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Big Ten power rankings: Week 10

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014



As the Big Ten regular season wrapped up on Sunday Michigan was able to sit back and relax having wrapped up the outright conference title by three games and the number one seed in this week’s tournament. The Wolverines will face the winner of the last two teams they faced to close the season, Illinois and Indiana, in the quarterfinals on Friday. The rest of the tournament bracket can be found here

As the conference heads to Indianapolis to battle it out for the automatic NCAA Tournament berth, we took another look at the power rankings.

1. Michigan (23-7, 15-3)  Even
Last week: Mar. 4 W at Illinois 84-53, Mar. 8 W vs Indiana 84-80
This week: BTT quarterfinals Friday vs (8) Indiana or (9) Illinois 12pm ESPN/ESPN2

Michigan finished off an incredible conference season by outlasting Indiana on senior night. Jordan Morgan went out with a bang, recording his first double-double of the season and keeping the Wolverines alive early with critical offensive rebounds. The Big Ten outright champions earned the top seed in the conference tournament after running away from the pack and finishing three games ahead of second-place Wisconsin and Michigan State. 

2. Nebraska (19-11, 11-7) • Up 1
Last week: Mar. 5 W at Indiana 60-50, Mar. 9 W vs #9 Wisconsin 77-68
This week: BTT quarterfinals Friday vs (5) Ohio State or (12) Purdue 2:25pm ESPN/ESPN2

In its biggest game of the season Sunday, Nebraska beat Wisconsin to finish the year with a league-best 15-1 home record. Incredibly, the preseason pick to finish dead last in the Big Ten earned a first-round bye in the conference tournament and landed just one game out of second place. 

3. Wisconsin (25-6, 12-6) • Down 1
Last week: Mar. 5 W vs Purdue 76-70, Mar. 9 L at Nebraska 68-77
This week: BTT quarterfinals Friday vs (7) Minnesota or (10) Penn State 6:30pm BTN

Bo Ryan’s Badgers had their eyes set on a prize outside the Big Ten: A No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. A nine-point loss to Nebraska seemingly eliminated Wisconsin from that discussion, but it still earned the second seed in the conference tournament after an 8-1 finish.

4. Michigan State (23-8, 12-6) • Up 3
Last week: Mar. 6 W vs #24 Iowa 86-76, Mar. 9 L at Ohio State 67-69
This week: BTT quarterfinals Friday vs (6) Iowa or (11) Northwestern 8:55pm BTN

Michigan State looked like it was back on track after a win over Iowa on senior night. However, a loss to Ohio State in the regular season finale dropped the Spartans to just 5-7 in their last 12 games and 1-2 since sending a healthy starting lineup back on the court.

5. Ohio State (23-8, 10-8) • Up 3
Last week: Mar. 9 W vs #22 Michigan State 69-67
This week: BTT first round Thursday vs (12) Purdue 2:25pm BTN

At the beginning of the conference schedule, Sunday’s Michigan State-Ohio State game looked like a potential shootout for the regular season championship. In reality, the game meant very little to the final Big Ten standings. But Aaron Craft did get a win on senior night, and the Buckeyes just barely managed to finish above .500 in the conference.

6. Illinois (18-13, 7-11) • Down 1
Last week: Mar. 4 L vs #12 Michigan 53-84, Mar. 8 W at #24 Iowa 66-63
This week: BTT first round Thursday vs (8) Indiana 12pm BTN

John Groce’s team could’ve thrown in the towel after a nine-game losing streak planted it firmly in last place. Instead, the Illini rallied and won four of their last five games, all of which were against NCAA Tournament hopefuls (Minnesota is the only non-lock at this point).

7. Minnesota (19-12, 8-10) • Up 2
Last week: Mar. 9 W vs Penn State 81-63
This week: BTT first round Thursday vs (10) Penn State 6:30pm ESPN2

Minnesota put itself into a very tough position heading into the final weekend of the regular season. Losses in nine of 14 games put Minnesota on the outside of the tournament bubble looking in with just a home game against Penn State left. The Gophers did what they had to do, blowing out the Nittany Lions 81-63, but it still may not be enough.

8. Iowa (22-11, 9-9) • Down 2
Last week: Mar. 6 L at #22 Michigan State 76-86, Mar. 8 L vs Illinois 63-66
This week: BTT first round Thursday vs (11) Northwestern 8:55pm ESPN2

Near the midway point of the season, Iowa was ranked in the top 10 of the AP poll and competing for a Big Ten championship. After five losses in its final six games, this team is reeling at the worst possible time. Iowa drew a favorable matchup in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, facing a Northwestern team that it beat by 26 points — twice.

9. Indiana (17-14, 7-11) • Down 5
Last week: Mar. 5 L vs Nebraska 60-70, Mar. 8 L at #12 Michigan 80-84
This week: BTT first round Thursday vs (9) Illinois 12pm BTN

The preseason top-25 Hoosiers know there’s only one route to the Big Dance now: winning the conference tournament. Indiana dropped its last two games to land in the No. 8 slot in Indianapolis and a matchup against the streaking Fighting Illini.

10. Penn State (15-16, 6-12) • Even
Last week: Mar. 6 W at Northwestern 59-32, Mar. 9 L at Minnesota 63-81
This week: BTT first round Thursday vs (7) Minnesota 6:30pm ESPN2

Minnesota waxed Penn State in the final road game for the Nittany Lions, but they still managed to finish the conference season with a 6-6 record in the final 12 games after losing the first six. Penn State drew a rematch against the Gophers in the first round Thursday — a chance to strengthen its NIT resume.

11. Northwestern (13-18, 6-12) • Up 1
Last week: Mar. 6 L vs Penn State 32-59, Mar. 9 W at Purdue 74-65
This week: BTT first round Thursday vs (6) Iowa 8:55pm ESPN2

Northwestern quietly earned a big road win on Sunday to stay out of the cellar and finish 11th in the Big Ten. The Wildcats held much higher expectations after a 5-5 start, but a seven-game losing streak put any hopes of contending quickly to rest.

12. Purdue (15-16, 5-3) • Down 1
Last week: Mar. 5 L at #9 Wisconsin 70-76, Mar. 9 L vs Northwestern 65-74
This week: BTT first round Thursday vs (5) Ohio State 2:25pm BTN

Matt Painter’s team sure hit rock bottom this season. After nearly dethroning the first-place Michigan Wolverines two weeks ago, Purdue had its heart ripped out and lost its three final games. The Boilermakers finished the season by losing 11 of 13 games, including the final six.

Stauskas, Beilein earn top honors, Wolverines re-enter top 10

Monday, March 10th, 2014


Big Ten champs celebration

Nik Stauskas became Michigan’s second straight Big Ten Player of the Year the conference announced on Monday evening. The sophomore was voted the top honor by both the coaches and media, following Trey Burke who won the award a year ago. Stauskas has averaged 17.4 points, 3.5 assists, and 3.3 rebounds per game this season with 13 games of 20 or more points. He is the only Big Ten player to rank in the top 10 in field goal percentage (48.9), three-point percentage (45.8), and free throw percentage (81.1).

