I was a little late getting this posted this week, and didn't want to interfere with the game thread. So, the standings don't include the just-now-ended thrilling victory over MSU by your beloved Hoosiers, but I did take a stab at predicting each conference teams' postseason prospects - below the jump:
1. MSU (13-3) W v. Nebraska, W @ Minnesota
The Spartans won a share of the title the day after they beat down Nebraska, when Michigan and OSU suffered home losses. That tough gut-it-out road win at Minnesota looks pretty important as the Spartans now face two pretty tough games, one tonight in Assembly Hall and then hosting a Buckeye team who’s got to be looking for revenge, if not a share of the conference title.
Predicted Postseason finish: IF they keep playing this consistently (*ahem* tonight excluded), a Final Four finish seems very likely.
2. Ohio State (11-5) L v. Wisconsin, W v. Illinois
I won’t boost UW up above OSU despite the nice win, as they lost in the Kohl center just a couple of weeks to the Buckeyes by six. However, despite the Buckeyes’ great talent and numbers, they’ve lost too many close games, and now they are longshots for the regular-season Big Ten title. Furthermore, they go into Welsh-Ryan arena, where they won by a mere free-throw last season, to play a Wildcats team thisclose to breaking into the NCAA tourney for the first time ever, and then go on the road to face a Michigan State team looking to wrap up an unshared regular season conference title. Honestly, Buckeye fans might want to be happy with a road split at this time, just so their team doesn’t lose too much confidence going into postseason play.
Predicted Postseason finish: I still think NCAA tournament title game. A lot of teams almost beat the Buckeyes last year, and now the dice are just falling the other way. This is a national title contender, but familiarity breeds contempt, and a lot of Big Ten coaches are familiar with OSU’s talent.
3. Wisconsin (10-6) L @ Iowa, W @ OSU
Wisconsin got a big-time victory by spoiling William Buford’s senior night. The reason I’m putting the Badgers above Michigan is largely one of schedule: home v. Illinois, home v. Minnesota is about as easy as it gets.
Predicted Postseason finish: Round of 32. Just not enough firepower here if the threes aren’t falling. A recovering defense should take them past the first round, but that’s as far as I see the Badgers going this season.
4. Michigan (11-5) L v. Purdue, W @ NU (OT)
Even though the remaining schedule is soft, I’m guessing the Wolverines drop one of their final two road games (@Illinios, @PSU). This Wolverines squad has gotten results, but hadn’t won two games in a row before the now-dormant four-game winning streak.
Predicted Postseason finish: NCAA tourney Sweet Sixteen
5. Indiana (9-7) W v. NC Central, W @ Minnesota
The Hoosiers appear to possibly getting their act together just in time for two important home games (v. MSU, v. Purdue). Indiana has played well at home, but perhaps the MSU game is coming too soon on the heels on a nice little road blowout in Minnesota for the Hoosiers to be adequately prepared. I hope not, I’d love to see the Hoosiers add another top 5 upset to their resume, and close out the season with a couple of feel-good home wins.
Predicted Postseason finish: NCAA tourney second round. The Hoosiers have a great shot at the Sweet 16. But. These guys have not been here before, and will have some adjustments to make to postseason play. I think the rankings are essentially correct - IU could finish as one of the top 16 teams season, but should really be looking just to gain some experience and build momentum for next year.
6. Purdue (9-7) W @ Michigan, W v. Nebraska
The Boilers are one of the hottest teams in the conference at the moment, and the only reason I’ve not boosted them higher is their home losses to the teams immediately above them. They’ve got a golden opportunity to move into the top five in the standings finishing up with a home game against PSU before visiting Indiana.
Predicted Postseason finish: NCAA tourney second round. I like the toughness of the seniors, and the new fire that the Boilers have discovered as a whole. That said, when you start playing a lot of other good teams, it will be hard for Byrd & Hummel to shut down the paint by themselves. Getting past the first weekend is going to be hard.
7. Northwestern (7-9) L v. Michigan (OT), W @ PSU
I think NU notches one of the last two games, probably at home v. OSU, before bowing narrowly at Iowa but they do squeak into the NCAA's for the first time ever. Then, John Shurna leaves and it's back to the dark ages.
Predicted Postseason finish: NCAA first four... and out.
8. Iowa (7-9) W v. Wisconsin, L @ Illinois
Iowa alleviated my personal disappointment in the Hoosiers by making Wisconsin look bad in Carver-Hawkeye arena, too, and notched a rare sweep of Wisconsin to boot. However, they went out on the road and lost to an Illini squad that had been everyone’s get-well game. If they can recover, they’ve got two winnable games (@Neb, v. Northwestern) where they can actually finish conference matches at .500! Unbelievable, especially when this club started Big Ten play looking like they just could be the worst team of the 12.
Predicted Postseason finish: NIT final four, they're dangerous now. But talk of NCAA bids is just silly.
9. Illinois (6-10) L W v. Iowa, L @ OSU
So the Illini snagged a win at home over the Hawkeyes after a loss at not-terrible Ohio State. They’ll probably end the season with a pair of losses(v. Mich, at Wisconsin) to wind up at 6-12, which is where I pegged them at the start of the season. They’re up a little due to merely notching a win, but they’re still in contention (for last place in the conference)
Predicted Postseason finish: NIT first round. It's Indiana 2005 all over again.
10. Minnesota (5-11) L v. MSU, L v. Indiana
The Gophers supplant the Illini as the current team that’s "given up." And I frankly don’t like their chances at Wisky. But they’ve got an excellent chance to at least close out at the season with a win when they host Nebraska. Tubby should have another year, as they did bounce back well from a catastrophic injury, but I don't know the path to success here, long-term.
Predicted Postseason finish: NIT second round, there’s some young talent here, and these guys are dangerous when motivated. But, y'know, when motivated.
11. Nebraska (4-12) L @ Purdue, L @ MSU
Noone should fault the Huskers for losing at Purdue and Michigan State, but they weren’t exactly competitive in either loss. They close with a couple of great chances to build some momentum going into next year, tho,hosting Iowa, and traveling to play a seemingly broken Minnesota squad.
Predicted Postseason finish: None. Evidently there’s some pressure to get rid of Doc Sadler and bring somebody new in. I would think that’s premature - who’s going to go to Nebraska and starting winning basketball championships?
12. Penn State (4-12) L v. Northwestern
I hate to relegate a team that clearly hasn’t quit to last place, but they couldn’t pull out a nice home upset over NU in the closing minutes (up a point in the last minute, and with the ball) as John Shurna just would not let the Wildcats lose. Unfortunately, with games @ Purdue, and hosting Michigan, it may be hard to squeak out one more win.
Predicted Postseason finish: None. Pat Chambers absorbs the losses and begins a long, slow rebuilding job.