For those that having been paying attention, the results of Saturday night’s game in College Park should have come as no surprise. For weeks, the metrics have been telling us that MSU was still a pretty good team. Those same metrics have been telling us that Maryland had honestly been pretty lucky and perhaps was due for a step back.
As we looked at MSU’s roster, there was no obvious problem. MSU had one of the best, if not the best point guard / big man combination in the country. Each of the wings had shown sustained flashes of very strong play, and even the members of maligned power forward group had shown promise at times. Also, there is that guy at the end of the bench that always seems to get teams to hit their peak at the right time. All the ingredient were there. The team had looked dominant in early January, but the dog days of the Big Ten schedule were long and hard.
I must admit that even I lost faith a bit, but I never lost hope. On Saturday night, that hope was confirmed by an absolutely dominating performance on the road. MSU looked quick and sharp. They looked like an Izzo-coached team in March, and that is something that should make the whole country take heed. Welcome to March, baby.
With that win and with the rest of the action over the weekend, the updated expected win matrix is shown below, along with the trend plots.
As the end of the regular season draws near, the teams are finally starting to sort out. Maryland still clearly has the upper hand, but they only have a 31 percent chance to win out. Meanwhile, MSU is locked in a tight battle with Wisconsin, Illinois, and Penn State for at least second place.
As for the odds to win / share a regular season title, those are shown below:
While MSU’s odds certainly got a boost, there is still only a one-in-four chance that MSU will complete the three-peat. A win at Penn State would raise the odds to roughly 50-50. For completeness, the enhanced Big Ten standings are shown below.
All of that data is fun, but the bottom line is pretty simple. MSU needs to try to win out and needs to hope that Maryland trips up at least once. So, at this point in the season, it’s the seeding in the Big Ten tournament that is the more interesting math-intensive question.
If the season ended today, that would be weird, because there are still 14 games remaining. But, if the projected favorite wins all 14 of those games, the final standings (with BTT tiebreakers included) would look like this:
1. Maryland (14-6)
2. Penn St. (13-7)
3. Wisconsin (13-7)
4. Michigan St. (13-7)
5. Illinois (13-7)
6. Iowa (12-8)
7. Ohio St. (10-8)
8. Michigan (10-10)
9. Rutgers (10-10)
10. Indiana (10-10)
11. Purdue (11-9)
12. Minnesota (8-12)
13. Northwestern (2-18)
14. Nebraska (2-18)
MSU would finish in a four-way tie for seconf place, and would wind up with the 4-seed and one of those precious double byes. But, this is only one of a possible 16,384 remaining scenarios.
I was hoping to perform a more detailed analysis of the likelihood of MSU getting a double bye, but I did not quite get all the way through it. I can say a few things, however. Based on my preliminary analysis, if MSU beats Penn State on Tuesday night, I have not found a scenario where they fall out of the top four. One might still exist, but I haven’t found it.
If MSU loses at Penn State, but beats Ohio State on Senior Day, MSU is still in pretty good shape for a double bye, but there are a few scenarios that could be trouble. For example:
If Iowa wins at Illinois and creates a multi-team tie between MSU, Iowa, Penn State, and possibly Wisconsin, MSU would lose the tie breakers and fall to fifth place.
There are other, less likely scenarios out there well where MSU falls to fifth place (like a fourth place tie with Penn State with both Wisconsin and Illinois win out).
In any event, it’s best if MSU just beats Penn State. So, let’s just go ahead and do that, shall we? Go Green.