Stauskas was also a unanimous selection to the All-Big Ten first team and named to the Sporting News All-America second team.

In addition, John Beilein was named Big Ten Coach of the Year by the media, becoming the first Michigan coach to win the award since Bill Frieder in 1985. Johnny Orr also accomplished the feat in 1974 and ’77. Nebraska’s Tim Miles was awarded the honor by the coaches.

Caris LeVert was named to the All-Big Ten second team  after averaging 13.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game. Glenn Robinson III garnered honorable mention honors, averaging 13.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game. Derrick Walton Jr. was named to the all-freshman team, averaging 8.1 points, 2.9 assists, and 2.9 rebounds per game. This is the fourth straight season the Wolverines have had a player on the all-freshman team (Robinson III in 2013, Burke in 2012, and Tim Hardaway Jr in 2011).

Below are the full All-Big Ten teams as selected by both the coaches and the media.

All-Big Ten first team
Coaches Media
Name School Name School
Nik Stauskas* Michigan Nik Stauskas* Michigan
Roy Devyn Marble Iowa Roy Devyn Marble Iowa
Gary Harris Michigan State Gary Harris Michigan State
Terran Pettaway Nebraska Terran Pettaway Nebraska
Frank Kaminsky Wisconsin Frank Kaminsky Wisconsin
All-Big Ten second team
Coaches Media
Name School Name School
Yogi Ferrell Indiana Yogi Ferrell Indiana
Caris LeVert Michigan Caris LeVert Michigan
Adreian Payne Michigan State Adreian Payne Michigan State
D.J. Newbill Penn State D.J. Newbill Penn State
Sam Dekker Wisconsin Aaron Craft Ohio State
All-Big Ten third team
Coaches Media
Name School Name School
Noah Vonleh Indiana Noah Vonleh Indiana
Aaron White Iowa Aaron White Iowa
Aaron Craft Ohio State Drew Crawford Northwestern
LaQuinton Ross Ohio State Tim Frazier Penn State
Tim Frazier Penn State Sam Dekker Wisconsin
All-Big Ten honorable mention
Coaches Media
Name School Name School
Rayvonte Rice Illinois Rayvonte Rice Illinois
Glenn Robinson III Michigan Glenn Robinson III Michigan
Keith Appling Michigan State Will Sheehey Indiana
Denzel Valentine Michigan State Keith Appling Michigan State
Andre Hollins Minnesota Denzel Valentine Michigan State
Shavon Shields Nebraska Andre Hollins Minnesota
Drew Crawford Northwestern DeAndre Mathieu Minnesota
A.J. Hammons Purdue Shavon Shields Nebraska
Ben Brust Wisconsin LaQuinton Ross Ohio State
A.J. Hammons Purdue
Ben Brust Wisconsin
Josh Gasser Wisconsin
Traevon Jackson Wisconsin
All-Big Ten all-freshman team Sportsmanship Award honorees
Name School Name School
Kendrick Nunn Illinois Joseph Bertrand Illinois
Noah Vonleh Indiana Will Sheehey Indiana
Derrick Walton Jr. Michigan Mike Gesell Iowa
Kendall Stephens Purdue Jon Horford Michigan
Nigel Hayes Wisconsin Denzel Valentine Michigan State
All-Big Ten defensive team Austin Hollins Minnesota
Name School Shavon Shields Nebraska
Gary Harris Michigan State Drew Crawford Northwestern
Aaron Craft Ohio State Lenzelle Smith Jr. Ohio State
Shannon Scott Ohio State Tim Frazier Penn State
A.J. Hammons Purdue Travis Carroll Purdue
Josh Gasser Wisconsin Ben Brust Wisconsin
*Unanimous selection

Michigan also moved back into the top 10 in both polls, checking in at No. 8 in the AP Poll and No. 9 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. It is the first time the Wolverines have been in the top 10 since the first week of February when they reached 10th.

Wisconsin’s loss to Nebraska on Sunday dropped the Badgers below Michigan, to 12th and 13th. Michigan State remains at 22nd in both polls for the second straight week, while Ohio State moves back in at 24th in both. Iowa dropped out.

As for Michigan’s non-conference opponents, Arizona dropped one spot to fourth in both polls, fell to seventh and sixth, and Iowa State is still 16th in both.

The full national rankings are below.

AP Poll Coaches Poll
Rank Team Rank Team
1 Florida (29-2) 1 Florida (29-2)
2 Wichita State (34-0) 2 Wichita State (34-0)
3 Villanova (28-3) 3 Villanova (28-3)
4 Arizona (28-3) 4 Arizona (28-3)
5 Louisville (26-5) 5 Louisville (26-5)
6 Virginia (25-6) 6 Duke (24-7)
7 Duke (24-7) 7 San Diego State (27-3)
8 Michigan (23-7) 8 Virginia (25-6)
8 San Diego State (27-3) 9 Michigan (23-7)
10 Kansas (23-8) 10 Kansas (23-8)
11 Syracuse (27-4) 11 Syracuse (27-4)
12 Wisconsin (25-6) 12 Cincinnati (26-5)
13 Cincinnati (26-5) 13 Wisconsin (25-6)
14 Creighton (24-6) 14 Creighton (24-6)
15 North Carolina (23-8) 15 North Carolina (23-8)
16 Iowa State (23-7) 16 Iowa State (23-7)
17 Oklahoma (23-8) 17 Saint Louis (26-5)
18 Saint Louis (26-5) 18 Oklahoma (23-8)
19 Memphis (23-8) 19 Memphis (23-8)
20 New Mexico (24-6) 20 New Mexico (24-6)
21 Connecticut (24-7) 21 Connecticut (24-7)
22 Michigan State (23-8) 22 Michigan State (23-8)
23 Virginia Commonwealth (24-7) 23 Southern Methodist (23-8)
24 Ohio State (23-8) 24 Ohio State (23-8)
25 Southern Methodist (23-8) 25 Virginia Commonwealth (24-7)

Big Ten Tournament bracket: Michigan the top seed

Sunday, March 9th, 2014


BigTenTournamentBracket2014_edited-2

Big Ten power rankings: Week 9

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014



This week’s edition of the Big Ten power rankings features more movement than usual as the conference continues to deal surprise after surprise. With March upon us, teams that play well down the stretch often outperform teams with more impressive overall resumes in postseason tournaments.

While teams like Michigan State, Ohio State and Iowa will certainly make the field of 68, playing poorly in late February and early March can really take the steam out of a potential deep run in the Big Dance. Meanwhile, teams that streak into the tournament on the final days of the season (Nebraska? Indiana?) represent extremely dangerous matchups.

So here’s how the Big Ten teams are playing with less than a week remaining before they head to Indianapolis.

1. Michigan (21-7, 13-3)  Even
Last week: Feb. 26 W at Purdue 77-76 OT, Mar. 1 W vs Minnesota 66-56
This week: Tuesday at Illinois 7pm ESPN, Saturday vs Indiana 6pm 

The in-state rival Spartans lost just before tip-off in Ann Arbor on Saturday, and after Michigan took care of Minnesota, it officially clinched at least a share of the regular season Big Ten championship. John Beilein’s surprise team can seal the title alone with a win at Illinois tonight or against Indiana on Saturday. 

