometimes, it doesn’t work out, but MSU had enough banners in the rafters to show that most of the time, it does. MSU has hung at least one banner in 13 of the past 22 years. Betting against this team is betting against history.
Yes, MSU has a “road problem.” They need to figure it out. But, we have seen them execute and dominate at a high level at home. They can certainly do the same on the road. It seems to be mostly a question of focus and execution, both of which are correctable. At the end of the day, MSU still has an elite point guard, a very good big man, and a host of role players, any one of which may break out to become a star. The potential is there and the ceiling is still the roof.
That all said, MSU went to Madison and came home with a “L.” That is certainly going to impact the Big Ten race. After Sunday’s action, here is the updated Big Ten win matrix, followed by the year-to-date trends in expected wins.
What was once a multiple game lead in expected wins has shrunk to less than two tenths of a game over the 2nd best team in the conference, Maryland. Beyond that, the Big Ten pecking order is starting to take shape. Illinois is trailing Maryland a bit after their loss in Iowa City Sunday afternoon and Iowa is now clearly in 4th place just a hair over a half game behind the Illini. Penn State is about a half game behind Illinois and a half game behind that is Wisconsin and Rutgers.
The next five teams (Ohio State, Minnesota, Purdue, Michigan, and Indiana) are between one and two games behind the Badgers. Nebraska and Northwestern continue to hover in very distant 13th and 14th place.
As for the odds to win or share the Big Ten regular season crown, here are the updated odds:
MSU is essentially right back where they were at the end of 2019 and after the Indiana loss: just below 50% (45% to be more precise). Meanwhile, Maryland has made steady ground and now sits just behind MSU at 40%. Illinois checks in at 27% after this weekend’s loss while Iowa is now at 14%. The race is officially back on.
As for the projected final record of the Big Ten champ, here is what my latest simulation suggests:
- 16-4 or better (16%)
- 15-5: 40%
- 14-6: 38%
As no team is “expected” to win more than 14 games right now, a team would need to improve and/or play better than expected (i.e. “get lucky.”) in order to win the title. But, that is what championship teams do. Speaking of luck, here is the updated expanded Big Ten standings:
While Illinois is currently in good shape at the top, their luck score still leads me to believe that they are due for a cold streak. Considering that their next four games are against Maryland, MSU, Rutgers, and Penn State, I think that stretch is coming. While I still believe Maryland is ultimately the biggest threat to MSU, I will keep an eye on the Hawkeyes. They are the only team in the Top 6 with a negative luck score, which makes me think that perhaps they have a little more to give. I would not be shocked to see Iowa finish the season in third place, ahead of Illinois.
That is all for now. I will mostly likely update the stats again on Friday. Until next time, enjoy and Go Green.