With just three games left, Ohio State is still in contention for a top-four finish in the Big Ten, even if that hope seems remote.
The Big Ten is chaotic. Again.
Considering that in two of the last three years the top five teams in the league finished within two games of one another that should come as no surprise.
While this season isn't quite that clustered, five teams are within two games of second place with three games left to play. Wisconsin leads the league at 13-2 while Maryland and Purdue follow at 11-4. Michigan State sits fourth at 10-5 while Ohio State and Iowa are 9-6. Indianais one game back on the Buckeyes at 9-7.
Despite losing two of its last three games, Ohio State still has a shot at a coveted top-four finish, one that guarantees a two-round bye in the Big Ten Tournament. I wouldn’t say it’s likely that happens, but with two of their final three games at home, a venue where the Buckeyes have posted a 17-1 record, the team has a shot.
With that in mind, here’s a look at the contenders, their remaining schedule and how I think things might shake out.
The class of the league all season, the Badgers look a little more vulnerable following a road loss to second-place Maryland on Feb. 24. That loss opens the door just a hair for the Terrapins to win the league. Wisconsin would have to lose to the Spartans and Buckeyes for that to happen, which isn’t entirely unrealistic. Also, Maryland would have to win out. Speaking of which ….
The win over the Badgers was huge for Maryland as their remaining schedule pits them against three teams that are below .500 in conference. The Terrapins should win out, assuring them at worst a second-place finish in the conference.
- Remaining schedule: at Ohio State, at Michigan State, vs. Illinois.
The Boilermakers look to have the second most difficult schedule of any of the teams contending for a top-four finish. Starting this Sunday in Columbus, Purdue will have back-to-back games against what should be desperate teams on the road. While Illinois is below .500 in conference, it can be dangerous. I think it’s certainly possible that the Boilermakers drop two of their final three games.
While we are talking about difficult schedules…
Michigan State 10-5
- Remaining schedule: at Wisconsin, vs. Purdue, at Indiana
That’s a brutal stretch to close the season for the Spartans. Coming off an overtime loss against Minnesota, things are not getting any easier. The Spartans will likely lose at Wisconsin and will be tested against Purdue and at Indiana.
Ohio State 9-6
- Remaining schedule: vs. Purdue, at Penn State, vs. Wisconsin.
Considering you are reading this information here, you likely know what’s left for the Buckeyes. The fact that two of its last three games come at home is HUGE for Ohio State while its one road game is against lowly Penn State. I think the Buckeyes win their next two and will push Wisconsin in the season finale. They’ve got a history of turning things on late in the season and beating quality teams at home.
- Remaining Schedule: at Penn State, at Indiana, vs. Northwestern.
Ohio State fans might disagree considering the Hawkeyes beat the Buckeyes twice this season, but I just don’t trust Iowa to close the season strong despite a manageable strech. I think they win at Penn State and home against Northwestern, but stumble at Indiana.
- Remaining schedule: vs. Iowa, vs. Michigan State
The final team above .500 in the conference is the Hoosiers and they are also the only contender with just two games remaining. Despite a loss at Northwestern, I think that the Hoosiers continue their winning ways at home (15-2 this season) and emerge victorious in their last two games.
The Big Ten is crazy, so let’s be honest, none of us know anything. But given what I have outlined above, here is how I think the top seven seeds in the conference tournament will be handed out.
Projected Big Ten Finish
- Wisconsin: 15-3
- Maryland: 14-4
- Ohio State: 12-6
- Purdue: 12-6
- Indiana 11-7
- Michigan State 11-7
- Iowa 11-7
Yup, I’m predicting Ohio State wins out, including a victory over conference champion Wisconsin. Anything can happen on senior day, plus the Buckeyes will be riding the momentum of a three-game winning streak and playing at home. The Buckeyes have been unpredictable this year, but I'm trusting Thad Matta has them playing their best late in the year.
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