2. Wisconsin (24-5, 11-5) • Even
Last week: Feb. 25 W vs Indiana 69-58, Mar. 2 W at Penn State 71-66
This week: Wednesday vs Purdue 9pm BTN, Sunday at Nebraska 7:30pm 

History shows that no matter what happens early in the season, a hot team is dangerous in March. The Badgers are red-hot heading into the final week of conference play, riding a seven-game winning streak and tied with Michigan State for second place in the Big Ten. Wisconsin could represent the most dangerous team in the conference, but clinching a share of the title gave Michigan the nod at No. 1 for now. 

3. Nebraska (17-11, 9-7) • Up 4
Last week: Feb. 26 L at Illinois 49-60, Mar. 1 W vs Northwestern 54-47
This week: Wednesday at Indiana 7pm BTN, Sunday vs #9 Wisconsin 7:30pm

Despite last week’s loss to Illinois, which looks slightly less egregious after the Illini won in East Lansing on Saturday, Nebraska finds itself contending for a first-round bye in Indianapolis. Tim Miles’s team held off Northwestern on Saturday and can secure a winning conference record with a win in either of its final two games (at Indiana on Wednesday or against Wisconsin on Sunday).

4. Indiana (17-12, 7-9) • Up 4
Last week: Feb. 25 L at #14 Wisc. 58-69, Feb. 27 W vs #20 Iowa 93-86, Mar. 2 W vs #22 OSU 72-64
This week: Wednesday vs Nebraska 7pm BTN, Saturday at #12 Michigan 6pm

Don’t look now, but Indiana is making the run that Big Ten fans were waiting for. Indiana knocked off two straight top-25 teams last week to keep its dim tournament hopes alive. They may not recover from the 3-7 stretch that plagued the heart of their conference schedule, but the Hoosiers aren’t going down without a fight. It may take a win in Ann Arbor in the season finale to put Indiana over the hump.

5. Iowa (17-12, 6-10) • Up 3
Last week: Feb. 26 W vs Nebraska 60-49, Mar. 1 W at #18 Michigan State 53-46
This week: Tuesday vs #12 Michigan 7pm ESPN, Saturday at #24 Iowa 8:30pm

John Groce waited nearly two whole months of Big Ten play for his team to show some life, and although it’s likely too late to join an already-crowded NCAA Tournament bubble, Illinois played spoiler three times in the past two weeks. A win over Michigan State in East Lansing proved the most impressive feat for Illinois on the season, but beating Minnesota and Nebraska the week before was more nationally significant, as both teams have tournament hopes that hang by a thread.

6. Iowa (20-9, 9-7) • Down 1
Last week: Feb. 25 L at Minnesota 89-95, Feb. 27 L at Indiana 86-93, Mar. 2 W vs Purdue 83-76
This week: Thursday at #22 Michigan State 9pm ESPN, Saturday vs Illinois 8:30pm

When both Michigan and Michigan State faltered on their home courts on Feb. 16, Iowa climbed to within one game of the conference co-leaders in the loss column. The Hawkeyes responded by losing their next three games and falling completely out of contention. After struggling to beat Purdue at home, Iowa looks to take advantage of an equally-wounded Spartan squad on Thursday.

7. Michigan State (22-7, 11-5) • Down 3
Last week: Mar. 1 L vs Illinois 46-53
This week: Thursday vs #24 Iowa 9pm ESPN, Sunday at Ohio State 4:30pm

All season long Tom Izzo stuck to the same story: when Michigan State returned all of its injured players, the miraculous turnaround would begin. Well on Saturday Adreian Payne, Keith Appling and Branden Dawson all played against Illinois and the Spartans lost on their home court, and scored just 46 points in the process. The time to start worrying about Michigan State has arrived, as it has dropped six of its last 10 games, with half of those coming at home.

8. Ohio State (22-8, 9-8) • Down 5
Last week: Feb. 27 L at Penn State 63-65, Mar. 2 L at Indiana 64-72
This week: Sunday vs #22 Michigan State 4:30pm CBS

The last time Ohio State lost to Penn State, it responded by winning six of its next seven games. This time, the Buckeyes followed up with a loss to Indiana. Unfortunately for Thad Matta’s squad, the most glaring part of the statement is that the Buckeyes have lost to the 5-11 Nittany Lions twice.

9. Minnesota (18-12, 7-10) • Down 3
Last week: Feb. 25 W vs #20 Iowa 95-89, Mar. 1 L at #16 Michigan 56-66
This week: Saturday vs Penn State 8:30pm

Minnesota nearly punched its NCAA Tournament ticket for good Saturday when a furious second-half charge brought it to within two points of first-place Michigan. The visible frustration on coach Richard Pitino’s face as the game slipped away perfectly sums up the remainder of his team’s season. Minnesota will sit and watch the rest of the bubble teams play during the week before hosting Penn State in a game that does little to strengthen its tournament resume. As Joe Lunardi’s “last team in,” this stressful week could turn Pitino’s hair a few shades closer to his father’s.

10. Penn State (14-15, 5-11) • Up 1
Last week: Feb. 27 W vs #22 Ohio State 65-63, Mar. 2 L vs #14 Wisconsin 66-71
This week: Thursday at Northwestern 7pm ESPNU, Saturday at Minnesota 8:30pm

Though Penn State is unlikely to win its final two road games and finish the season with an overall .500 record, it did complete a sweep of the preseason No. 11 Buckeyes on Thursday. After losing their first six conference games, the Nittany Lions can settle for morale victories.

11. Purdue (15-14, 5-11) • Down 1
Last week: Feb. 26 L vs #16 Michigan 76-77 OT, Mar. 2 L vs #20 Iowa 76-83
This week: Wednesday at #9 Wisconsin 9pm BTN, Sunday vs Northwestern 12pm

Purdue played both Michigan and Iowa to the end last week, but the end result was two losses, bringing the streak to a total of four. The Boilermakers’ last chance to play spoiler against a tournament team comes on Wednesday, when they travel to Madison to battle the streaking Badgers.

12. Northwestern (12-17, 5-11) • Even
Last week: Mar. 1 L at Nebraska 47-54
This week: Thursday vs Penn State 7pm ESPNU, Sunday at Purdue 12pm

Northwestern crashed and burned after a strong start to the conference season, currently riding a six-game losing streak. The Wildcats do have an opportunity to finish on a positive note as the final two regular-season games come against fellow last place Big Ten opponents.

Big Ten title race down to three

Friday, February 28th, 2014


UM crowd vs MSU 2-23-14

As February comes to a close and perhaps the greatest month in all of sports approaches, the Big Ten men’s basketball conference remains as unpredictable as ever.

