Wisconsin can still get the No. 2 seed (we think)

While the conference title is all but wrapped up by Michigan State, there's plenty on the line this week in the Big Ten.

A number of teams can drastically change their seeding in the Big Ten Tournament this week. For example, Wisconsin could still finish anywhere from second to seventh in the conference.


Big Ten Conference Standings

(updated 3.2.2009 at 1:12 AM CST)


Here's a breakdown of the possibilities with the incredibly confusing tiebreaking procedures:

  • No. 2 seed - Here's how:
    1. Wisconsin finishes 11-7 by beating Minnesota and Indiana this week.
    2. Penn State finishes 11-7 by beating Illinois at home and Iowa in Iowa City. Illinois would then finish 11-7 as well because it's their only game this week.
    3. Purdue finishes 11-7 by losing to Northwestern at home and at Michigan State this weekend.
    4. Michigan finishes 8-8 by beating Minnesota at The Barn Saturday.

Here's why: This scenario is unlikely because it involves Minnesota losing two games at home this week (to Wisconsin and Michigan) and Purdue losing to Northwestern at home. But in this scenario, Wisconsin would win the 4-way tiebreaker because of its head-to-head record against Michigan. Here are the tiebreaking scenarios:

  1. Head-to-head winning percentage against the tied group. Not surprisingly, all four of these teams are 3-3 against the group.
  2. Head-to-head winning percentage against the conference's top team (Michigan State). Penn State and Purdue were both 1-1 against MSU, while Wisconsin was 0-1 and Illinois was 0-2. No one team has the advantage.
  3. Head-to-head winning percentage against the next best team not involved in the tied group. This could be a number of teams, but if it were Ohio State, both Illinois and Wisconsin would have a 1.000 winning percentage so it would come down to the Michigan-Minnesota game Saturday. If Michigan won and finished 9-9, the Badgers would win the tiebreaker because they are they only team to have a 1.000 winning percentage against the Wolverines. If Minnesota won, the Boilermakers would get the tiebreaker because they are the only team have a 1.000 winning percentage against the Gophers.
  • No. 3 seed - Here's how:
    1. Wisconsin finishes 11-7 by beating Minnesota and Indiana this week.
    2. Penn State finishes 11-7 by beating Illinois at home and Iowa in Iowa City. Illinois would then finish 11-7 as well because it's their only game this week.
    3. Purdue wins at least one game this week to clinch the No. 2 seed.

Here's why: This would create a 3-way tie for third place, in which case you take the best winning percentage in games against the teams involved in the tie. So Wisconsin would have a 3-1 record against Illinois and Penn State, Illinois would have a 1-3 record and Penn State would be 2-2. Thus, Wisconsin would be the No. 3 seed.

NOTE: PENN STATE CANNOT LOSE THIS WEEK IF WISCONSIN WANTS TO GET THE NO. 3 SEED. If Penn State beats Illinois, but loses at Iowa and finishes 10-8, Wisconsin would lose the tiebreaker to Illinois. Since the Badgers and Illini are 1-1 against each other head-to-head, the tiebreaker is determined by the two teams' winning percentage against the best team in the conference. Since both teams had a .000 winning percentage against Michigan State, it would go to the second tiebreaker, which is winning percentage against Purdue. Illinois was 2-0 against the Boilers, while Wisconsin was 0-2.

  • No. 4 seed - Here's how:
    1. Wisconsin goes 2-0 this week.
    2. OR Wisconsin AND Penn State go 1-1 this week.

Here's why: The Badgers hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Nittany Lions after beating Penn State twice this season. Ohio State can still finish 10-8, but Wisconsin has the tiebreaker over the Buckeyes. In the event of a 3-way tie between Wisconsin, Ohio State and Penn State, the Badgers would still have the tiebreaker because it went 3-0 against those two teams.

  • No. 5 seed- Here's how:
    1. Wisconsin goes 1-1 this week AND Penn State goes 2-0.
    2. Wisconsin goes 0-2 AND Ohio State loses at least one game this week AND Minnesota loses to Michigan AND Wisconsin wins another complicated tiebreaker that could include up to four teams.

Here's why: Because Wisconsin holds the tiebreaker, Penn State has to pass Wisconsin in the standings. But if Wisconsin loses both games this week, the Badgers will need a lot of help just to get to a complicated tiebreaker that could be difficult to win.

  • No. 6 seed or worse:
    1. Badgers go 0-2 and lose a tiebreaker.

Here's why: In this case, the Badgers could do no better than to tie with Minnesota, which would hold the tiebreaker after beating Wisconsin twice. There's a chance there wouldn't be a tiebreaker if Minnesota and Ohio State both go 2-0 this week and Wisconsin goes 0-2. The Badgers would have the No. 7 seed in that situation unless Penn State also went 0-2, in which case Wisconsin would still get the no. 6 seed with the tiebreaker over the Lions.

Confusing right? It's so confusing that there's almost certainly some other scenario or extra tiebreaker we missed. If you figure something else out, (or just have a question) please leave a comment below.

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