...talks about how UConn hasn't been in contact and how they're out. (HT: UMHoops)
A Look At The Big Ten Remaining Schedules #3
Take three of a look at the remaining schedules:
This is long... if that's not for you you will dislike this...
I may have screwed up the 6-7 order- it is unclear if 2-2 is better than 1-1 given the description- but that is not too important...
Who has the hardest schedule?:
I decided to try something new here and associate a score with each team. The higher the score the harder the opponent is. Since there are 12 teams in the Big Ten the top team gets 12 points, and the lowest team gets 1 point. Any tie ranking all teams get the highest possible rank (both MSU and Indiana are “top team” in this ranking). Below is that ranking.
Next I determined that a road game should adjust the rankings. A team’s road score is their regular score +3. I settled on 3 arbitrarily because it seemed like the best fit. Michigan and Wisconsin on the road seem barely harder than Indiana or Michigan State at home, while Minnesota/Illinois/Iowa on the road seem to be about the same strength as Wisconsin or Michigan at home. This is definitely quite subjective choosing three points- but it is simple. Some teams are much stronger at home and you could argue deserve and even bigger bump than three, while some play at relatively similar strength home or away. Perhaps Indiana and Michigan State should be +5 on the road because beating a top-10 team on the road is so difficult, while Penn State still is relatively terrible at home…. Anyway, I settled on three!
Below is each of the top-5 teams remaining schedules. Below each opponent is the regular score and advanced score. The regular score does not adjust for home/away, while the advanced score adds 3 points for each away game. If you don’t like the advanced score- disregard it.
|GAME 14||GAME 15||GAME 16||GAME 17||GAME 18||TOTAL|
|INDIANA||@MICHIGAN ST||@MINNESOTA||IOWA||OHIO ST||@MICHIGAN|
|MICHIGAN ST||INDIANA||@OHIO ST||@MICHIGAN||WISCONSIN||NW|
|OHIO ST||MINNESOTA||MICHIGAN ST||@NW||@INDIANA||ILLINOIS|
To show you a little bit easier I order the schedules from hardest to easiest below:
Those numbers seem about right- Wisconsin has it pretty easy, Michigan not too bad, and the rest have it pretty rough...
Next I looked more traditionally at the remaining schedules- looking at: the number of home games compared to road games, the number of games vs top-5 teams (note: all parenthesis show home games, road games), the number of games vs the middle-5 teams, and finally the games vs Nebraska and Penn State. Perhaps it’s not the best split with 5/5/2- arguments could be made to put the split at several points but that’s what I chose (mostly because the first two versions used those splits).
|Home Games||Road Games||Vs. Top-5||Vs. Mid-5||Vs. Bot-2|
|Indiana||2||3||3 (1,2)||2 (1,1)||0|
|Michigan St||3||2||4 (2,2)||1 (1,0)||0|
|Wisconsin||2||3||1 (0,1)||2 (1,1)||2 (1,1)|
|Michigan||3||2||2 (2,0)||2 (1,1)||1 (0,1)|
|Ohio State||3||2||2 (1,1)||3 (2,1)||0|
Enough data/tables… onto opinion:
Indiana has the hardest schedule left. They play fewer home games than everyone but Wisconsin, and only two of their opponents are not fellow top-5 teams-one team is Iowa, who has been playing very well and has lost several very close games, and the other is at Minnesota. They have no easy games left and each game is “losable” to some degree. If you told me Indiana lost any of those games I would not be shocked- and that is not a good way to end the season. Obviously the most important game is at Michigan State coming up. MSU gets the edge at home- which means Indiana will have to pull an upset to be number 1. At Minnesota will be tough, and Iowa at home could be a sleeper game if they get caught looking ahead. They wrap up at home against OSU which will essentially be a must-win with a road game in Ann Arbor wrapping up the season. It’s hard to imagine the final game not determining the champion in some fashion. If Indiana beats MSU that final game could be sole possession of first- if not it will determine who will be champion in some way with Michigan hopefully having a shot for a co-championship in that game.
The second toughest schedule according to the point systems. Looking at the traditional details it looks just as hard as Indiana however. Only one game is not against a top-5 team and that is the final game at home against Northwestern. That last game could determine the championship as well. It’s hard to imagine them not losing at least one game. Indiana at home coming up next is huge (covered above) and then OSU and Michigan on the road will be daunting. OSU is a little hard to figure out, and they beat down Michigan in EL, so these games may play out to be less challenging than they may appear. If they lose to Indiana they have to win-out at home and at least split those road games to still feel comfortable- if they beat Indiana a split in the road games becomes easier to swallow- but both of those situations assume a win against Wisconsin which will not be easy either.
