After just four Big Ten teams played this weekend with mixed results, it’s hard to learn anything new. I’m left with more questions than answers, and am even more unsure of where each team stands.
Minnesota beat Penn State 4-1 before losing 5-3. Michigan State beat Michigan 3-2 in overtime on Friday night, snapping Michigan’s eight-game unbeaten streak. The Wolverines rebounded with a 4-1 win on Saturday.
After the weekend (and before the Beanpot), Michigan dropped to sixth in the PairWise. Penn State is 16th and Minnesota is 21st. The Wolverines and Gophers are tied for first in the Big Ten while Penn State is third – six points behind both teams. The Buckeyes are fourth with 12, Michigan State has nine and Wisconsin has six.
(After the jump: Is this the norm for Michigan State, Michigan will still probably win the Big Ten Tournament and anyone can beat anyone.)
Is this the normal for Michigan State?
The Spartans now have two wins in their last four games, and have stopped a couple of good offenses in Michigan and Ohio State. Despite losing to the Wolverines on Saturday, only allowing four goals isn’t bad – especially because Michigan State’s defense has really struggled this year.
The win over Ohio State was impressive, but it was hard to tell if it was a one-time thing for the Spartans or an indication of improvement. But beating Michigan and holding their offense to six goals over the weekend makes me believe the Spartans are improving.
Michigan will probably still win the Big Ten tournament
As much as I enjoy changing my preseason picks in the middle of the season, I have to stick with Michigan. While the Wolverines can lose one game in the tournament, it’s not likely going to be in an offensive shootout. I think the only Big Ten team that can stop Michigan is still Michigan State, but I’m not sure the two will face off in the tournament.
Anyone can beat anyone
The only thing I really learned after last weekend is that any team in the conference is capable of beating any other team in the conference (well, that’s hard to say for Wisconsin right now.) But Penn State and Minnesota have already played in a couple of tough series, Ohio State has hung in with Michigan and now even the Spartans have proved they can beat the conference’s elite.
This makes it really hard to predict the tournament and the regular-season standings. It will most likely be Penn State, Michigan and Minnesota in the top three spots, but it’s hard to tell who’ll finish first and second.