The last week of February has been a microcosm of this Big Ten basketball season. For everyone unexplainable loss, there's been another team just sitting, waiting to up the ante. Tuesday night gave us an unexpected Maryland home win over against the conference's overlords in Wisconsin. Indiana decided not to score points in the second half in Evanston Wednesday night, and then a classic SPARTY NOOOO occurred last night in East Lansing.
What does it all mean?
Probably nothing. The Big Ten is right back where it's been all season -- with a pack of hot-and-cold teams bunched in the middle of the conference that no one can quite figure out. With just over a week left in the season, let's take a look at the scenarios that each team needs to gain that valuable double-bye in Chicago.
THE DOUBLE-BYE SCENARIOS
1. Wisconsin (25-3, 13-2)
Remaining Schedule: MSU, at Minn, at OSU
It goes without saying that it would take a monumental collapse from the Badgers to bring the top tournament seed and regular season title into play for anyone else. Maryland and Purdue are a full two games back with three games remaining each. It's a simple equation for the Badgers -- take care of business at home against Izzo's club on Sunday and on the road in the Barn and lock up the conference outright before the final weekend without any other help.
2. Maryland (23-5, 11-4)
Remaining: Mich, at Rutgers, at Nebraska
Of the teams at the top of the conference, the Terrapins have the easiest road in. They'll get a shorthanded but pesky Michigan team at home before road trips to take on hapless Rutgers and recently-hapless Nebraska. Coming off that big home win over Wisconsin, there's no reason to think the Terps won't run the table the rest of the way and be waiting at the top should the Badgers stumble against both Michigan State and Ohio State.
3. Purdue (19-9, 11-4)
Remaining: at MSU, at OSU, Illinois
aaaaaand here's where the mess begins. The next four or five seed lines will hinge hugely on those Wisconsin matchups against Michigan State & Ohio State respectively. If the Badgers hold serve in those two games AND Michigan State falls on the road at Indiana next weekend, the Boilers would only need to win one more game the rest of the way to lock up the three seed. A pair of road wins would certainly help Matt Painter's tournament profile -- but in all likelihood they won't be needed to garner a bye in Chicago unless a few upsets occur down the stretch.
4. Michigan State (19-9, 10-5)
Remaining: at Wisconsin, Purdue, at Indiana
This is where things just get downright weird. Sparty needed that win last night at home -- because the stretch home is a gauntlet. The Spartans can win out and play themselves into the three seed -- or lose out and fall as low as eighth. Both paths are conceivable. They'll be the wild card that will determine so much of how these seeds fall out. For this scenario, let's follow the KenPom odds and remember that it's hard to win on the road in the Big Ten. Beat Purdue, lose to Wisconsin & Indiana. As long as the Hoosiers knock off Iowa at home on Tuesday and Ohio State loses to either Wisconsin OR Purdue, Michigan State would win a FOUR WAY TIEBREAKER with Indiana, Iowa, and Ohio State at 11-7 based on their winning percentage (.750) in match-ups between the four teams.
5. Indiana (19-10, 9-7)
Remaining: Iowa, MSU
Wait, WHAT? Yes, after al that twitter-pitchforking on Wednesday evening, Indiana still has a very realistic shot at a bye in Chicago in two weeks. They've got the easiest run in -- with only two games at home remaining. Pick up those two wins, and then Tom Crean and staff can get out the calculators to start working on tiebreaker scenarios. But here's the real kicker: to have any real shot at the bye, Indiana needs Purdue has to beat Michigan State on the road next week. Yeah, how'd that sound coming out of your mouth? In that scenario, the Hoosiers would likely be in a fourth place tie with Iowa and possibly Ohio State (assuming a Buckeye loss to Wisconsin and win over Purdue). Iowa and Indiana would share a 2-1 record in matchups between the three teams, so it would require those two to go to another tiebreak -- where the Hoosiers would prevail based on their series split with Maryland. Don't ask me to explain why that's the criteria over head-to-head. I don't know. Got all that?
TL;DR: Indiana wins both at home -- they're likely no worse than a 5. If Michigan State loses to Wisconsin and Purdue, they'll get the four.
Ok, moving on.
6. Iowa (18-10, 9-6)
Remaining: at Penn State, at Indiana, Northwestern
The Hawkeyes have a pretty favorable schedule coming in as well, and if they can run the table and pick up that road win in Assembly Hall -- they'll land at the four if Michigan State falls at Indiana and Wisconsin and Ohio State also loses to the Badgers. If they fall to the Hoosiers, the above explained tiebreaking scenarios will play out -- where the loss to Indiana won't matter, but the loss to Maryland will.
7. Ohio State (20-8, 9-6)
Remaining: Purdue, at Penn State, Wisconsin
Thad Matta's club has two factors working against them in the last week of the regular season -- unfavorable tiebreaking scenarios and Wisconsin on the schedule. If the Buckeyes win out, they'll have a chance to finish as high as third in the conference -- but that'll require a minimum of two losses each for Purdue and Michigan State in the last three. However, one loss to either Purdue or Wisconsin will send Ohio State spiraling toward the 11-7 DOOMSDAY SCENARIO. They'll finish in last in any multiple team tie involving Michigan State, Indiana, and Iowa thanks to their 1-4 record against those three programs -- and likely bringing up the back of the pack.