Nearly two weeks ago, the would-be headliner battle between the two Michigan schools that topped the standings all season long suffered a major blow when Michigan fell to Wisconsin and Nebraska shocked Michigan State in East Lansing. Meanwhile, Nebraska put together a five-game winning streak to burst onto the NCAA bubble, only to lose to lowly Illinois and see it all slip away. Even the Iowa-Indiana game scheduled for Feb. 18 proved unpredictable, as an eight-foot beam that fell from the Assembly Hall ceiling postponed the game for over a week.

With less than two weeks remaining in the regular season, the standings usually provide a clearer picture of what the conference tournament will feature. But in the midst of such an erratic regular season, more surprises surely lie ahead, right?

Spoiler alert: This year’s Big Ten regular season championship is Michigan’s to lose.

Remaining schedule for Big Ten title contenders
Michigan Michigan State Wisconsin
Saturday vs Minnesota, 6pm BTN vs Illinois, 4pm ESPN
Sunday at Penn State, 12pm BTN
Tuesday, Mar. 4 at Illinois, 7pm ESPN
Wednesday, Mar. 5 vs Purdue, 9pm BTN
Thursday, Mar. 6 vs Iowa, 9pm ESPN
Saturday, Mar. 8 vs Indiana, 6pm ESPN
Sunday, Mar. 9 at Ohio State, 4:30pm CBS at Nebraska, 7:30pm BTN

After the victory to sweep Tom Izzo’s Spartans, Michigan firmly planted itself atop the conference with four winnable games remaining.

A trip to Purdue, which provided the most difficult remaining challenge, ended with a miracle in-bounds play for the Wolverines, who snuck out of West Lafayette unscathed, much to the chagrin of championship hopefuls Michigan State and Wisconsin.

Now the only teams standing in Michigan’s way are 5-9 Indiana, 5-10 Illinois, and a struggling Minnesota team with just two conference road wins against the league’s last place squads. John Beilein’s one-game lead should hold up and bring Michigan the long-awaited sole Big Ten title.

But outcomes rarely go according to plan in the 2013-14 edition of the Big Ten. If the first place Wolverines do drop any of their final three games, what does it mean?

Iowa’s loss at Indiana on Thursday night and Ohio State’s loss at Penn State made it mathematically official: the only two teams left to challenge Michigan are Michigan State (one game behind) and Wisconsin (two).

Michigan's last-second win over Purdue on Wednesday kept the Wolverines on track for the outright Big Ten title (Dustin Johnson, UMHoops)

Michigan’s last-second win over Purdue on Wednesday kept the Wolverines on track for the outright Big Ten title (Dustin Johnson, UMHoops)

Let’s say Michigan finishes the season by winning two of its final three games. Regardless of what Wisconsin does in its final three games, the Badgers would fall short of the Wolverines, having already lost five times in the Big Ten.

A Michigan loss would, however, leave the door open for Michigan State, which could finish the season in a tie and, despite earning the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament, boast a share of the regular season championship. But the Spartans face a one of the toughest stretch runs in the Big Ten.

Michigan State played sub-.500 basketball in the month of February, losing four of seven games. The Breslin Center lost some of its esteem after Nebraska came in and bullied the Spartans last weekend, so a matchup with the desperate Hawkeyes on March 6 could challenge Izzo’s battered team. Iowa’s current three-game losing streak compliment’s Michigan State’s struggles to set up a surprisingly important matchup in the final week of the season.

Days later, the Spartans travel to Columbus in what Big Ten officials probably expected to be a conference-deciding game against Ohio State. However, a sweep at the hands of bottom-feeding Penn State dropped Thad Matta’s team well out of contention, and barring a Michigan loss, this game provides little importance in the bigger picture.

If Michigan does lose, then Ohio State earns a chance to play spoiler for Michigan State and help its hated rival from Ann Arbor. Michigan State hasn’t won back-to-back games since Jan. 21 when a win over Indiana marked its 11th straight at the time. Michigan ended that streak.

Clearly, Michigan State’s quest for a Big Ten title remains an uphill battle.

Wisconsin, unlike the Spartans, plays a much easier schedule to finish the season. Penn State and Purdue, both tied for last place, figure to provide little resistance for Wisconsin next week, setting up an important trip to Lincoln on March 9.

Nebraska’s only loss in the new Pinnacle Bank Arena came at the hands of the first-place Wolverines, who snuck out of Lincoln with a 71-70 win on Jan. 9 after the Huskers missed three layup attempts in the closing seconds. Despite the loss at Illinois on Wednesday, Nebraska’s five-game winning streak puts it tied for fourth place in the loss column in the conference. With a Big Ten record that matches Iowa’s and a nearly-perfect home resume, Nebraska provides a real challenge for Wisconsin to finish the regular season.

Even the most unpredictable conference standings take shape near the end of the season. Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin played well enough through 15 Big Ten games to stay alive into March, but Michigan represents the clear-cut favorite with less than two weeks to go.

The Wolverines may win all three remaining games and leave no room for another contender to catch up. But even if the surprising Big Ten serves up another upset, the odds lie in Michigan’s favor.

Big Ten power rankings: Week 8

Thursday, February 27th, 2014


1. Michigan (20-7, 12-3)  Up 2
Last week: Feb. 23 W vs 13 Michigan State 79-70
This week: Wednesday W at Purdue 77-76 OTSaturday vs Minnesota 6pm BTN

In the biggest game in the Big Ten this season, Michigan completed a sweep against conference co-leader Michigan State and regained sole possession of first place. The Wolverines then avoided disaster on Wednesday night at Purdue thanks to a last-second bank shot from Glenn Robinson III. 

2. Wisconsin (23-5, 10-5) • Down 1
Last week: Feb. 22 W at #15 Iowa 79-74
This week: Tuesday W vs Indiana 69-58, Sunday at Penn State 12pm BTN

The Badgers had another tremendous week, knocking off Iowa on the road and bouncing back from a poor 19-point first half performance to hold off Indiana on Monday. Wisconsin owns the longest current winning streak in the Big Ten at six. 

3. Ohio State (22-6, 9-6) • Up 3
Last week: Feb. 19 W vs Northwestern 76-60, Feb. 22 W vs Minnesota 64-46
This week: Thursday at Penn State 7pm ESPN2, Sunday at Indiana 4pm

Sam Thomson and the Buckeyes have quietly reclaimed one of the top four spots in the Big Ten. With wins in six of its past seven games, Ohio State sits in position to earn a first-round bye in the conference tournament.

4. Michigan State (22-6, 11-4) • Up 1
Last week: Feb. 20 W vs Purdue 94-79, Feb. 23 L at Michigan 70-79
This week: Saturday vs Illinois 4pm ESPN

The Spartans continued their recent trend of losing every other game when they dropped another game to the Wolverines in Ann Arbor on Saturday. Michigan State is likely to get back on track Saturday against Illinois.

5. Iowa (19-8, 8-6) • Down 3
Last week: Feb. 22 L vs #16 Wisconsin 74-79
This week: Tuesday L at Minnesota 89-95, Thursday at Indiana 9pm ESPN, Sunday vs Purdue 2:05pm

For the first time all season, Iowa has lost two straight games and dropped to fifth in the Big Ten behind Ohio State and Wisconsin. The makeup game in Assembly Hall Thursday night could be a make-or-break game for Iowa’s hopes of earning a first-round Big Ten Tournament bye.

