This is the last week of the regular season and things have taken some very surprising turns the last two weeks, both in the conference title race, and in the quest for NCAA bids in the middle of the conference.
The selection show is Sunday at 6:30 on ESPNU.
Find a TV. Time to settle things at the top.
- #3 Wisconsin 17-1 (RPI: 5)
- #5 Nebraska 16-2 (RPI: 7)
- #8 Ohio State 15-3 (RPI: 6)
- #9 Minnesota 13-5 (RPI: 13)
FRIDAY: Wisconsin @ Nebraska, 7:00 CST, BTN
SATURDAY: Wisconsin @ Ohio State, 6:00 CST, BTN
SATURDAY: Minnesota @ Nebraska, 8:00 CST, BTN
Well, you have to give the suits at headquarters credit. They nailed the schedule this year. The top four teams are facing off this weekend. (Minnesota is @ Ohio State Friday night, but on BTN+.) Wisconsin is outright champions with a win over Nebraska Friday night. If they lose, they can still win at least a share if they beat Ohio State Saturday. Lose both, and it may be Nebraska outright. Ohio State needs Minnesota to knock off Nebraska to have any hope at a share
This is a very different set of scenarios than a week ago, when Ohio State was fresh off a four set victory over Nebraska in Columbus. At that point, they were tied with Wisconsin at 15-1 and had the easier remaining schedule. However, Wisconsin held out for a dramatic five-set win in Happy Valley last week, and Ohio State, unbelievably, lost both @Maryland and at home to Indiana last week. Thus, they need a lot of help to resurrect any B1G title hopes.
Besides the conference championship, the winner is almost certain to grab a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament, with hosting privileges through the entire regional. (Texas and Louisville have #1 seeds locked up, and Stanford is quite likely to grab the last one.) In a tie, my hunch is Wisconsin gets the nod, unless the tie is OSU and Nebraska, in which case, I’d take OSU, but neither prediction is made with much confidence. The B1G is likely to get two #2 seeds (along with Pittsburgh and either San Diego or Kentucky).
Do note that I have Minnesota listed above, even if they have no chance of grabbing a share of the title or a #1 seed. They are pretty much locked into a top 4 seed and hosting privileges through the opening weekend. And they are 12-3 in their last fifteen B1G matches with the only losses being vs. OSU, @UW, and @PSU. Sleep on them at your own risk, but they’re rounding into form at the right time.
Improving a seed? Getting a bid? These teams need a good weekend.
- #11 Penn State 11-7 (RPI: 19)
- #19 Purdue 10-8 (RPI: 25)
- Illinois 10-8 (RPI: 66)
- Indiana 8-10 (RPI: 84)
- Michigan 7-11 (RPI: 50)
- Northwestern 6-12 (RPI: 64)
- Maryland 6-12 (RPI: 116)
Okay, Maryland and Indiana don’t really have a chance at an NCAA bid, but they both beat OSU last week, and neither deserves to be lumped in with the bottom of the league.
Penn State had won five straight before the tough loss to Wisconsin last week. That might have cost them a shot at a top 4 seed, but no opponent wants to see PSU in the second round, even with home court advantage.
Purdue’s been scuffling a bit lately, and looks in line for a 6- or 7-seed. Getting out of the first weekend would require recapturing some of their early season form. However, given the offseason losses, this has still been a strong season for the Boilermakers.
Illinois has won four straight. They are @Indiana and @Northwestern this week. Very tricky. The RPI does them no favors, but if they finish 12-8 in the toughest conference in the nation, it might be hard to deny them. That said, their best wins are vs. PSU and @Michigan, so they will be sweating out selection day.
The same goes for Michigan, who has a better RPI but worse conference record. @Iowa and vs. Rutgers should be easy wins, but an anchor on the RPI. They have a home loss to Illinois and are going to finish with a worse conference record, so they’re probably behind the Illini in the pecking order. I don’t think a bid will be forthcoming.
Three weeks ago, Northwestern was sitting at 6-6 in conference play with wins @Minnesota and vs. Purdue. Unfortunately they’ve dropped six straight. Home losses to Ohio State and Nebraska are understandable, and a road loss to Michigan doesn’t ruin one’s profile. However, two of their last three losses have been to Michigan State, who is 1-15 in B1G play otherwise, and the Wildcats were swept each time. They’ve hit bottom at the worst time and are pretty much reduced to playing spoiler this weekend as they host Penn State and Illinois.
Playing out the string
- Michigan 3-15 (RPI: 130)
- Iowa 2-16 (RPI: 140)
- Rutgers 2-16 (RPI: withheld out of decency)