First-Place Wisconsin, the Big Ten Standings, and a Conference Title

Jake Kocorowski

MADISON, Wis. -- The Wisconsin Badgers can accomplish something special on Saturday.

With a win against Indiana, UW (20-10 overall, 13-6 Big Ten) can clinch at least a share of the regular season conference crown. It already has locked down a double-bye in the upcoming Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis next week, but the Badgers' 63-48 victory over Northwestern on Wednesday has given the program a chance to finish atop the league's standings.

After all this team has gone through in the last year, to be within a game of earning the Big Ten regular season title, what does it mean to junior Brad Davison?

"Aww man, it's a blessing for so many reasons," Davison said after the win against Northwestern. "Going back to the summer, going through the season, just how our team stuck together and (has) really come together and now we have an opportunity to play for the Big Ten regular season title. That's why you come to school at Wisconsin. That's why we all wanted to put the W on our chest, to have these sort of opportunities. 

"With what we've been through, just makes you appreciate the moment and appreciate the opportunity, appreciate the relationships with your teammates and your coaching staff. And man, it's something that we're really looking forward to and something we don't take for granted. I think that's kind of the biggest thing that we've learned over this year -- don't take anything for granted, especially a moment, and an opportunity like this. Because like I said, this is why you come to Wisconsin -- to compete for championships in the Big Ten and in the national tournament. We put ourselves in a position to do that, and now we just go out there and take it."

As of Thursday morning, Wisconsin, No. 16 Michigan State and No. 9 Maryland hold a three-way tie for first place. No. 23 Illinois still has two games to play and will take on a difficult No. 19 Ohio State team in Columbus later that evening.

As we did on Monday, let's take another look at who remains in the conversation (see: four teams) for the Big Ten regular season championship and what lies ahead for each program towards the end of this week.

Wisconsin (20-10, 13-6)

  • Last game: 3/7 (Saturday) at Indiana (11 a.m. CT, ESPN)

The Badgers will have their hands full with a Hoosiers squad trying to secure an NCAA Tournament berth. Indiana (19-11, 9-10) and its fans will likely have Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall rocking this weekend. 

Maryland (23-7, 13-6)

  • Last game: 3/8 (Sunday) home contest vs. Michigan (11 a.m. CT, FOX)

The Wolverines are currently .500 in conference play (9-9), and though they have lost two straight, they are 7-3 in their last 10. Michigan also hosts Nebraska on Thursday night.

This will not be an easy contest for Mark Turgeon and his Terps, who fell at Rutgers on Tuesday in a 78-67 loss to the Scarlet Knights. That being said, Maryland is 15-1 at home inside the Xfinity Center.

Michigan State (21-9, 13-6)

  • Last game: 3/8 (Sunday) vs. Ohio State at home (3:30 p.m. CT, CBS)

What a road win on Tuesday night by the Spartans, who overcame a 19-point deficit to beat Penn State 79-71.

Looking ahead to this weekend, Ohio State currently ranks No. 8 in the KenPom standings and No. 15 in the NCAA NET rankings as of March 4. The Buckeyes have won eight of their last 10 matchups dating back to Jan. 26, including three straight.

However, Michigan State also rides a four-game winning streak into its regular season finale. 

Illinois (20-9, 12-6)

  • Last two games: 3/5 at Ohio State (Thursday, 6 p.m. CT, ESPN), and 3/8 vs. Iowa at home (Sunday, 6 p.m. CT, BTN)

As noted earlier this week, Brad Underwood's team has captured four straight victories to catapult the program into prime position this final week. That included road wins at Penn State on Feb. 18 and Northwestern on Feb. 27.

Illinois sits just one-half game back of the three first-place programs and could make it a four-way tie on Thursday night.

Again looking at Ohio State -- with a 15-2 record in Columbus -- will be difficult on the road. After its home loss to Purdue on Tuesday, Iowa still finds itself tied for fifth with Penn State.

Conference Tournament Tiebreakers

If Wisconsin secures a share of the Big Ten title with another team, or even finishes tied with another program that's not in first place, how do the conference tournament seeds work out? Here are the tiebreaker rules, via the Big Ten website:

4. In case of a tie for any place finish in the regular-season standings, the following tie-breaking procedure shall be followed in order to seed teams in the tournament bracket:

A. Two-team tie:
1. Results of head-to-head competition during the regular-season.

2. Each team's record vs. the team occupying the highest position in the final regular-season standings (or in the case of a tie for the championship, the next highest position in the regular-season standings), continuing down through the standings until one team gains an advantage.
a. When arriving at another pair of tied teams while comparing records, use each team's record against the collective tied teams as a group (prior to their own tie-breaking procedures), rather than the performance against the individual tied teams.
b. When comparing records against a single team or a group of teams, the higher winning percentage shall prevail, even if the number of games played against the team or group are unequal (i.e., 2-0 is better than 3-1, but 2-0 is not better than 1-0).

3. Won-loss percentage of all Division I opponents.

4. Coin toss conducted by the Commissioner or designee.

B. Multiple-team tie:
1. Results of head-to-head competition during the regular-season.
a. When comparing records against the tied teams, teams will be seeded based on winning percentage among the group, even if the number of games played against the team or group are unequal (i.e., 2-0 is better than 3-1, but 2-0 is not better than 1-0). If all teams among the group are separated based on winning percentage, all ties are broken. If winning percentage among the group for any tied teams is equal, move to step b with those specific tied teams only (e.g. if there is a four-team tie, one team is 4-0, another is 3-1 and the last two are 2-2 among the group, the two teams that are 2-2 move to step b and the teams that are 4-0 and 3-1 assume the next two available highest seeds).
: Teams can be separated from the top, middle or bottom.
b. If a team or teams are separated from the group based on step a, seeding for remaining teams among the group is not determined by head-to-head record vs. the remaining teams, but rather by taking all remaining teams to next tie breaker.

2. If the remaining teams are still tied, then each tied team's record shall be compared to the team occupying the highest position in the final regular-season standings, continuing down through the standings until one team gains an advantage.
a. When arriving at another pair of tied teams while comparing records, use each team's record against the collective tied teams as a group (prior to their own tie-breaking procedures), rather than the performance against the individual tied teams.
b. When comparing records against a single team or group of teams, the higher winning percentage shall prevail, even if the number of games played against the team or group are unequal (i.e., 2-0 is better than 3-1, but 2-0 is not better than 1-0).

3. Won-loss percentage of Division I opponents.

4. Coin toss conducted by Commissioner or designee.