Early in the evening on Tuesday night, it was clear that it was going to be a big night. With MSU playing at Penn State and Maryland playing at Rutgers in the same time slot, the fate of the Big Ten regular season was very much in balance. If MSU were to have lost and Maryland would have won, MSU would have needed a miracle to claim a share of the title. Even if both MSU and Maryland had won, the Spartans would have been placed in the uncomfortable position of needing a Michigan win this weekend in order to hang a banner.
But, fortunately, none of those things came to pass. It looked a bit bleak at times, as MSU trailed by 19 points late in the first half at Penn State. It was clear right away that Maryland was struggling on the road, and that made MSU’s big deficit even harder to swallow. Was this how the regular season was going to end? With Maryland tanking and MSU still not able to get the job done?
No, fortunately, is was not.
MSU stormed back and the second half with laser-like focus and execution to steal their sixth road win. At the same time, Maryland continued their epic collapse, and as a result, MSU is back in control of its own destiny. If MSU can beat Ohio State on Senior Day, they will get to hang another banner in the rafters. With only one game left for each team, the expected win matrix has a bit less value. But, for old times sake, here is the final version, including the trend charts.
If nothing else, this table shows the amazing number of potential ties that can still occur up and down the standings, which frankly just makes doing the tie-breaker math tedious and annoying. In any event, there are still four teams alive for the Big Ten Title and they have the following odds:
It is really quite simple. MSU, Wisconsin, and Maryland will each claim at least a share of the title with a win. Illinois can still back into a tie if they can beat Iowa and if all three of the other teams lose.
As for the potential seeding in the Big Ten tournament, MSU is now locked into a top three seed. Here are the odds for MSU to claim each of those three seeds, depending on whether MSU beats Ohio State or not.
MSU is slightly more likely to get the No. 1 seed than the No. 2 seed, and the No. 3 seed is fairly unlikely. As for the specific scenarios, those are summarized here:
MSU is the No. 1 seed if:
1) MSU wins, and both Maryland and Wisconsin lose. (In this scenario, MSU is the outright champion)
2) MSU wins and Wisconsin loses. (MSU wins the tiebreaker with Maryland.)
3) MSU, Wisconsin, and Illinois win, but Maryland loses. (MSU wins the tiebreaker with Wisconsin)
4) Illinois wins, but MSU, Wisconsin, and Maryland all lose. (MSU wins the 4-way tiebreaker)
MSU is the No 2. Seed if:
5) MSU, Maryland, and Wisconsin all win. (Wisconsin wins the three-way tiebreaker)
6) Maryland and Illinois win, but MSU and Wisconsin both lose. (MSU wins the three-way tiebreaker for the second place)
7) Wisconsin win, but MSU and Maryland both lose. (MSU wins the two- or three-way tiebreaker for the second place)
MSU is the No 3. Seed if:
8) Maryland wins, but MSU, Wisconsin, and Illinois all lose
9) MSU loses, and both Maryland and Wisconsin win
As for the odds of other teams to achieve a certain seed, I must admit that the tie-breaker math is a bit beyond my current set of tools, but this is a point that I plan on improving for next year. That said, the final set of enhanced standings are shown below, and in this case I have ordered the teams based on the projected final standings (including tie-breakers) assuming the all of the favored teams win this weekend (which for the top four would be MSU, Maryland, and Illinois win, while Wisconsin loses at Indiana)
I also simulated the Big Ten Tournament using these seeds and the current Kenpom adjusted efficiencies and I got the following odds for the tournament, by round:
At this point, MSU is the clear favorite and I would predict they will be four to one (roughly) in Vegas to win the tournament. It is also notable that Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, and Penn State all have essentially the same odds.
Finally, as we inch closer to Selection Sunday, I wanted to revisit some of the data that I posted a few weeks ago regard the comparison of the 2020 field with the last 18 National Champions based on Kenpom efficiency data. The updated national plot is shown below.
In general, there has be some movement of the teams in the past few weeks, but the overall message is still essentially the same. In general, the field is quite weak from a historical perspective, with only three teams (Kansas, Baylor, and Gonzaga) clearly in the range of most past champions and really only about seven others (San Diego State, Duke, MSU, Ohio State, Dayton, Louisville, and Villanova) safely inside the green region which defines the full range of past champions. There is a collection of six teams (Florida State, Arizona, Michigan, Maryland, Seton Hall, and Houston) who exist right on the very edge of the green zone, near the biggest outlier champion, the 2014 UCONN team.
As for the same plot using historical MSU data, that is shown here
The metrics for the 2020 team have improved overall, and the current squad is currently still safely in the cluster of past teams that have relied more on defense than offense. Since I posted this data on February 23rd, MSU has dropped down slightly on defense, but has improved more on offense. As of March 6th, the 2020 team now mostly resembles the 2009 National Runner Up team than it does the 1998 Sweet 16 team. This seems encouraging.
That is all for now. Enjoy Senior Day and let’s hope that it ends with a little more fabric hanging from the ceiling. Go Green.