Three Things I Think: Big Ten, March 14

Posted by: Jashvina Shah

The final weekend in Big Ten play has concluded, and the tournament brackets have been set. On Thursday, Penn State will play Wisconsin and Ohio State will play Michigan State. The winner of Penn State-Wisconsin will face Michigan and the other winner will play Minnesota.

Ohio State beat Michigan State 6-5 and then tied 101. The Gophers lost 4-3 to Wisconsin before winning 4-1.

Michigan needed to win to beat out Penn State for the second seed, and they finished with weekend with a statement sweep. The Wolverines won 7-1 and 6-1 over Penn State. The sweep puts the Wolverines in a better position to win the Big Ten, although they don’t need to win to make the NCAA tournament.

Every other team has to win to make the NCAA tournament. Since Minnesota has the bye, they have the best chance at getting the automatic bid. The only way for the Gophers to make the tournament is through that championship.

(After the jump: Déjà vu, can there be an upset and watch out for Ohio State)

Déjà vu

As I mentioned above, the Gophers need to win the Big Ten tournament if they want to make the NCAA tournament. There’s a chance they’ll meet the Wolverines in the final, which means Michigan – a team almost guaranteed an at-large bid – can win and keep Minnesota out of the NCAAs.

Sound familiar?

It’s similar to what happened last year, except in reverse roles. Michigan needed to do well, or win, the Big Ten tournament. The Gophers were already in good PairWise standings, and the two met in the championship game. Minnesota won, denying the Wolverines a spot.

The big difference between this year and last year is Michigan didn’t have a bye spot when they lost. The Gophers do, so they’ll only need to win two games in a row. Who knows, the Big Ten could end up with two teams in the tournament.

Will there any upsets?

It’s easy to look at the bracket and just lock all the top seeds to win (which is actually what I did) but really anyone could win one game. I highly, highly doubt seeds 3-6 can win three games in three days and the tournament though. (Although I guess if the top two seeds lose on Friday, it could happen).

But back to Thursday’s game. Any of these four teams losing isn’t an upset and any of them could win. Wisconsin could probably beat any team, but they’re so inconsistent who knows if they will. Penn State didn’t play well against  Michigan. Ohio State’s on a hot streak, but Michigan State can still stifle other offenses.

If I were to pick one upset, it would probably be Ohio State over Minnesota. I don’t think Wisconsin will beat Michigan, but Wisconsin could beat Penn State. And the Spartans could still be a threat.

Watch out for Ohio State

I’m borrowing this point from Nate Wells, who mentioned Ohio State is on a seven-game winning streak. I actually just spoke to Ohio State leading scorer Nick Schilkey, who said the Buckeyes can do well if they play defensively. I actually wasn’t thinking about their defense, I was thinking of the offense. But he’s right – Ohio State can probably beat anyone if they step up defensively.

And you especially can’t take the Buckeye offense for granted, as they’ve quietly averaged 3.59 goals per game.

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