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Picking the Final Big Ten Basketball Standings

This is a quick stab at guessing how the conference-only standings will end up. I'm just throwing it out there for conversation, this isn’t really a weekly power-poll, but I rolled into together last season and didn’t want to leave it out this season.

Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

I looked over the conference one-plays pretty extensively and tried to figure out who had the breaks (Iowa, Wisconsin) and who didn’t (Ohio State), and tried to weigh that against the computer rankings (latest Ken Pomeroy, Sagarin, and RPI numbers included). Although I don't try to predict every conference game here, I attempt to be thorough in thinking through what it meant if Iowa won almost all of their home games, and how that might lower other teams' standing, etc. Essentially, I did try to make sure the numbers added up, but otherwise this is as "gut-prediction" as I get.

1. Indiana 15-3 (#1 KenPom/#9 Sagarin/Statsheet RPI #22)

It’s interesting to see how IU’s strength of schedule is hurting its computer profile, and you can also see that the Hoosiers are helped quite a bit by their margin of victory in Sagarin’s ratings, and how they look even better when Pomeroy accounts for per-possession pace. Between injuries and whatever is going on with the NCAA’s apparent mission to inconvenience IU basketball, it’ll be a wonder if Indiana ever is able to play at full strength. Half of my brain really wants to pick Indiana for 14-4, as it thinks they'll suffer at least one "upset" more than they should, but the other half says to have confidence that this really is the best team in the conference.

Highest probability for a loss: @Michigan, @Michigan State, @Ohio State, @Minnesota, @ Purdue, v. Michigan, @Illinois, @Wisconsin

2. Michigan 14-4 (#7 /#4 / #3)

There’s really no doubt that Michigan is a Final Four and national championship contender at this point. It’s possible that the Wolverines cool off considerably going into B1G games, but given that they’ve been playing pretty solid defense, a downturn looks doubtful. I’m pretty sure they’ll lose at least three conference games, but I can’t really see them losing more than five at this point.

Highest probability for a loss: @Indiana, @Michigan State, @Ohio State, @ Minnesota, v. Indiana, @Northwestern, @Illinois, @Wisconsin

3. Michigan State 12-6 (#18 /#27 /#26)

It’s true, I like the Spartans better than the computers do. The computers don’t take into account the injuries to Trice and Harris, who appear to be getting back to full strength. I’d be a lot more confident in this prediction if I hadn’t just learned that reserve wing Brandan Kearney is transferring immediately before conference play starts. It won’t hurt Izzo’s club terribly, except that the other bench wing options have not performed well at all so far (Russell Byrd).

Highest probability for a loss: @Michigan, @Indiana, @OSU, @Wis., @Minn., @Iowa, v. Indiana, v. Michigan,

t-4. Ohio State 11-7 (#9 /#15 /#38)

OSU has one of the tougher schedules, playing Purdue, Penn State, Iowa and Minny all only once. Not travelling to Minny is really the only break. Failing to defend their homecourt against Kansas may as well have just throwing blood into the sharktank right before the conference games begin. They’re also similar to Indiana, in that a weaker schedule is dragging down their RPI and computer profiles quite a bit.

Highest probability for a loss: @Indiana, @Michigan, @MSU, @Illinois, @Wisconsin, v. Indiana, v. Michigan, @Iowa, @Purdue

t-4. Minnesota 11-7 (#11 /# 7/ #12)

I was a bit surprised to discover that I don’t actually think that much of Minnesota when it comes to head to head match-ups in the Big Ten. Their computer rankings match, or are actually better their poll standings, but I’m still skeptical of their ability to defend their homecourt against so many good teams. However, their single home game with Michigan may end up being pretty important in the Big Ten race. If Minnesota can knock them off there, that would really help IU.

Highest probability for a loss: @Indiana, @Michigan State, @Wisconsin, @Illinois, @Iowa, v. Indiana, v. Michigan, @Purdue, v. Michigan State, v. Ohio State

6. Wisconsin 10-8 (#16 /#61 / #149)

The Badgers get a big break only facing Indiana and Michigan once apiece, and face Purdue only at home (and the final single-play is a trip to Northwestern). I know the computers always like Wisky (except the RPI so far... wow!), but if these Badgers can lose to Virginia at home, they can totally post a losing record in-conference. Nonetheless, I’ve got to believe that Bo Ryan will have them rallied and ready for conference play.

Highest probability for a loss: @Indiana, @MSU, @OSU, @Minn, @Ill, v. Mich., @Iowa, @Northwestern, v. MSU, v. OSU

t-7. Illinois 9-9 (#34 /#24 /#8)

Groce’s good job in the preconference is the only reason that I’m even predicting a .500 record for this team. I can easily see the Illini finishing 8th (or worse) in the final standings. I do not think the road will be kind to a team that has trouble on the boards and devotes 44% of their shots to three-point attempts. They have posted an incredible RPI so far, but I think a lot of the Illini’s worst showings have actually been in their narrow home wins (a two-point victory in Chicago against a sub .500 Auburn team is just the latest example), and RPI doesn’t account for that.

Highest probability for a loss: @Mich, @MSU, @OSU, @Minn, v. Mich., v. IU, @Wis, L@Iowa, L@Pur.,L v. Minn.

t-7. Iowa 9-9 (#44 /#39 /#76)

Here are the conference teams that Hawkeyes play just once: Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Illinois. You’ll notice all of those teams are ranked, and this means that Iowa can get to .500 pretty easily, and here’s how. They can pull off just one victory against these teams (and I’m looking at the home game against Illinois), engineer splits against Wisconsin and Minnesota, and don’t lose any more than two games versus the bottom third of the conference. That’s it. Heck, if they upset the Hoosiers on Monday and go on to win in Mackey and Welsh-Ryan arenas, Iowa could be looking at a top-four finish. The problem is, they’ve not been all that good so far, so I’m guessing they’ll find a way to lose a few winnable games (especially with three freshmen starters).

Highest probability for a loss: @Indiana, @Michigan, @Ohio State, @Minnesota, Indiana, Michigan State, @Wisconsin, @Northwestern, @Purdue, Illinois

9. Purdue 6-12 (#69 / #138 / #172)

At least the Boilers don’t have to travel to Minnesota or Ohio State, but I’m not super-confident of them winning those games at home either. I can visualize Painter squeezing out a .500 conference record, but it just would require so very many things going right for a team that has simply failed to show the ability to make shots. The bad here is that non-KenPom computer rankings are truly horrible, and their signature win at Clemson is looking like a classic fluke (the Tigers are without their starting center, and DJ Byrd goes unconscious shooting threes). Maybe this just shows how little I think of Northwestern, Penn State, and Nebraska.

Highest probability for a win: v. Penn State, v. Northwestern, Iowa, @Nebraska, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, @Penn State, @ Northwestern

10. Northwestern 5-13 (#81 /#79 /#109)

Jerry Palm just ran his bracket numbers and put the Wildcats as the first team out of the field of 68. I don’t see how they’ll even come within a whiff of the tourney now that Crawford is out for the year and Hearn has to make his way back from injury. The best I can say to Wildcat fans is to pin your hopes on the home game against Michigan next Thursday. If Carmody can catch the Wolverines napping with this current roster, we can start talking about a postseason again.

Highest probability for a win: v. Penn State, v. Purdue, v. Iowa, @Nebraska, v. Wisconsin, v. Michigan, v. Illinois

11. Penn State 4-14 (#163 /#185 /#135 )

The Nittany Lions are the only other team besides Iowa that who has all four conference "one-plays" against ranked teams (Minn, @Ill, v. OSU, v. MSU). It's hard to hold it against them, though, as Coach Chambers can use the break. The rebuilding plans are on hold for another year at least. I think that their statistical profile is probably a little inflated by the first three games with Tim Frazier, but it matters little now. Their task is to not finish last in the conference. Still, four or five wins is really the tops here.

Highest probability for a win: v. Nebraska, v. Northwestern, v. Purdue, v. Iowa, v. Wisconsin

12. Nebraska 2-16 (#201 /#147/#61)

So, now that most of the per-conference information is in, my opinion of the Cornhuskers is now very low. They’ll get a win or three (especially given the injuries that Northwestern and Penn State have suffered), and Coach Miles seems like he’ll do a good job eventually in Lincoln. And that’s about all the good things I have to say for the moment.

Highest probability for a win: v. PSU, v. Northwestern, v. Purdue, v. Iowa, v. Illinois, v. Wisconsin