6. Minnesota (18-11, 7-9) • Up 1
Last week: Feb.19 L vs Illinois 49-62, Feb. 22 L at #24 Ohio State 46-64
This week: Tuesday W vs #20 Iowa 95-89, Saturday at #16 Michigan 6pm BTN

Richard Pitino’s team found its back up against the wall on Monday after dropping eight of its last 12 Big Ten games. The Gophers somehow found a way to hold on against Iowa and move back on the right side of the NCAA bubble, for now.

7. Nebraska (16-11, 8-7) • Down 3
Last week: Feb. 20 W vs Penn State 80-67, Feb. 23 W vs Purdue 76-57
This week: Wednesday L at Illinois 49-60, Saturday vs Northwestern 5pm ESPNU

Just when it looked like Nebraska’s Cinderella story run to the NCAA Tournament could become a reality, it dropped a must-have game to Illinois. Now only a deep conference tournament run could put Tim Miles’s crew back in the conversation.

8. Illinois (16-12, 5-10) • Up 3
Last week: Feb. 19 W at Minnesota 62-49
This week: Wednesday W vs Nebraska 60-49, Saturday at #18 Michigan State 4pm ESPN

After losing 10 of 11 games during the heart of the Big Ten season, Illinois has no chance of earning an at-large bid into the Dance. But the Fighting Illini are bursting a few other Big Ten bubbles with wins over Minnesota and Nebraska in the past week.

9. Indiana (15-12, 5-9) • Up 3
Last week: Feb. 22 W at Northwestern 61-56
This week: Tuesday L at #14 Wisconsin 58-69, Thursday vs #20 Iowa 9pm, Sunday vs #22 Ohio State 4pm

It was a great week for Indiana basketball. Not only did the Hoosiers pick up a road win against Northwestern, but Assembly Hall has been repaired and deemed safe enough to play the previously-scheduled game against Iowa on Thursday.

10. Purdue (15-13, 5-10) • Down 2
Last week: Feb. 20 L vs #13 Michigan State 79-94, Feb. 23 L at Nebraska 57-76
This week: Wednesday L vs #16 Michigan 76-77 OT, Sunday at #20 Iowa 2:05pm BTN

Purdue missed a golden opportunity at a marquee win on Wednesday night after getting waxed in back-to-back games by Michigan State and Nebraska. Purdue’s schedule doesn’t get any easier after the overtime loss as trips to Iowa and Wisconsin loom.

11. Penn State (13-14, 4-10) • Down 1
Last week: Feb. 20 L at Nebraska 67-80
This week: Thursday vs #22 Ohio State 7pm ESPN2, Sunday vs #14 Wisconsin 12pm

Pat Chambers’s team is reeling after a 13-point loss at the hands of Nebraska. The Nittany Lions have a chance to sweep Ohio State when the Buckeyes visit State College on Thursday.

12. Northwestern (12-16, 5-10) • Down 3
Last week: Feb. 19 L at #24 Ohio State 60-76, Feb. 22 L vs Indiana 56-61
This week: Saturday at Nebraska 5pm ESPNU 

Remember when four out of five wins put Northwestern in the top four spots in the conference? Now the only cause for celebration in Evanston is that the Wildcats get to host the proverbial last-place game against Penn State next week.

A win is a win: Michigan 77 – Purdue 76, OT

Thursday, February 27th, 2014


UM celebration vs Purdue 2-26-14(Dustin Johnson, UMHoops)

Basketball, like most sports, is a game that can have wild outcomes from time-to-time. When trying to throw a nine-inch ball into an 18-inch rim from 20-some feet away, that is to be expected. Still, some guys are better at shooting that ball, and teams with those players generally prevail – but not always.

Michigan is a team this season that is incredibly skilled on offense, capable of dominating any team in the nation when the shots are falling. But when shots aren’t falling, weird things happen.

On Wednesday night, the Wolverines simply couldn’t throw that orange ball into the orange rim no matter how open their looks were. Purdue, their opponent, on the other hand, seemingly couldn’t miss – despite being a poor shooting team on average.

Coming into last evening’s clash at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Michigan led the Big Ten with a 47.9 percent shooting mark from the floor, while Purdue lagged a ways behind at 42.7 percent. The teams’ three-point shooting numbers – 39.4 percent for Michigan and 33.9 percent for Purdue – also heavily favored the visitors.

Jordan Morgan came up huge, especially in overtime, finishing with 13 points and nine boards (Dustin Johnson, UMHoops)

Jordan Morgan came up huge, especially in overtime, finishing with 13 points and nine boards (Dustin Johnson, UMHoops)

For the first half, however, things couldn’t have been more different. The Boilermakers, playing for pride and a potential NIT bid in a lost season, connected on their first three shots and ran out to a 19-point lead over Michigan just over 12 minutes into the first half on their way to making 52 percent of their field goals (13-of-25) and 45.5 percent of their threes (5-of-11). At the 7:43 mark of that first half, Purdue was more than tripling – TRIPLING – Michigan’s score.

The Wolverines, on the other hand, touting a roster with five regulars shooting better than 39 percent from deep, made just eight of their 27 shot attempts in the first half (29.6 percent) and a meager 2-of-10 threes (20 percent).

This wasn’t supposed to happen. After ousting Michigan State in a thrilling come-from-behind victory three days ago in Ann Arbor, Michigan was all but crowned conference champion with four games remaining over bottom-half Big Ten teams and a one-game lead over those Spartans. At some point, perhaps the Maize and Blue bought into the hype, or maybe Purdue was fed up with being walked all over.

Whatever it was, Purdue was cruising to victory. Near the end of a dominant first half, the Boilermakers took a brief stumble and allowed Michigan to cut the lead to single digits, but a couple of Wolverine mistakes and Boiler buckets later and the halftime lead was a still very large 13 points.

Then, inevitably, Michigan started clawing back into the game as we’ve seen so many times this year. Sure, the Wolverines’ poor opening play in some games has left all of us fans frustrated, but there is no denying the fight in this team.

As has been the case all season, Michigan’s deficit started shrinking – 11, nine, seven, then just four points with a whopping 12:44 left to play. Certainly, Purdue’s nominal lead would continue disappearing, all the way to zero, before the boys in Blue ran away with it.

But that didn’t happen either. In fact, Purdue never trailed Michigan for 40 minutes. Despite a continuous battle and even a couple of ties, Michigan never got over the hump and looked like they would fall victim to the trap game, giving Michigan State a glimmer of hope in the Big Ten title race.

Again, Michigan fought, earning a chance to win it with the final shot at the end of regulation. And despite Nik Stauskas’s clanger off the rim to end the second half, the Wolverines had to feel good about sending this game to overtime.

With A.J. Hammons out of the game on fouls and five more minutes of game time, Michigan had a golden opportunity to steal yet another road victory, and it looked like they would after grabbing their first lead of the night just 30 seconds into the extra period.

