Following Tom Crean's latest petulant child act amidst a 78-46 whipping at the hands of Wisconsin, we're honestly not a lot closer to having the potential seeds in the Big Ten Tournament any more sorted out than we were before. This weekend's games will help bring the picture into focus, but we still likely won't know definitively who gets whom for another two weeks. None the less, let's try and paint a picture of the scenarios that could still play out and help determine not only the Big Ten regular season champ, but also could lay the ground work for who comes out the conference tournament champion as well.
Essentially the quest for the one seed at this point has become a three horse race. Purdue (12-3), Ohio State (12-4), and Michigan State (11-4) remain the lone competitors for the honors of the '09/'10 conference regular season title and the top billing in Indianapolis. Let's take a look at what they have left:
Purdue: Michigan State (Sun. 2/28), Indiana (Wed. 3/03), @ Penn State (Sat. 3/06)
Ohio State: Michigan (Sat. 2/27), Illinois (Tue. 3/02)
Michigan State: @ Purdue (Sun. 2/28), Penn State (Thur. 3/04), Michigan (Sun. 3/07)
So what has to transpire to have this shake out for each of the clubs? (the league's tie-break procedures can be combed over here)
Purdue claims the 1 seed if: They win out OR they beat Michigan State, only lose one of their two remaining, AND Ohio State loses at least one of two.
Sitting at 12-4, Purdue has a game to spare on the two next closest challengers. Losing any of their final three contests, however, opens up the door for a potential 3-way tie between Ohio State and Michigan State or a scenario where records against Sparty (or a combination of Sparty, Wisconsin, and Illinois) enters in and tend to favor on the side of Ohio State. Assuming they win out in spite of the monumental loss of Robbie Hummel for the season (who dropped 32 on the Bucks earlier in the year where as his likely replacement Patrick Bade has 42 on the year), Purdue controls their own destiny at this point in the process.
Ohio State claims the 1 seed if: They win out AND Purdue loses a game.
The Bucks' math is surprisingly more simple than it may seem at face value. Because of the large likelihood of a 3-way tie or a scenario where the next team they're compared head-to-head against is Sparty (or a combination of Sparty/Wisconsin/Illinois assuming Ohio State handles their business next Tuesday evening), whom the Buckeyes have a covetous 1-0 (or net +1 win advantage in a 3-team cumulative win comparison scenario) record to their names, the Bucks find themselves in prime position for a conference title so long as Purdue drops one of their remaining three. If Ohio State is upset a second time by Michigan or slips up in their home finale against Illinois (The Villain's probably final home game in the Scarlet & Grey), they'd essentially need two losses from the Boilermakers to come out on top. Confused yet? So basically invest all your emotions into rooting for the Bucks (a real stretch, I know) and against Purdue and the team should be set.
Michigan State claims the 1 seed if: They win out AND Purdue collapses AND Ohio State drops at least one of two.
Tom Izzo's crew's bleak championship hopes (largely due to that 0-1 differential vs the Bucks) means they have to handle their business and hope for a little help. If the Boilermakers drop a pair and Ohio State can't close the deal against the Illini, Sparty's window of opportunity will be wide open. Consequently, the Spartans' margin of error is non-existent. A single loss to any of their final three opponents, and their 1-seed/regular season title aspirations are done-zo.
As for the rest of the seeds?
There are essentially 4 distinct "pods" of teams which should play their way out to make up the Big Ten tournament's field. The aforementioned #1 seed contenders, the contenders for the final first round byes (Wisconsin/Illinois), those in the mix for the #6 seed (Minnesota/Northwestern/Michigan) and the rest of what's around (Iowa/Indiana/Penn State). Assuming the "favorites" in each remaining game play out victoriously (admittedly a rather presumptuous jump to conclusions), essentially the sort of final standings/seedings we'd be looking at should resemble something like this:
|Projected Final 2009-10 Big Ten Standings|
|1. Ohio State||14-4||-||24-7|
|3. Michigan State||14-4||-||24-7|
|11. Penn State||2-16||12||10-20|
Minnesota would win the 6-seed tie-breaker by virtue of their win over Wisconsin. And really, who can't wait for the 9th seed de-facto "championship game" that will be Sunday's Indiana-Iowa game?
Ohio State would draw the winner of the 8/9 game between Michigan and Indiana, Wisconsin and Illinois would meet with the winner drawing the Ohio State/ UM/IU winner, Purdue would see the winners of Northwestern and Iowa, and Michigan State would take on the prevailing side between Minnesota and Penn State.
We wrap up this week by tipping our hat to the Lady Buckeyes, who've long since already wrapped up their own respective one seed and an absurd sixth consecutive regular season title. To our commenter requesting more coverage of the non-money sports, your day has finally come. It may never happen again, so cherish this moment proudly. The ladies (and you alike) have earned it. For the rest of you, we pay homage by showing you the one dynamic element of the women's game you've been missing out on, and in turn leave your heads dreaming of a potential Villain/Prahalis master race, reared and ready just in time for a potential 2031/'32 national title run: