With five games to go, we are coming up not only on the Big Ten Regular Season Championship but also seeding for the Big Ten Tournament. Let’s take a quick look at where everyone stands:
Stating the obvious here, Maryland and Penn State control their own fate for keeping the 1 and 2 seed for the Big Ten Tournament but also in a bid for the Big Ten regular season title. With Penn State’s loss on Tuesday night to Illinois, they gave Maryland a two game buffer for first place. Maryland controls their own destiny but have three of five on the road to end the season and their home games are no cake walk either. Here are the odds for winning either a share of or outright Big Ten title:
Disclaimer: I started putting this together in Excel and realized Torvik did it for you, so glad I didn’t go too far with that. Plug for his free hoops analytics website: www.barttorvik.com.
As you can see, only six teams have a chance at a sole Big Ten title, and really it’s a two team race with the other four barely hanging in there. Five teams have already been eliminated from any sort of title contention and realistically it’s a three team race for even a share unless things get weird. Let’s take a look at the contenders:
Maryland just keeps winning. It may be ugly, you may question everything on offense for this team, but they lock down defensively and it has been their calling card this season to stay atop the Big Ten rankings. Maryland only needs to go 3-2 to lock down a share of the Big Ten title with its two game lead over Penn State and barring an epic collapse, which let’s be honest they are completely capable of given their offensive struggles, Maryland should have at least a share of the title.
That being said, Maryland will know on Sunday if they’ve locked up a Top 4 seed with their matchup against OSU and Wisconsin/Rutgers playing each other. In the small chance that it doesn’t clear it up there, next Tuesday’s MSU/Iowa matchup will. The middle teams that are clogging things up all play each other or the top of the conference this weekend so we will get some clarity.
Penn State Nittany Lions
I literally never thought I’d be typing that Penn State is not only doing well at basketball but also in the Top 10 and contending for a regular season championship. Here we are. This team goes as Lamar Stevens does and we saw the impact on Tuesday night when he was in foul trouble for much of the first half and had a down night offensively. Penn State finishes with three games on the road, albeit one against Northwestern, and home games against Rutgers and Michigan State. The likelihood of them finishing out 5-0 seems absurdly low given that schedule. Lose two and Maryland only needs two wins in their last five to capture the outright title.
Like Maryland, this weekend should clear things up for Penn State. Depending on the results on Sunday, it should provide some clarity on what their path is to a secured Top 4 seed. They’re already a 92% chance to keep a Top 4 seed but the loss on Tuesday to Illinois made things a bit murkier for them. They can’t afford too many mistakes down the stretch or there is an actual shot they fall outside of the Top 4.
I did not think Iowa would be much of anything this year with Bohanon redshirting but they’ve put together an impressive run behind Luka Garza and Joe Weiskamp. Iowa has an extremely tough schedule to end the season where they realistically may only be favored in one game from here on out. Both Torvik and Kenpom project them to finish 11-9 in the conference, which would put them outside of the Top 4 and not in contention for the regular season title. They need absolute implosion as it is for a title shot but if they can go 3-2 down the stretch they should keep themselves in the running for the 4 seed.
Michigan State Spartans
The Fighting Izzo’s hit their typical mid season lull a lot later this year and find themselves in a place where they realistically need to win out for a chance at a title and likely can only afford one more loss to be comfortable about a double bye. Anymore than that and their losses are going to put them firmly in going down the tiebreaker route to see who is a Top 4 seed. Cassius Winston and Xavier Tillman need a supporting cast member to step up or teams will continually focus all efforts shutting them down, which has been enough to beat MSU a decent amount this year.
Illinois Fighting Illini
Illinois’ win over Penn State on Tuesday not only assisted Maryland (thanks!) but also keeps them in the running for a double bye and outside shot at the conference title due to their relatively easier schedule in comparison to the teams above them. Illinois is favored in four of their remaining five games and if they win those plus steal the game at Ohio State, they will be hot on the Terps heals to steal a share of the conference title. Given their schedule, they have a much better shot at a double bye than other teams like Iowa who are facing the top half of the Big Ten for most of their remaining games.
Wisconsin, somehow, is still in contention here for a double bye even at 16-10 overall. Their favorable schedule to end the year has them with realistic chances of running the table or only dropping a single game to end the season, so I think they’ll be in the Top 4.
That’s it on teams with chances. The rest of your teams suck and even if they have some hope of a Top 4 spot, their schedule largely dictates they will be sitting in the single bye status. The first day games are just about set with Northwestern (lock), Nebraska (lock), Minnesota (virtual lock), and Purdue (wiggle room here). Indiana and Ohio State are fighting to stay out of the bottom four but are firmly in play to fall.
Who will win the regular season Big Ten title?
This poll is closed
No one outright, shared title
Which current 9-6 team in the Big Ten falters down the stretch?
This poll is closed