But Purdue wouldn’t go down easily either. Fueled by Ronnie and Terone Johnson and near-perfect free throw shooting, the Boilermakers proved resilient enough to grab the lead back with 31 seconds remaining, and seemed primed to close the game out when Kendall Stephens was sent to the line for a one-and-one opportunity with 13 seconds left. After 17 straight made free throws for Purdue, two more didn’t seem like a big deal, but Stephens missed, giving Michigan one last chance.

Glenn Robinson III somehow managed to get this winning shot to fall (Dustin Johnson, UMHoops)

Glenn Robinson III somehow managed to get this winning shot to fall at the buzzer (Dustin Johnson, UMHoops)

Caris LeVert, who struggled shooting the ball (4-of-12 FG), raced up the court, danced around for a second, and then huddled up with the rest of his team when John Beilein called a timeout with 2.9 seconds on the clock.

This was it. Michigan faced a one-point deficit with less than three seconds to go. Make a basket, and the game is won. Miss, and well, maybe missing was never an option.

Out of the timeout, LeVert inbounded on the side out-of-bounds line and threw a high rainbow to the far corner to a leaping Glenn Robinson III, whose 12 second half points had kept Michigan alive. Robinson, one of the best athletes in the country, leapt up high over Raphael Davis, came down with the ball, gave a quick head fake, took one dribble toward the basket, and threw up a shot off glass – all with his dad, former Purdue All-Everything forward and first overall NBA selection Glenn Robinson, watching. The ball, seemingly moving in slow motion, hit off the backboard, bounced a couple times off the side and front of the rim, then gently trickled through that 18-inch rim. The buzzer sounded, and the game was over.

On a night when Michigan’s two leading scorers combined for 29 points on a miserable 9-of-30 mark from the field, the Wolverines somehow got it done.

There’s a certain resilience about this team that is both refreshing and encouraging, but there’s also a certain tendency of falling behind that seems concerning.

But a win is still a win, and now only three games separate these Wolverines from an outright Big Ten championship and an almost certain top-three seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Glenn Robinson III said it best after the game: “It’s a great win for us. We competed hard and came out with the victory.”

At this point in the season, every win is great.

Three Stars:

***Terone Johnson***
22 points (7-of-14 FG, 4-of-8 3PT, 4-of-4 FT), four rebounds (one offensive), three assists, three turnovers in 41 minutes

**Glenn Robinson III**
17 points (7-of-11 FG, 0-of-1 3PT, 3-of-4 FT), eight rebounds (two offensive), three assists, one turnover in 39 minutes

*Ronnie Johnson*
21 points (9-of-15 FG, 1-of-3 3PT, 2-of-2 FT), seven assists, four rebounds, two steals, four turnovers in 41 minutes

Quick Hitters:


 Senior Terone Johnson continued to be a big pain for Michigan, going for his third career 20-point game against the Wolverines — something he has only accomplished seven other times in his career. But this time it was done through some terrific outside shooting while brother Ronnie did major damage in the paint. The guard duo combined to make an excellent 5-of-11 threes and all six of their free throws while leading five Boilermakers in double digits.

 Michigan’s ball movement was mostly effective tonight, and it shows with their outstanding 19 assists on 27 made buckets to just seven turnovers. Five Wolverines – LeVert, Stauskas, Spike Albrecht, Jordan Morgan, and Robinson III – recorded at least three assists a piece and only Stauskas and Derrick Walton, Jr. turned it over more than once. Still, Purdue managed to win the points off turnover battles, getting 13 to Michigan’s 11 points on 11 Purdue cough-ups.

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
01 Glenn Robinson III* 7-11 0-1 3-4 2 6 8 2 17 3 1 0 0 39
10 Derrick Walton Jr.* 2-6 2-6 2-4 2 2 4 0 8 1 2 0 1 24
11 Nik Stauskas* 5-18 0-4 5-7 1 1 2 2 15 3 2 0 0 41
52 Jordan Morgan* 6-8 0-0 1-3 3 6 9 3 13 3 0 1 2 33
23 Caris LeVert* 4-12 2-5 4-4 3 4 7 1 14 4 1 0 1 41
02 Spike Albrecht 1-5 0-3 0-0 0 0 0 2 2 4 1 0 2 21
15 Jon Horford 0-1 0-0 0-0 1 1 2 3 0 0 0 1 0 11
21 Zak Irvin 2-4 2-4 2-3 0 1 1 1 8 1 0 0 0 15
Totals 27-65 6-23 17-25 14 23 37 14 77 19 7 2 6 205
Purdue 26-63 7-24 17-18 14 25 39 17 76 15 11 4 3 205
Full Stats

Sam’s 3 thoughts: Purdue

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014


Michigan-Purdue header2

After a thrilling victory over Michigan State on Sunday, the Michigan Wolverines can smell an outright Big Ten championship. Win out, and the conference crown is theirs. Lose any of the four remaining games, however, and Michigan’s quest for glory could get very interesting. Tonight, Michigan has the chance to put one more game in the rear view mirror and inch ever closer to their regular season goal with a game at Purdue (7 p.m. on Big Ten Network).

For most teams, this game would be a classic trap, considering the matchup with a team that has already been felled with relative ease coming right on the heels of a monster rivalry win, but Michigan has seemed somewhat immune to the trap game meme under Beilein the past few years. Here are my three keys for the Wolverines to get the job done in West Lafayette.

Focus, Focus, Focus: It’s hard to argue against Michigan as one of the best two or three teams in the Big Ten this season. It’s also hard to argue against Purdue as one of the two or three worst teams in the Big Ten. If both teams play up to their abilities this evening, the Maize and Blue should record their third conference series sweep to date after taking two from Michigan State and Nebraska, but ifs are never certain.

The Wolverines need to approach this matchup just as they would a big rivalry game or a conference-deciding game, because, quite simply, it is. At this point in the season, Purdue is playing for pride, but sometimes that’s even harder to get past than a team still in it. No Boilermaker wants to see the team lie down and get run over by the stronger Michigan squad, and if Michigan gets complacent, it could be the other way around. A focused Michigan team, on the other hand, should get the job done.

A.J. Hammons scored 16 against Michigan in the first meeting (John Underwood)

A.J. Hammons scored 16 against Michigan in the first meeting (John Underwood)

Clog the Paint: Purdue is one of the few teams in the league that can’t put some sort of stretch lineup on the floor, and with only three respectable shooters, Michigan needs to recognize the scouting report and pack it in. The Boilers’ starting guards, Ronnie and Terone Johnson, both make slightly better than 36 percent of their threes on the season — a great improvement from last year — but they take fewer than a quarter of their shots from downtown.

Kendall Stephens, another guard who started Purdue’s last game over Nebraska, is the third who is a threat from deep at 38.6 percent on the season, but he is a one-dimensional shooter (81 percent of his attempts are from outside the arc) who should be easy to slow down if Michigan pays attention to defensive assignments. Beyond those three, no regular makes better than 32 percent of his threes, and as a team the Boilermakers connect on just fewer than 34 percent of their treys (ninth in the Big Ten). They also attempt the second-fewest in the league.

In addition to this ineptitude, Purdue’s biggest threat to Michigan has to be sophomore big man A.J. Hammons. The 7’0″, 251-pounder was the only Purdue player who seemed to frighten Michigan at all the first time around in the Wolverines’ 75-66 win in Ann Arbor. He scored 16 points on 7-o-f-14 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds. While Hammons has had an up-and-down season, including three straight games with no more than eight points, seven rebounds, or seven shot attempts, he is capable of putting up big numbers like the 20 and 14 he had in a triple-overtime thriller over Minnesota or the 18 and 16 he put up against Ohio State in the conference opener.

Tonight, look for Michigan to throw a couple different defensive looks at Purdue like they did so effectively in the win over Michigan State on Sunday to help slow the behemoth down low.

Move the Ball Intelligently: We’ve seen this Michigan team have turnover issues here and there and we’ve also seen some games in which the offense has devolved into a Caris LeVert dribbling academy. In the first showdown with Purdue, it was more of the former, as the Wolverines carelessly turned the ball over 16 times, allowing for the Boilermakers to score 12 points off cough-ups and keep the game within fighting distance.

Before the win on Sunday, Michigan had recorded at least nine turnovers in nine straight games, but the minuscule three giveaways against the Spartans is a very hopeful sign moving forward. If Michigan is careful with the rock tonight and gets everyone involved offensively, it should be a very long night for the home team and another victory for the road warriors.

Prediction: One of the many things to love about this year’s Michigan team is that each player seems to sincerely mean it when he tells you that every game matters. Most teams are visually more or less involved in certain games depending on the opponent, relative importance of the game, or previous results, but Michigan plays in a way that the last game’s result is sometimes hard to recall. Tonight, I expect much of the same, as the Wolverines take a victory home from West Lafayette for the third straight season by an 80-69 margin.

Your Big Ten hoops rooting guide for the rest of the week

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014


Michigan’s win over Michigan State on Sunday put the Wolverines in sole possession of their Big Ten title destiny, and as Drew described in this morning’s Inside the Numbers post, Michigan now has a 93.9 percent chance of earning at least a share of the conference crown.

Less than two weeks remain in the regular season, and beginning tonight we will have a rooting interest in the three or four games that each of the remaining contenders have left. Of course, if Michigan takes care of business and wins all four of its games, what Michigan State, Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio State, and Nebraska do is irrelevant. However, since the Wolverines have split each of their last eight games we can’t count on that happening. So here’s the schedule for the next two weeks and who to root for and against.

Tuesday, Feb. 25

Iowa at Minnesota, 7 p.m., Big Ten Network

Iowa stands two-and-a-half games back of Michigan in the Big Ten hunt, so one more loss will virtually knock them out of the race. Of their five games remaining, three are away and this is probably the most winnable of the three. We might want some Iowa help next week, so let’s just go ahead and root for them to lose tonight and get knocked out of title contention.

Root for: Minnesota

Indiana at Wisconsin, 9 p.m., ESPN

It’s unlikely that Indiana can go into the Kohl Center and beat Wisconsin, especially with the way the Badgers have been playing lately, but with Wisconsin just two games back of Michigan our rooting interest is for the Hoosiers. One Wisconsin loss will essentially eliminate them from contention, so hope Indiana gets hot and puts Bo Ryan’s squad to rest.

Root for: Indiana

Wednesday, Feb. 26

Michigan at Purdue, 7 p.m., Big Ten Network

A Michigan win would guarantee the Wolverines a record of no worse than 12-6, which still isn’t good enough to clinch the Big Ten title just yet, but it would clear one of two remaining road hurdles out of the way.

Nebraska at Illinois, 9 p.m., Big Ten Network 

Nebraska is the least likely of Michigan’s five title challengers to catch the Wolverines at three games back, and one loss would do the trick. Nebraska’s only loss in its last eight games was at Michigan, and with a win at Michigan State included in that streak the Cornhuskers are making a major push at an NCAA Tournament bid. Nebraska recently moved into the Kenpom and RPI top 50, which helps Michigan’s tournament resume, so since the Huskers aren’t really going to give Michigan a scare for the Big Ten title — barring a monumental Michigan meltdown — let’s root for Nebraska to continue its run.

Root for: Nebraska

Thursday, Feb. 27

Ohio State at Penn State, 7 p.m., ESPN2

Like Nebraska, Ohio State is on a bit of a streak with the only blemish in its last seven games being a loss to Michigan. The loss before that: against Penn State. The Buckeyes will likely correct that on Thursday in State College, and if they do, they’ll remain two-and-a-half games behind Michigan (assuming the Wolverines beat Purdue on Wednesday) with two games left. Ohio State isn’t likely to catch Michigan, but like mentioned above with Iowa, Michigan might need the Buckeyes to beat Michigan State next week, so let’s just go ahead and root for OSU to be eliminated now.

Root for: Penn State

Iowa at Indiana, 9 p.m., ESPN

If Iowa gets past Minnesota on Tuesday night, they’ll still be in contention for a share of the title, so we should continue to root for a loss. This will be the likely loss remaining on the schedule aside from next week’s visit to East Lansing, and we might need the Hawkeyes to win that one.

Root for: Indiana

Saturday, March 1

Michigan State vs Illinois, 4 p.m., ESPN

Michigan State is obviously Michigan’s main challenger for the Big Ten title. As long as the Wolverines take care of Purdue on Wednesday, Michigan will hold a one-game lead over the Spartans with three to play. Any Michigan State loss is welcomed at this point in case Michigan suffers a misstep. This is the least likely loss among State’s remaining games, but we can still root for Illinois to pull off the stunner.

Root for: Illinois

Nebraska vs Northwestern, 5 p.m., ESPNU

As mentioned above, Nebraska winning helps Michigan’s tournament resume at this point as the Wolverines are currently have nine wins against teams in the RPI top 50, the second most in the nation behind Kansas. If Nebraska falls out of the top 50, that number drops to seven. It’s not going to make a huge difference come selection Sunday, but it could keep Michigan squarely in the three-seed range.

Root for: Nebraska

Michigan vs Minnesota, 6 p.m., Big Ten Network

Assuming Michigan beats Purdue on Sunday, a win over Minnesota here would assure the Wolverines of at least a 13-5 record, moving them one win away from clinching at least a share of the Big Ten title. It would also eliminate Ohio State and Nebraska from contention regardless of whether or not they keep winning.

Iowa vs Purdue, 8:15 p.m., Big Ten Network

If Iowa can get through the Minnesota and Indiana road tests on Tuesday and Thursday, the third game in five days will be a reprieve back in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. At this point, unless Michigan loses to Purdue or Minnesota, Iowa will have to win to have any hope of staying alive for a share of the title. But that would mean Michigan would have to lose both of its games next week.

Root for: Purdue

Sunday, March 2 

Wisconsin at Penn State, 12 p.m., Big Ten Network

Assuming Wisconsin beat Indiana at home on Tuesday, they’ll still be mathematically alive for a share of the title. Penn State has lost four of five (five of six if they lose to Ohio State on Thursday), so beating Wisconsin is unlikely, but that’s what we want to happen anyway.

