Yesterday was a roller coaster of emotion, and it ended with a 53-48 record and a +1 unit finish. We’re now at 402 wins on individual college basketball picks this season, and I’m going to throw everything I have at making it to 500 before the regular season ends on March 7. That’s three weeks away. We have about 20 days to pick up 98 wins. Five per day. Easy.
For now, let’s enjoy a nice and relaxing Sunday, starting with a great game in Michigan v. Wisconsin –
- Michigan (PK) v. Wisconsin – $25 to win $23
The Wolverines are back. It’s been about three weeks since they took the court due to a government-imposed lockdown of the entire athletic department despite cases not reaching most of the teams. But, that’s a discussion for another day. All that matters now is that we are back and playing basketball. Let’s run through some Big Ten scenarios to show just how important this trip to Madison is, starting with the current standings:
Michigan (8-1, 88.9%)
Illinois (10-3, 76.9%)
Ohio State (11-4, 73.3%)
Wisconsin (9-5, 64.3%)
Iowa (9-5, 64.3%)
Purdue (8-6, 57.1%)
Rutgers (8-7, 53.3%)
No one else is above .500.
It’s important to note that the Big Ten will be decided by winning percentage this season. An effort to make up as many games as possible will, of course, be made. But it seems more than unlikely that Michigan plays eleven games in the next few weeks to get to the expected 20. Even Illinois, with seven games to go, will need to play a relatively packed schedule. Now, Michigan does have six set games left and room – with three days of rest maintained – to fit in one more, so they will likely end with 16 games played at the very least. We’re not looking at a situation where they might play just 12 or 13 conference games. Still, it’s important to keep in mind. By games, there’s a tie at the top as Illinois has two more wins and two more losses than Michigan. But, by winning percentage, Michigan is easily ahead. They’ll remain ahead even if they lose today.
This is where it gets tricky for some of the teams on this list.
Rutgers, for example, would need to win out just to get to 65%. They travel to Ann Arbor on Thursday and also host Maryland and Indiana before a closing road trip to play Nebraska and Minnesota. Going 3-2 in that stretch would be good. 4-1 would be impressive. 5-0 would be incredible, and it would still likely leave them far outside of the title race.
Purdue could reach 70%, and their schedule isn’t particularly threatening. MSU, Indiana, and Wisconsin are all coming to West Lafayette, and the road trips are to Penn State and Nebraska. Then there’s the home game against Nebraska that needs to be made up. It’s not hard at all to see a 4-2 finish, which would put them at 12-8 (60%). Getting those other two wins to get to 70% are a big ask, but you have to figure they’re necessary to even have a shot.
Then there’s Iowa and Wisconsin. Neither team is playing especially well right now. Wisconsin, with a loss today, would fall to 9-6 (60%), and they have an absolutely brutal schedule ahead of them – Iowa, @Northwestern, Illinois, @Purdue, @Iowa. This is, quite simply, a must win game if they want to compete for a Big Ten championship. You would be hard-pressed to get to 12-8 if you lose today, and that just won’t be enough to get the job done. For Iowa, the road is equally dire. They have trips to Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Michigan ahead of them, and they also host the Badgers. Home games against Penn State and (potentially) Nebraska are less daunting, but 4-2 would be a very good finish here. That would result in 13-7, and it would likely leave them on the outside looking in, especially if one or both of the losses come to OSU or Michigan. The road is there for the Hawkeyes. They don’t control their own destiny, but winning out would at least make things interesting. It’s just very hard to see that happening.
Speaking of OSU, they’re the first of our three teams with a real shot at the title, especially the way they’re playing right now. They have just five games left, and they could hit 80% with five wins. It won’t be easy though. There are three groups of games left for OSU. The must-win: @PSU this week and @MSU next week. Lose those games, and your hopes take a huge hit. The probably should win: Iowa at home in two weeks. It won’t be easy, but that’s probably a game you need to win to take home a conference title. The deciders: Michigan and Illinois at home next weekend and three weeks from now, respectively. At the end of the day, you have to take down the other contenders if you want to take home the crown. OSU will have their shot in their own building. Let’s say for the sake of argument, that OSU goes 4-1 and reaches 15-5 (75%). What are their chances then?
First, let’s look at Illinois. The Illini have seven potential games left. If they do the expected and beat Northwestern this Tuesday, they’ll be 11-3. You’re still looking at a 4-2 finish just to tie OSU at 15-5 if the Buckeyes finish well. Is that possible? Yes. But it will be very, very difficult. After hosting the Cats, Illinois plays five of their last six games on the road. In order of ascending difficulty, those are MSU, Minnesota, Wisconsin, OSU, Michigan. A home win against Nebraska and 12-3 can probably be penciled in, but taking three of five from that final stretch of road games would be quite impressive. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Topping MSU and then splitting the other four is more than realistic. That leaves us with two teams – OSU and Illinois – that are reasonably in the 70-80% range. OSU can top out at 80%. Illinois can reach 85%. What does that mean for Michigan?
The Wolverines are 8-1. With a win today, they would move to 9-1 and create a pretty significant cushion for themselves. A loss, and it’s 8-2 and game on. That’s why this game means so much. Let’s look at the rest of the schedule. Here’s what’s planned after Wisconsin – Rutgers, @OSU, @Indiana, Iowa, @MSU. You have to figure that the Illinois game is the first one on the list for making up, and February 25 would give both teams a day of rest on either end. So would March 1 or 2. So those are your seven games that likely happen. There is definitely room for more if you push it, and Michigan probably wouldn’t mind fitting in some of the remaining four – @PSU, @Northwestern, MSU, Indiana. In any case, the target winning percentage is 80%. Get yourself there, and you have to feel good about your chances. For each possible number of games, here’s how wins that would require –
- 20 games: 16 wins
- 19 games: 15
- 18 games: 15
- 17 games: 14
- 16 games: 13
If you’re 9-1, all of those become very realistic targets. If you’re 8-1, it’s going to take a great finish. That’s a finish this team is capable of – and one they should need to produce to win such a great conference – but it’s still a tough ask.
To put this all quickly – win today, and Michigan has very clear control of the Big Ten. Lose, and you become the favorites who still have quite a bit of work to do. Go Blue.
Now for the rest of today’s picks –
$11 for spread, $10 for ML
- Morgan State (-3) v. Norfolk State
- Boston U v. Holy Cross (+7)
- James Madison (-1.5) v. Hofstra
- Northeastern (-3.5) v. Towson
- Penn State v. Nebraska (+11.5)
- Loyola v. Drake (+5.5)
- Arizona State v. Oregon State (+5)
- Northern Iowa v. Valpo (+6)
- NBA Picks
Mavs v. Blazers (+5)
Bucks (-11.5) v. Thunder
Lakers (-3) v. Nuggets