The Big Ten regular season concluded over the weekend and it had major effects on Minnesota, Wisconsin, Penn State and Ohio State. Minnesota emerged the victor, and the Gophers have now claimed six-straight regular season titles – split between the WCHA and the Big Ten. The Buckeyes swept the Badgers, giving Ohio State the edge in the Pairwise. Michigan swept Penn State, keeping the Nittany Lions from a bye spot.
For three teams – Ohio State, Wisconsin and Penn State – their best chance of making the NCAA tournament is through a Big Ten championship. That isn’t to say Ohio State and Penn State can make the tournament without getting the title, but things are very shaky for them.
Ohio State and Michigan State will face off in the first set, and the winner will play Wisconsin. Penn State and Michigan will play in the other game, and whoever makes it out alive has to face Minnesota. The matches favor Ohio State more than the other teams, aside from maybe Minnesota, but there could possibly be a few “upsets.”
(After the jump: Who’s going to make NCAAs, Michigan is dangerous and tournament predictions)
Who’s Going To Make The NCAA Tournament
Ah, this is always fun. In the beginning of the year it looked like – okay maybe not beginning but at least midway through – that Penn State was a lock. The Buckeyes were high up there. Minnesota was in the mix. But now, it’s possible that neither Ohio State or Penn State make the NCAA tournament. The conference could have three teams make it, or they could have less than that.
Earlier I said that Penn State, Wisconsin and Minnesota would be the three teams to make the NCAA tournament, with Ohio State on the outside. But I think it will flip to Penn State, Ohio State and Minnesota. The Nittany Lions may be up in the air, but I think they need some strange scenarios to happen for them to be pushed out. Ohio State received a big boost from the sweep of Wisconsin and they seem to have the Badgers’ number this year, so I could see the Buckeyes advancing to the championship game.
Michigan Is Dangerous
Watch out for the Wolverines. I’m sure no team envies Penn State right now, since the Nittany Lions drew the worst matchup in facing Michigan – the team that just swept them – in the first round. The Wolverines haven’t been good for much of this season, but they’ve earned a few big wins – over Minnesota, Ohio State and Penn State – and have really gotten better at the end of the season.
And they have what no other Big Ten team has – solid goaltending. It may be in the form of an odd rotation, but all players have been putting up good numbers this year and goaltending is usually the difference in this tournament.
I have Minnesota over Ohio State for the championship.
Really though, anything can happen this year. While Ohio State is the only top seed that I see winning without upsets, keep in mind the Spartans have played them closely. But I’m still picking Ohio State over Michigan State and then Ohio State over Wisconsin. As I said earlier, the Buckeyes have the Badgers’ number. But it’s tough to put faith in Ohio State when they’ve consistently been one of the most inconsistent teams, so a first-round loss to Michigan State wouldn’t surprise me.
I also have Michigan beating Penn State. While it’s tough to beat a team three straight games in a row, the Wolverines are good right now. And that’s in part thanks to their goaltending, which gave Penn State fits last year. Penn State doesn’t have the same level of goaltending that Michigan does, or defense, so the Wolverines get the edge. And while Michigan beat Minnesota recently, I view that as more of a fluke than a trend.