Root for: Penn State

Ohio State at Indiana, 4 p.m., CBS

Ohio State’s second to last game of the regular season won’t matter if Michigan wins on Wednesday and Saturday, but if the Wolverines stumble Ohio State will still be alive for a share. Winning at Assembly Hall is never an easy proposition, so pull for the Hoosiers.

Root for: Indiana

Inside the Numbers: Go ahead and order the banner

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014


UM win over MSU 2-23-14(Tony Ding, AP)

The stakes were set when Michigan and Michigan State took the floor at the Crisler Center this past Sunday. The victor would inherit sole possession of first place in the Big Ten and have the inside track to become the Big Ten regular season champion. Never before had the Wolverines and the Spartans played each other under these circumstances with so few games left in the conference season. It arguably was the biggest game in the history of this heated intrastate rivalry.

You already know what happened. The Spartans caught fire and sprinted out to an 11-point lead in the first ten minutes. But the Wolverines fought back to within two points at halftime and used a 21-4 run in a seven-minute span in the second half to pull away. Michigan bested MSU, 79-70, sweeping the season series and beating the Spartans for the sixth time in their past eight meetings.

With Michigan sitting atop the Big Ten standings, many U-M fans have wondered, “How likely is it that the Wolverines win the Big Ten regular season championship?” I have the answer, and Michigan fans will love it.

The Wolverines currently are 11-3 in the Big Ten. With four games left, U-M can end with no worse than an 11-7 record. Only five other Big Ten schools can post such a record, meaning only six teams still are mathematically in the hunt for a conference title. They are Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio State, and Nebraska. Here are the conference standings as of yesterday:

Big Ten Standings as of February 24, 2014

Place

Team

Record

Games Behind

1

Michigan

11-3

-

2

Michigan State

11-4

0.5

3

Wisconsin

9-5

2

4

Iowa

8-5

2.5

5

Ohio State

9-6

2.5

6

Nebraska

8-6

3

Ken Pomeroy, a proponent of advanced statistics in college basketball, uses a complex algorithm that provides the odds teams have to win in each of their upcoming games. These percentages can be found on the team pages at his website, Kenpom.com. For example, here are the odds that Pomeroy gives Michigan to win in each of its final four games:

Michigan’s Odds to Win in Each of its Four Remaining Games per Ken Pomeroy

Date

Opponent

Site

Odds to Win

February 26

Purdue

Away

74%

March 1

Minnesota

Home

84%

March 4

Illinois

Away

66%

March 8

Indiana

Home

87%

With these percentages, I can calculate the likelihood that Michigan will finish with a certain conference record. I also can conduct the same analysis for the other teams in contention for a Big Ten championship. Therefore, using this analysis, I determined the likelihood that the Wolverines will win the Big Ten.

Projected records

Odds Michigan Finishes 15-3: 35.7 percent

Michigan controls its own destiny not only to win a Big Ten championship, but also to win it outright. U-M is the only Big Ten team with no more than three conference losses. Therefore, if the Wolverines win each of their four remaining games, they will be the sole Big Ten champion regardless of how the other contenders perform down the stretch.

The great news for Michigan is that it will be a significant favorite in each of its remaining contests. The Wolverines will have at least a 74 percent chance to win in three of their four remaining games. The only one with lower odds to be victorious is at last-place Illinois, but U-M still has a 66 percent chance to upend the Fighting Illini in Assembly Hall. Because these odds are so high, the Wolverines have a 35.7 percent chance to run the table. If they do so, they will have 15 conference wins for the first time since 1993 and their first outright Big Ten title since 1986.

Odds Michigan Finishes 14-4: 43.1 percent

Michigan does have room for error, though. A loss does not hurt U-M’s odds to win a Big Ten championship. No other team can earn a better Big Ten record than 14-4, so the Wolverines still are guaranteed to win at least a share of the Big Ten crown even if they drop one game. Therefore, because Michigan has a 35.7 percent chance to finish 15-3 and a 43.1 percent chance to finish 14-4, it has a 78.8 percent chance to win a share of the Big Ten title without any help.

(Scott Mapes, UMHoops)

Michigan has a 78.8 percent chance of at least a share of the Big Ten title with four games remaining (Scott Mapes, UMHoops)

Even if U-M loses one, it still is very likely to be the outright Big Ten champion. Only one other team can attain a 14-4 conference record: Michigan State. But, to do so, MSU will need to beat all three of its remaining opponents. Because the Spartans still must host Iowa and travel to Columbus to face the Buckeyes, the odds of doing so are low. In fact, Pomeroy gives MSU just a 15.9 percent chance to run the table and finish 14-4. Accordingly, the Wolverines still will be in great position to be the only Big Ten champion with a 14-4 record.

Odds Michigan Finishes 13-5: 17.9 percent

This is the territory where Michigan could see a Big Ten crown slip through its fingers. If U-M finishes the season with a 2-2 record, it opens the door for Michigan State to be the sole Big Ten champion. To do so, MSU would need to run the table and finish 14-4.

As aforementioned, those odds are slim. There is only a 3.4 percent chance that the Spartans finish 14-4 and the Wolverines finish 13-5 or worse. Further, Michigan has a 96.7 percent chance to finish with a 13-5 record or better. If U-M earns such a record, there is a 93.9 percent chance that U-M will be at least a co-champion.

However, if U-M settles for 13-5, it’s not likely to be the outright Big Ten champion. Three other teams can reach 13-5: Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Iowa. There is only a 19 percent chance that all three of them fail to have at least a 13-5 record. Accordingly, Michigan cannot expect to be the only Big Ten team to hang a banner in its home arena next season if it loses half of its upcoming games.

Odds Michigan Finishes 12-6: 3.1 percent

This would be an absolute collapse by the Wolverines. A 1-3 close to the conference season is very unlikely, but not completely out of the realm of possibility. Because Michigan is 10-2 against opponents ranked outside Pomeroy’s Top 50 this season and none of U-M’s final four foes are in the Pomeroy Top 50, no one expects U-M to win only once more in the regular season. But, if it does, the Wolverines can kiss away the crown. There is only a 0.6 percent chance that all four of Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Iowa finish with not better than 12-6 records. One of these three Big Ten foes will do better, leaving the Maize and Blue to wonder how it all fell apart.

Odds Michigan Finishes 11-7: 0.2 percent

Nope.

Takeaway

This is why Sunday’s game against the Spartans was arguably the biggest in the history of the rivalry. With the win, Michigan essentially has locked up at least a share of the Big Ten regular season championship. The Wolverines are guaranteed a share if they finish 15-3 or 14-4, which has a 78.8 percent chance of occurring. And there’s a 93.9 percent chance that they have at least a 13-5 record and grab a piece of the crown. Given Michigan’s remaining strength of schedule, only an utter collapse will send U-M home empty-handed.

Should Michigan begin to plan a banner ceremony for next season? Not yet only because nothing is guaranteed, especially in the Big Ten. But the Wolverines would probably not hurt themselves by getting a head start on the paperwork to order a “Big Ten Champions” banner for 2014.