No matter how you slice it their remaining schedule is incredibly easy. They play the 4 lowest teams in the conference, and while they play NW and PSU on the road neither of those should be games they should lose. They play at home against Nebraska and Purdue- and both of those should be wins. Purdue is probably the only game that will be a serious challenge other than Michigan State. With 4 losses the MSU game is a must-win (as are all their games). On the road they are not favored to win, but if they pull it off they have to hope MSU loses at least one other game, and Indiana also loses 2. If they beat MSU and take care of the games they should it is not too unlikely they have a shot at being co-champs. (Writing that made me throw-up a little…)
As is the case with Wisconsin Michigan needs to win out. Indiana on the road was close, and then we fought out a win against OSU, before the two most frustrating games all year in Madison and EL. Let’s hope more spacing of games and an easier schedule (particularly compared to what we just went through) will allow us to get back to top-form. A lot of questions remain: were we significantly overrated before? Will Morgan be at full strength? Will the freshman be able to step-it-up? Are Indiana, and particularly Michigan State, a clear step-up from us? Is this team on the rebound- or are we still slumping? Have teams played great games against us- or is our defense underperforming and is that just foolish optimism?
The answers to those questions will come in time- that is, unless we lose to Illinois or at Penn State. Both games should be wins- and if we lose either of those games our chance for a championship erode- and our stock will be sliding fast. If we get through those games we still likely need to win out. Last analysis I said I expected a loss at MSU and that we could be said to be favored the rest of the way. Our play at EL changed that outlook significantly. MSU in Ann Arbor will be very intense- and if we win we have a good shot- if we lose it’s all over for co-champ talk most likely. Plus, if we lose, MSU will very possibly go into the last week looking like favorites- a lot will be at stake. Most fans, and presumably the team, will be looking to show that the game in EL was a terrible hiccup; otherwise that game will possibly be a very low point of the season. If we do beat MSU, and took care of business against Illinois and PSU we have a sleeper game at Purdue (who last year cost us an outright title by being the only home loss) before closing against Indiana at home. Worst case, we lost to MSU (and maybe even one of the other three games) and play Indiana with no-chance to win a title- and they show us that they, and MSU, are the class of the conference. Best-case, we took care of business, righted the ship against MSU, and play at home against Indiana for a chance for being co-champs. If that is the case we will have only lost at home once in the last two years, have lots of momentum, and have a good chance to beat Indiana- let’s hope that last scenario plays out!
With five-losses OSU has almost no-chance. It is hard to imagine both Indiana and MSU losing three times, and Wisconsin’s schedule looks like they will be at worst a 5-loss team meaning OSU has essentially no chance at being an outright champ- and almost no chance of a co-championship. Plus, they have to play at Indiana and home against MSU. Although, if you need to make up ground you want to play the teams you need to lose. Minnesota at home, their next game, will be a challenge, and at Northwestern could be a sleeper game. Most likely they end the year a game (or likely more) out- and the last game at Illinois will matter for seeding and if Illinois makes the dance.
I think we are looking at co-champs at 14-4. Who those teams are is very hard to say. Indiana will likely lose at MSU, and hopefully at Michigan as well. At Minnesota, Iowa, and OSU will all be a challenge too- so even if they only lose one of the first games mentioned there is still a good shot they lose one of those.
Michigan State I think has the best chance because they play Indiana at home. I think they are better than OSU and Michigan but will struggle to win both of those games, and may lose both. After that they should beat Wisconsin and NW. I think they have the best chance to go 15-3 and be alone on top of the charts. It really comes down to whether or not we can beat them, in my opinion.
Wisconsin lucked into the easiest schedule to end the year. Luckily for every other fan-base they should lose to MSU- and it’s hard to see 13-5 cutting it. If they pull the upset- they have the four bottom teams left- let’s hope they slip up in one of those- because who wants to see Wisconsin win the championsip….
Michigan has long odds. Granted I projected them losing to MSU and being in good shape last time, the nature of the last few weeks make it tough to be too optimistic at this point. MSU and Indiana at home are very, very tough. But if we want to be champs we need them to lose- so it’s good we play them- and good it is at home for both. Illinois at home could be tough if we play like we have been also. Let’s hope that we can show up and protect the home-court- because we need to!
Ohio State is too far out…
What I said above in nice simple, very subjective number form:
|16 - 2||15 - 3||14 - 4||13 - 5||12 - 6 or Worse|
Hope everyone liked it!