With just two weekends left in the Big Ten regular season, things remain tight at the top of the Friday Facts, and Wisconsin has put itself in the running for the prestigious Friday Facts Award:
|TEAM||OFF. EFF.||DEF. EFF.||RAW EM||ADJUSTED EM|
The bunch at the top remains. In fact, something I've been rooting for has finally happened: the five Big Ten teams now occupy five consecutive spots in the KenPom ratings:
Iowa will no doubt remain a controversial team, as the Hawkeyes are once again perched atop the Friday Facts despite losing three in a row. How can this be? First, Iowa's three losses (to Wisconsin, at Indiana and at Minnesota) were all close games, and none of those is a bad loss. So they didn't lose much ground. Notably, a certain other team that we all love dearly went 0-2 at Indiana and Minnesota, as well. Second, Michigan and Michigan State have not exactly been setting the world on fire lately, from an efficiency standpoint. So things have continued to bunch at the top.
But there's a legitimate knock against Iowa, and that's its dearth of high-quality wins. The Hawkeyes have a great win at Ohio State and a blowout win over first-place Michigan, but other than that, they've got a bunch of close losses to quality teams.
My own opinion, for what it's worth, is that Iowa is a very good team with problems in the half-court offense. This hurts in close games, when opportunities in transition disappear late. The Hawkeyes also struggle in transition defense. Obviously, they've also been struggling on defense overall lately. I attribute this partly to playing so many guys -- it's difficult to establish solid team defense when you never play with the same five guys for more than a couple minutes at a time.
Still, I think it would be foolish to dismiss Iowa. I'm pleased that it will likely be on the other half of the Big Ten tournament bracket, and would not be surprised to see the Badgers face the Hawkeyes in the championship game.
Big Ten win projections
This is now clearly Michigan's race to lose:
With the No. 1 seed all but determined, it is now Wisconsin vs. Michigan State for the No. 2 and 3 seeds, and Iowa vs. Ohio State for the No. 4 and 5 seeds. Bo Ryan's top-four streak will continue, barring multiple lightning strikes; the Badgers finished in a tie for fourth or better in 99.76 percent of my simulations. They finished top-three 96 percent of the time and top-two 53 percent of the time.
Big Ten tournament projections
Still looking pretty nutty:
(Note: there's currently a four-way tie for last place. I broke the ties using the Torvik Method, which means I "just decided.")
With Iowa dropping in the KenPom ratings and relegated to the No. 5 seed, Wisconsin has moved up to a (very) small favorite. But five teams have a very good chance to win this thing.
How impressive is Wichita State?
There's been much discussion this week about Wichita State, which went to an incredible 30-0 with a win over Bradley on Tuesday, and can complete a perfect regular season with a win at home over Missouri State on Saturday. People are taking strong opinions on both sides of the debate, with some contending that Wichita State is undeserving of a top seed because it hasn't played a tough enough schedule, and some essentially chanting, "Scoreboard!" to argue that any questioning of the Shockers' achievement is ridiculous.
As KenPom points out, a middle ground is possible. To that end, I'd like to briefly analyze the question of how impressive Wichita State's 30-game winning streak is by trying to put it in perspective. To do so, I looked at two questions: 1) How likely would Wisconsin be to go undefeated against Wichita State' schedule? And, 2) How likely would Wichita State be to go undefeated against Wisconsin's schedule?
First, Wisconsin would have just a 1.2-percent chance of going undefeated against Wichita's schedule. (For the record, Wichita State's chance of going undefeated if it played the season again would be just 2.4 percent). Wisconsin's expected record against the first 30 games of WSU's schedule would be 26-4 (compared to WSU's expected record of 27-3), and the Badgers would just as likely go 21-9 as they would be to go 30-0. So, even for a very good team like Wisconsin, going 30-0 against that schedule would be an enormous accomplishment.
Second, Wichita State would have practically no chance to go undefeated against Wisconsin's schedule: just .01 percent. That's a 1-in-10,000 chance. The Shockers would most likely be 22-6 overall and 11-4 in the Big Ten. That second number is telling, as it means Wichita State would be right in the thick of the race for the Big Ten title if it played in the conference. (Of course, this simply reflects the fact that its KenPom rating is better than any Big Ten team's, so if you find the KenPom ratings annoying, feel free to ignore.)
Since Wichita State has actually outperformed its KenPom expectations (i.e., gotten "lucky") a third question arises: What would the Shockers' record be if they'd gotten just as lucky against Wisconsin's schedule? To calculate this, I looked at the high-end record that Wichita State would have just about a 3 percent chance of amassing, since it had a 3 percent chance of going 30-0. The result is that it would be projected at 25-3 against Wisconsin's schedule. If we assume those three losses would be at Virginia, at Michigan and at Iowa, we can run the results through the RPI Wizard and determine that 2014 Wichita St. would be No. 1 in the RPI, in contention for the Big Ten title, probably ranked No. 1 in the country until recently and in contention for the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament.
My conclusion: Wichita State going 30-0 is an enormous accomplishment, and the Shockers are for real.