It's Groundhog's Day, which means it's the one day of the year that Delany emerges from his secret lair underneath Madison Square Garden. Nothing actually happens—he just goes back into the lair to swim in his money.
It's also actually the first day without Big Ten basketball since ... well, I don't feel like figuring that out, but it's been a while. Let's get to the Facts:
There's not too much deviation here between the raw and adjusted efficiencies. Maryland is better than their record, which gives them some hope that they'll finish strong. Wisconsin and Minnesota are circling each other as they swirl down the drain. Rutgers is Rutgersing.
At this point, the regular season title and one-seed at MSG is Purdue's to lose:
Purdue has only a one-game lead over Ohio St. in the standings, but the teams play each other only once, and it's in West Lafayette on Wednesday. T-Rank gives Purdue an 83% chance to win that game, so that's driving much of Purdue's huge advantage in the simulations. But if Ohio State pulls off the upset, all bets are off.
They are who we thought they are
For both Northwestern and Penn State, there was a moment in the last week where it seemed they might ascend into something resembling a bubble team. For Northwestern, it was an early 14-5 lead (more than ten minutes in!) at Michigan. Then they didn't score for about ten minutes, and the dream was dead. For Penn State, it was an even more impressive 12-point lead in the second half at Michigan State:
This elicited some excited tweets, etc., because this is the kind of upset win that can truly turn a team's season around and transform a team's "resumé." Alas, it was not to be.
Then there was Indiana. Hoosier fans were allowed to feel twinges of optimism after they won three straight to get to 4-2 in conference play. In my last installment of the Facts, however, I expressed skepticism and noted that the upcoming six-game stretch would be telling. They showed some pluck against Purdue, but with one game left in that stretch (tomorrow's home game against MSU), the Hoosiers are 1-4 and firmly back to a rebuilding narrative.
Then there were two: Maryland and Nebraska
That leaves just Maryland and Nebraska with realistic hopes of being the Big Ten's fifth at-large quality team. In the Tourneycast portion of the chart above, you can see my simulations currently have them in the dance 27% and 3% of the time, respectively. And here's the breakdown, as T-Rank currently projects it will look at the end of the regular season:
Maryland's resumé and path to a bid are conventional; the Terps just have to win a game or two more than I'm expecting them to (currently projected at 19-12, 8-10), and they'll probably sneak in. If they don't, they'll be on the bubble at best.
Nebraska is a special case. They are poised to finish 12-6 or better in the Big Ten, and have a good chance to grab a double-bye in the Big Ten Tourney. But they could do all that (and more!) without picking up a single "Quadrant 1" win that the selection committee loves so damn much. As I said last time, I suspect that the conventional "bracketology" analytics (mine, at least) are underrating Nebraska's chances. One reason I think this is because ESPN's "strength of record" ranking (similar in theory to the WAB ranking above, which has Nebraska at 43rd) is now on the NCAA team sheets, and by that metric Nebraska would likley look like a tourney team. If it comes down to it, Delany may have to use the week off after the tourney to emerge from his lair again and lobby the committee with WAB and SOR. Fact is, those are the best metrics for evaluating whether a team deserves a bid, so the extra time for doing some persuasion might pay off.
The Big Tenth is Up For Grabs
By far the most interesting storyline in the Big Ten, and no one disagrees with this, remains the cutthroat battle for 10th place. Iowa and Illinois have made moves up the leader board, and it's now pretty much a dead heat between them, Wisconsin, and Minnesota for that coveted first round bye:
Big Life, Big Stage, Big Tenth. It doesn't get any better than this.