Minnesota is on fire.
As Marcus Fuller of the STrib has noted, the Gophers are one of the hottest teams in college basketball right now. They have the second longest active win streak among major conference teams (tied with Purdue and behind Florida, who has nine). This win streak has not only catapulted the Gophers from the NCAA Tournament bubble into the “lock” category, it has also set them up for some interesting and exciting Big Ten Tournament scenarios.
Let’s recap how the B1G Tourney works. The bottom four seeds play each other on Wed 3/8 in what amounts to a play in round. The #10 through #5 seeds receive a single bye and don’t play until Thurs 3/9. And the top 4 seeds receive a double bye and don’t have to play until Fri 3/10.
If the tournament were held today, Minnesota would have the #4 seed. But where are they likely to end up and what are some of the other possible scenarios they could see? To start, let’s look at the current B1G standings.
B1G Standings After 11/22
Michigan State: 8-6
Penn State: 6-9
Ohio State: 5-10
As you can see, the Gophers are well positioned thanks to their win over Maryland. They currently own the head to head tiebreaker over Northwestern and their season split with Maryland means they own the H2H tiebreaker thanks to their record against the top conference team (Purdue). They would lose any H2H tiebreak scenario against MSU because of the season sweep, but as we’ll see a scenario where MN and MSU end the season tied is less likely. A number three seed isn’t out of the question for the Gophers and maintaining their hold on the #4 seed is looking more and more likely.
Likely end of season records
To help game out the most likely final standings, I’m assigning wins and losses for the remaining schedule of the Top 6 B1G teams based on the KenPom prediction for each remaining game.
@ Michigan: Win
@ Northwestern: Win
Projected B1G Record: 15-3
@ Ohio State: Win
@ Michigan State: Win
Projected B1G Record: 15-3
@ Rutgers: Win
Michigan State: Win
Projected B1G Record: 13-5
Penn State: Win
@ Wisconsin: Loss
Projected B1G Record: 11-7
@ Indiana: Loss
Projected B1G Record: 10-8
The most likely scenario according to KenPom is exactly what we see today. Purdue and Wisconsin end the year atop the B1G (with Purdue taking the #1 seed thanks to their H2H win over the Badgers), Maryland finishes third, Minnesota grabs the last double bye in 4th, and Northwestern is 5th. You’ll note that I haven’t bothered with Michigan State or Michigan. Per KenPom both would finish 9-9 and Michigan would get the #6 seed based on second level H2H tiebreaker that involves both of their records versus Wisconsin.
Fun less likely scenarios
Let’s put aside KenPom and game out some of the less likely options. Why? Because this season is fun.
Minnesota and Northwestern are tied for 4th place: Minnesota takes the #4 seed thanks to their head to head win.
Minnesota and Maryland are tied for 3rd place: Minnesota takes the #3 seed. Head to head is a wash thanks to the season split. The next criteria is to look at their record versus the #1 seed (who we’ll assume is Purdue). Minnesota won their game, Maryland didn’t. So Minnesota would have the #3 seed.
The best scenario that won’t happen
Minnesota, Purdue, and Wisconsin are tied for the Big Ten title: What? It only requires Minnesota to win out, Purdue to lose out, Wisconsin to lose out, AND Maryland to lose at least 2 games. It could totally happen (not really). The Maryland part is key because Minnesota does not get the #1 seed in a 4 way tie.
In a multiple team tie (3 way or bigger), the tiebreaker gets interesting. Basically, you look at each team’s total record versus the whole group and see if one team has a better winning percentage. In this scenario, it doesn’t matter if the teams have played uneven numbers of games against the group; best winning % gets the seed regardless. How would that look here?
- Minnesota: 2-1, with a win over Purdue and a split with Wisconsin
- Purdue: 1-1, with a win over Wisconsin and a loss to Minnesota
- Wisconsin: 1-2, with a split against Minnesota and a loss to Purdue
THE RESULT? Minnesota gets the #1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament.
C’mon Purdue, Wisconsin, and Maryland. I know you can do this!