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Mapping out Wisconsin's Big Ten tournament seeding possibilities

The Badgers clinched another top-four finish on Wednesday, but still have uncertainty about what seed they will receive come the Big Ten tournament.

Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

With a 62-49 road win over Minnesota on Wednesday, the Wisconsin Badgers clinched the program's 15th consecutive top-four Big Ten finish.

Although the Badgers clinched a top-four finish in the standings, they have not yet secured a top-four seed in the Big Ten tournament, which begins next Wednesday in Indianapolis. The reason is simple: the final conference standings differ from the conference tournament seeding. Each of the top four seeds receives a double bye, meaning they will not play until Friday. Wisconsin can finish with a maximum of six Big Ten losses, which means that they cannot finish below a tie for fourth place in the conference. However, due to tiebreaking scenarios, the Badgers could receive the fifth or sixth seed in the Big Ten tournament with a loss to Purdue.

In all, there are 32 scenarios remaining for the remaining games with conference tournament seeding implications. The first of those is tonight when Maryland hosts Illinois. On Saturday, Ohio State will travel to Michigan State and Iowa plays at Michigan. On the final day of the Big Ten regular season, Maryland will face conference champion Indiana on the road before the Badgers play at Purdue.

Given the number of scenarios that can still play out based on the logjam in the standings, UW could wind up as high as the second seed and as low as the eighth seed. I did my best to calculate every possible scenario for Wisconsin and what seed they would receive in each of those.

Tiebreaker procedures

First off, the tiebreaker procedures are guaranteed to come into play for this year's tournament seeding. You can read those on the Big Ten website to make better sense of the end-of-the-season madness.

If Wisconsin beats Purdue...

The absolute worst seed that they can get is the No. 3 seed, which means that the Badgers wouldn't play until Friday. But, if they lose, the best they can do is a No. 4 seed.

How the Badgers would get the No. 2 seed...

Wisconsin beats Purdue + Michigan State loses to Ohio State + Maryland loses at least one of its games.

Currently, Michigan State holds the tiebreaker in a three-way tie with Wisconsin and Maryland. Additionally, Wisconsin would need the Terrapins to lose either game, because if they won out, that would put both teams at 13-5 in conference play and tied for second place. They split the season series, so the next determining factor is how the teams fared against the top team in the standings, which is Indiana. While the Badgers split the series, this scenario would mean that Maryland defeated the Hoosiers in their only meeting this season this upcoming Sunday.

How the Badgers would get the No. 3 seed...

This is much more likely for Wisconsin. The first prerequisite is that the Badgers have to win against Purdue to get the three seed, as well. If they lose, these scenarios are moot.

Wisconsin beats Purdue + MSU over Ohio State


Wisconsin beats Purdue + Ohio State over Michigan State + 2 Maryland wins

How the Badgers would get the No. 4 seed...

Of all scenarios, this is nearly the same level of likelihood as Wisconsin getting the No. 2 seed.

Badgers lose to Purdue + Maryland loses to Illinois


Ohio State beats Michigan State + Indiana over Maryland


Michigan State beats Ohio State + Michigan over Iowa + Indiana beats Maryland

Note that if Maryland beats Illinois tonight and Wisconsin loses to the Boilermakers, the Badgers have no chance of being higher than a No. 5 seed. Seeds five throug-eight receive a single bye and play Thursday.

How the Badgers would get the No. 5 seed...

Out of all scenarios, this one has the highest percentage of likelihood (I'll explain later).

Wisconsin loses to Purdue


Maryland over Illinois + Michigan State over Ohio State + Michigan over Iowa


Maryland over Illinois + Ohio State over Michigan State


Illinois over Maryland + Ohio State over Michigan State + Maryland over Indiana


Illinois over Maryland + Michigan State over Ohio State + Michigan over Iowa + Maryland over Indiana


Illinois over Maryland + Michigan State over Ohio State + Iowa over Michigan + Indiana over Maryland

How the Badgers would get the No. 6 seed...

There are only a few scenarios in which the Badgers would end up as the sixth seed, but, despite the low number, there is still a relatively high chance this outcome occurs.

Wisconsin loses to Purdue


If Illinois beats Maryland: Michigan State over Ohio State + Iowa over Michigan + Maryland over Indiana

If Maryland beats Illinois: Michigan State over Ohio State + Iowa over Michigan. (The final Maryland-Indiana game would be irrelevant at this point).

Likelihood of each scenario

This is where things probably get a little foggier. Mostly, this is because I tried to do math. I do not ever do math. So if these numbers are incredibly distorted, you know who to blame (my high school math teachers, duh).

I used Bart Torvik's totally free analytics and predictions site (click on that hyperlink, it's good stuff) to gauge each team's chances to win each game remaining.

As he lists them:

  • Maryland (91%) vs. Illinois (9%)
  • Michigan State (91%) vs. Ohio State (9%)
  • Michigan (49%) vs. Iowa (51%)
  • Indiana (69%) vs. Maryland (31%)
  • Purdue (75%) vs. Wisconsin (25%)

Using those percentages, I calculated the likelihood of Wisconsin getting each seed in the Big Ten tournament.