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College basketball rankings: An updated look at Big Ten championship odds

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The Badgers will be Big Ten champs. Probably.

Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

***TRIGGER WARNING: This post mentions the 2014-15 NFC Championship game.***

When the Packers were up 16-0 on the Seahawks in the second half of the NFC Championship Game, I turned to my friend and said, "I should probably stop watching, because the only interesting things that can happen now are bad things."

I should have taken my own advice. Instead, I watched a lot of bad things happen.

The rest of the Big Ten season presents a bit of a similar dilemma. The Wisconsin Badgers now lead every team by three games in the loss column, and are almost certain to win at least a share of the title. In 10,000 simulations of the rest of the Big Ten season, the Badgers won a share 98 percent of the time and won it outright 91 percent of the time. To put that into perspective, the Badgers are about as likely to win the league by five games as they are to have to share the title with someone:

UW Games ahead Chance
6 0.5%
5 6%
4 17%
3 26%
2 25%
1 16%
0 6%
-1 2%
-2 0.3%

So the only really interesting thing that we could really observe on the home stretch, at this point, is a memorably epic collapse.

Extremely unlikely things do happen, of course. For example, last year, the Badgers went through two separate, incredibly unlikely stretches. First, they won their first 16 games of the season. If you use the final Kenpom ratings and rerun the first 16 games over and over, that happens only about 2 percent of the time. So the chances of the Badgers not winning the Big Ten are about the same as their chances of starting 16-0 last year.

The second incredibly unlikely stretch was when the Badgers lost five out of six games in January last year. Again, if you rerun those six games using each team's final Kenpom ratings, the Badgers go 1-5 only 0.2 percent of the time. That's two times out of 1,000. So it's 10 times more likely that the Badgers don't win a Big Ten title than it was that the Badgers would lose five of six in January last year.

I'm starting to feel not so good.

But of course, all kinds of positive things can and will still happen. Probably. Frank Kaminsky is putting together a season for the ages, and is a candidate for national player of the year. The team has a chance to leave the rest of the conference behind in epic, humiliating fashion -- by winning four games or more. It also currently has the best offense in the tempo-free era, and is on pace to shatter the record (in that era) for best offense in conference play -- not just the Big Ten record, but the record for any major conference. (I got bored before I checked out all the low major conferences, but I'll do that eventually.)

So there's a lot to keep us interested despite the risk of witnessing a collapse. Probably.

The Battle for Second

With Maryland's loss to Iowa last night, Ohio State is now 50 percent likely to grab at least a share of second place. But as you can see below, at least five other teams have a legitimate shot at it as well. Here are the full results of the 10,000 simulations showing each team's chance of finishing at or tied for a given rank:

Finish Rank Illinois Indiana Iowa Maryland Michigan Michigan State Minnesota Nebraska Northwestern Ohio State Penn State Purdue Rutgers Wisconsin
14 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 25% 0% 2% 0% 44% 0%
13 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 1% 0% 44% 0% 13% 0% 43% 0%
12 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 8% 7% 22% 0% 48% 0% 11% 0%
11 1% 0% 0% 0% 2% 0% 22% 36% 6% 0% 21% 0% 2% 0%
10 2% 0% 0% 0% 11% 1% 39% 34% 2% 0% 12% 0% 0% 0%
9 10% 2% 1% 1% 38% 5% 19% 14% 0% 0% 3% 1% 0% 0%
8 23% 7% 3% 2% 23% 12% 7% 5% 0% 1% 1% 5% 0% 0%
7 21% 12% 5% 5% 12% 15% 3% 2% 0% 1% 0% 9% 0% 0%
6 16% 15% 8% 10% 7% 17% 1% 1% 0% 3% 0% 14% 0% 0%
5 11% 15% 12% 14% 4% 15% 0% 0% 0% 6% 0% 17% 0% 0%
4 8% 16% 17% 19% 2% 14% 0% 0% 0% 12% 0% 19% 0% 0%
3 5% 16% 22% 22% 1% 11% 0% 0% 0% 21% 0% 18% 0% 0%
2 2% 17% 30% 24% 0% 10% 0% 0% 0% 50% 0% 16% 0% 2%
1 0% 1% 2% 2% 0% 1% 0% 0% 0% 5% 0% 1% 0% 98%
AVG WINS 9.5 10.8 11.5 11.3 8.4 10.3 6.9 6.7 3.7 12.1 5.2 10.9 3.2 15.3
CHAMP % 0% 1% 2% 2% 0% 1% 0% 0% 0% 5% 0% 1% 0% 98%
SOLE CHAMP 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 1% 0% 0% 0% 91%

I love the results for Indiana, Purdue. and Michigan State -- halfway through the season, it's basically a crapshoot for them to finish anywhere between second and eighth. This is because all of those teams play a bunch of games that figure to be close, coin-flip affairs.

OK, I've convinced myself. There's enough good stuff to keep me interested in watching Big Ten basketball -- enough to outweigh the risk of witnessing something terrible (again). Probably.