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How Will The Big Ten Finish?

  • With the past week of conference play, one thing has become obvious. The Big Ten is completely up for grabs with just a few weeks left before March. Indiana went down, Michigan went down, and Ohio State all went down, just in the last week. As of Saturday afternoon, there are five teams within one game of 1st place in the Big Ten. There are several BCS level conferences that come close to that number, but none can match it. In fact, the only conference that probably has the same level of competition at the top is the Atlantic 10 and they have 16 teams.

    What this means is that there is going to be a crazy race to the finish with just 7-8 games remaining for each Big Ten team. Plenty of time for things to move around, but also plenty of time left for more crazy finishes and more surprising upsets. In an effort to try and break things down, we're going to look at each of these five teams (IU, MSU, WIS, UM, OSU) and see how things look for them in their upcoming games and who appears to have the best path to the title. Let's start from top to bottom:

    -Conference Record: 8-2
    -Number of Remaining Games: 8
    -Home vs. Road: 4-4
    -Average KenPom opponent: 38.75
    -Games Against Top 5 B1G Teams: 4
    -Home vs. Road Top 5 B1G Games: 1-3

    -Conference Record: 8-2
    -Number of Remaining Games: 8
    -Home vs. Road: 4-4
    -Average KenPom opponent: 43.125
    -Games Against Top 5 B1G Teams: 5
    -Home vs. Road Top 5 B1G Games: 3-2

    -Conference Record: 8-3
    -Number of Remaining Games: 7
    -Home vs. Road: 3-4
    -Average KenPom opponent: 78.0
    -Games Against Top 5 B1G Teams: 2
    -Home vs. Road Top 5 B1G Games: 1-1

    -Conference Record: 8-3
    -Number of Remaining Games: 7
    -Home vs. Road: 4-3
    -Average KenPom opponent: 80.57
    -Games Against Top 5 B1G Teams: 3
    -Home vs. Road Top 5 B1G Games: 2-1

    -Conference Record: 7-3
    -Number of Remaining Games: 8
    -Home vs. Road: 5-3
    -Average KenPom opponent: 32.35
    -Games Against Top 5 B1G Teams: 4
    -Home vs. Road Top 5 B1G Games: 2-2

    So what does this all mean? None of these numbers give a complete understanding of what is going to happen, but they do present an interesting argument. First, Wisconsin and Michigan have the easiest remaining schedules. Wisconsin only plays two (!) of the other teams on this list and they split those games at home and on the road. Michigan plays 3 other teams on this list, but gets to play two of those games at home. The big thing that throws off this information is Minnesota, who ranks very high on KenPom and has had a pretty difficult schedule so far. Wisconsin has to play them on the road still, which is a challenging game. Both of these teams have a good shot at the 1-2 loss remaining realm.

    MSU and OSU have tougher schedules than Michigan and Wisconsin, but they are pretty close to one another. Once again, a big part of this is Minnesota, which is not in the top five and pulls the KenPom number way down for OSU since they are rated #11 on that site. These teams play each other once and both have Wisconsin remaining on the schedule. OSU gets Indiana twice and MSU gets Michigan twice, which are pretty comparable two game sets as well. The big difference that probably gives MSU a slightly more difficult schedule is they get Indiana and OSU gets Minnesota. Both of these teams look like they're in the 2-3 loss remaining realm.

    Unfortunately for Hoosiers fans, Indiana has a nightmare of a schedule remaining. They only have 2 conference losses and are a good team, but they play the majority of their remaining games on the road, including three against other teams on this list. They also get the privilege of playing Ohio State at home and a challenging Minnesota team on the road. It's hard to imagine Indiana losing a bunch of games, but it wouldn't be that amazing to see them lose 4 or more games still in the regular season.

    The basic breakdown is that even though the odds appear to be in Wisconsin and Michigan's favor for the remaining games, it's still going to be very close, especially since Indiana and MSU are up one game on the other teams. For the final breakdown of the post, we're going to create a mock Big Ten final standings according to this criteria. There will be no upsets. Teams can only lose against other teams on this list. Teams will win their home games against other teams on this list, but lose their road games. Essentially, this list assume teams lose their tough road games, but win the others. This is not a solid prediction, it's just what it would look like according to this scenario:

    -Michigan 14-4
    -MSU - 14-4
    -Wisconsin - 14-4
    -Indiana - 13-5
    -OSU - 13-5

    (Also, one last note. If you include Minnesota to this scenario, Wisconsin drops to 13-5, Indiana drops to 12-6, and Minnesota finishes 12-6).

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