After an exciting rivalry victory for the Hoosiers on Saturday, it's time to recalibrate conference power rankings:
14. Rutger (6-21, 0-14)
13. Minnesota (7-19, 1-13)
12. Illinois (12-15, 4-10)
11. Northwestern (17-10, 5-9)
10. Penn State (14-13, 5-9)
9. Nebraska (14-14, 6-9)
8. Michigan (19-9, 9-6)
7. Ohio State (18-10, 10-5)
6. Wisconsin (17-10, 9-5)
5. Purdue (21-7, 9-6)
4. Maryland (23-5, 11-4)
3. Iowa (20-6, 11-3)
2. Michigan State (22-5, 9-5)
1. Indiana (22-6, 12-3)
That's right - with two victories this week over Nebraska and Purdue, I'm putting Indiana atop the conference power rankings. The Hoosiers are currently the only team with 12 conference victories, and still control their own destiny for clinching a regular-season title. With only three games remaining, several scenarios are in play for the Hoosiers to gain that conference title, which would be Tom Crean's second in four years - and would tie Purdue for the most B1G titles ever with 22.
In fact, with two road wins and a little bit of help, the Hoosiers can even clinch the title before Yogi Ferrell, Max Bielfeldt, and Nick Zeisloft play their final games in Assembly Hall. Let's break down the scenarios, for each of which I calculated the likelihood of it happening, based on KenPom predicted outcomes.
Indiana can clinch an outright Big Ten title before the final game of the season IF:
- The Hoosiers win at Illinois
- Iowa loses to Wisconsin OR at Ohio State OR at Michigan
- Maryland loses at Purdue OR to Illinois
- The Hoosiers win at Iowa
Best chance of this scenario happening (according to KenPom): 5.6%. Four games separate Indiana from conference glory and making Senior Night against Maryland irrelevant. What a time to be alive.
This scenario would put Indiana at 14-3 in the B1G with only a game to play, and give every other team at least five losses - meaning that IU will have clinched the title. Now, this scenario is a longshot - Indiana has been mostly shaky on the road this year, other than running Michigan out of their own gym. However, Maryland losing in the tough road environment of Mackey is not out of the question, and maybe the Hawkeyes' loss at Penn State means they have another slipup ahead of them.
Even if the Terps and Hawkeyes can't indirectly help IU out, there is a chance Indiana can still tie for the title before the Maryland game.
Indiana can clinch a share of the Big Ten title before the final game of the season IF:
- The Hoosiers win at both Illinois and Iowa
Chance of this scenario happening (according to KenPom): 19.7%. That's it. Just two wins - regardless of what anyone else does - and IU has 14 conference wins and at least a share of the B1G locked up going into Maryland, as both the Terps and Hawkeyes would have four losses. This leads to the hilarious possibility of Tom Crean once again cutting down the nets after a Senior Night loss.
More than likely, however, the final game against Maryland will have an effect on the conference title. And as mentioned earlier, the Hoosiers control their own destiny.
Indiana can clinch an outright Big Ten title IF:
- The Hoosiers win all three games
Chance of this scenario happening (according to KenPom): 13%. Just win, baby. Regardless of what any other team does in this scenario, the Hoosiers finish the regular season 15-3 and alone atop the B1G standings. No question that other B1G teams will complain about the easy schedule if this is indeed the case, but IU will still have beaten the two other top teams in the conference in the final week of the season. In addition, they'll have won all their home games and two-thirds of the road games, which is a lofty performance regardless of schedule. Yet opponents will claim that the title banner needs an asterisk or something, because they'll be #MADABOUTINDIANA.
Now, if the Hoosiers lose a game along the way, they can still clinch the B1G title outright, but they'll need some help.The scenarios for IU to win a title despite a loss to Maryland have been laid out above this already, so let's look at Indiana's next game - what if IU trips up in Champbana, and the State Farm Center haunts the Hoosiers the way it did for Purdue back in January?
Indiana can clinch an outright B1G title with a loss to Illinois IF:
- The Hoosiers turn around and beat both Iowa and Maryland
- Iowa loses to Wisconsin OR at Ohio State OR at Michigan
Best chance of this scenario happening (according to KenPom): 2%. The most hilarious path to a B1G title, in my opinion, would be if IU won 4 of their last 5 games but lost to Illinois and still held off the competition. After Saturday's emotional victory plus a long layoff, Indiana should be a little worried about this being a trap game, especially since Illinois will just be playing for pride at this point. They'd need a little more help from the Hawkeyes in this case, but an outright title is still defeinitely possible. Even if Iowa wins all of their remaining games except against IU, this would still cause a split for the B1G, as both Indiana and Iowa would end up 14-4 here.
Indiana can clinch an outright B1G title with a loss to Iowa IF:
- The Hoosiers win at Illinois and vs. Maryland
- Iowa loses two of the three: vs. Wisconsin, at Ohio State, at Michigan
Best chance of this scenario happening (according to KenPom): 7.3%. In this scenario, the Hoosiers would need a lot of luck, especially since the Hawkeyes have only dropped three B1G games yet this season. That being said, the scenario still technically has a better possibility than with IU dropping the Illinois game, and the Hoosiers would still tie Iowa for the conference title if the Hawkeyes lose one of those three.
Let's also take a look at each contender to win the conference title. For these teams, I've made up odds based on how much of a chance I think each has to win. Unlike the KenPom calculations these odds are purely unscientific.
Remaining schedule: vs. Wisconsin, at Ohio State, vs. Indiana, at Michigan
Odds of winning B1G title: 35%. Despite losing two of their last three games, and having four games left to play instead of three, I give the Hawkeyes the edge over the Hoosiers right now because Iowa gets to play Indiana at Carver-Hawkeye. KenPom projects all four remaining games on the schedule to be wins, but four games in 11 days against above-.500 conference opponents will be no easy task.
Remaining schedule: at Illinois, at Iowa, vs. Maryland
Odds of winning B1G title: 30%. The severity of Robert Johnson's injury is unknown, but at the moment, IU says he will be a gametime decision for Thursday night at Illinois. Even if Johnson is good to go, he may not be at full strength, and his absence or limitation would result in an even thinner backcourt for the Hoosiers the rest of the way.
The Outside Contenders
Remaining schedule: at Purdue, vs. Illinois, at Indiana
Odds of winning B1G title: 18%. The Terps didn't play in the Barn last year, so last Thursday was their first B1G game at Minnesota, and despite coming in winless in the conference, Minnesota stuck with Maryland and pulled off the upset. This loss was incredibly damaging for Maryland's conference title hopes, as they now have to head into two of the toughest places to play in the B1G in Mackey Arena and Assembly Hall to end the year.
Michigan State (9-5)
Remaining schedule: at Ohio State, vs. Penn State, at Rutger, vs. Ohio State
Odds of winning B1G title: 12%. With that remaining schedule, who's to say that Sparty can't back its way into a conference title if the top three teams trip up? I'm not counting Tournament Tom out and neither should you.
Odds of winning B1G title: 5%. So much would have to go right in order for Wisconsin or Ohio State to clinch even a share of the Big Ten title. I'm not saying I can rule it out, and stranger things have happened; however, everything would have to go their way.
Finally, there's one other possibility I'd like to bring attention to:
B1G doomsday scenario: Seven-way tie for 12-6
- Indiana loses all three remaining games
- Iowa only defeats Indiana
- Maryland also only defeats Indiana
- MSU and OSU split their two games then both win out
- Michigan wins out
- Wisconsin and Purdue meet in Mackey on their final game of the season with dueling 11-6 records to determine the seventh and final B1G co-champion for 2016