The Hoosiers are currently sitting 7th in the conference standings going into the final week of the season. But thanks to some numbers crunching and a lot of hard work by a contributor at The Only Colors, we know that Hoosiers can still finish as high as 4th in the conference and get a first round Big Ten Tournament bye. It's an unlikely road, but the following has to happen for that to occur.
First off, the most obvious one. The Hoosiers MUST win their final two games. That means beating the bubbly Nebraska squad in Bloomington and knocking off the Big Ten regular season champions on the road. Neither of which is an easy task, but without both of those wins the Hoosiers can't finish any higher than 7th. First and foremost the Hoosiers must take care of their own business before they worry about what anyone else is doing. So let's assume those two wins. That is currently about a 10% chance of that happening.
Beyond that there are a few things that we must root for and then there's some choices to be made. Luckily at no time through the next week do we have to root for Purdue. It does not matter whether they beat Wisconsin and Northwestern or not. The only interest you might have is what you think would motivate Wisconsin the most. The Badgers game against Purdue means nothing to us, however, we do need them to beat Nebraska on Sunday. So pick your story line, does a Purdue victory on the road against Wisconsin fire them up to beat Nebraska or does it not really matter? Can Wisconsin find the motivation to get their Ws given the context of them still fighting for a high seeding? Either way, they just have to make sure they win at Nebraska. It's a must. Right now Pomeroy gives them a 63% shot at winning there.
Next, we have to be the biggest Michigan State homers south of East Lansing that the world has ever seen. The Spartans still have games at home against Iowa and then on the road against Ohio State. No easy task for a team that hasn't won two games in a row in months. But they're still Michigan State and even in loses they haven't looked that far away from putting together a strong run. They have a 61% chance against a floundering Iowa and a 31% chance on the road against a recently iffy Ohio State. Combined that's a 19% chance of occurrence.
To lump in the Michigan State homerism, Iowa needs to continue to have a garbage defense. Illinois has to beat the Hawkeyes on the road to complete the improbable storm into 4th place of the Hoosiers. Outside of Wisconsin and Michigan, Illinois is probably the hottest team in the league. They have to host Michigan tonight, but after that they have 3 days to prep for an Iowa squad while Iowa has only a day to game plan to host the Illini. Illinois' chances are still low (16%) but that removes some very strong contextual evidence that suggests that the odds may not actually be that low.
But there you have. A 4th seed boiled down into one small set of instructions. Iowa lose out, Indiana, Michigan State and Wisconsin win out. That's all it takes. The two and three teams in the league need to just win, the Hoosiers need to take care of business and Iowa needs to continue their free fall. If we're using computer projections the chances of that all happening are pretty low, but a man can dream. If we're using Pomeroy's algorithms then the chances of all of this occurring is .2%. Yes, there is a decimal there. That is point two percent. But as Llyod always says, you're saying there's a chance.
Much more probable is that Indiana beats Nebraska and finishes 7th or 8th. But we'll address those odds if/when one of the above squads drops their end of our bargain. Until them, I'm going to keep on dreaming of a first round Big Ten Tournament bye.
**Once again, credit to The Only Colors