Archive for the 'Big Ten' Category

Three Things I Think: Big Ten, March 13

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

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.

Tournament predictions

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.

Weekend Preview: Big Ten, March 10

Friday, March 10th, 2017

The last weekend in Big Ten regular season play is here. Much in the conference will be decided this weekend –  including who wins the regular season championship and who earns the bye spots. Only two teams – Minnesota and Wisconsin – can earn first place. The Gophers are a lock for a bye day, but Penn State has a chance at getting the No. 2 seed, which would give them the second bye day.

Here are the current standings:

1. Minnesota (39)
2. Wisconsin (36)
3. Penn State (31)
4. Ohio State (29)
5. Michigan (16)
6. Michigan State (11)

So here’s the deal. The Badgers and Gophers tied the regular-season series, which means Minnesota must win at least one game to either win the Big Ten or earn a share of the title. The Badgers can clinch a piece of the title with at least a win and either a Gophers loss or shootout win. There are several scenarios where the Badgers can claim the title or a share of the title, but basically they’re good if they win both games, or if they win and Minnesota splits, or if they win one game and Minnesota loses both. (This gets a little more complicated because there are three points up for grabs in each game, so it’s not just wins and losses but also potential shootout wins).

Now for the No. 2 seed. The Nittany Lions are just five points behind the Badgers. Penn State has the season series tiebreaker, but they’ll still need some help. They need to at least win one game and take the other one into the shootout and have the Badgers lose both games. That’s a plausible scenario because the Badgers have a tougher test in Ohio State while Penn State should beat Michigan. But, Penn State is playing at Michigan and the Wolverines are just coming off a big win over Minnesota (that could cost the Gophers a piece of the Big Ten title).

So the last weekend in Big Ten play will be full of drama. And that’s not even including the Pairwise (the Badgers are in the bubble and the Buckeyes are on the outside. But the difference between the two teams isn’t much.)

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Three Things I Think: Big Ten, March 7

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

There is now just one weekend left in the Big Ten regular season. Minnesota is first in the conference but has just a three-point lead over the Badgers. That will make for a fun conclusion to the regular season since there are a few things on the line: That regular-season title, a shot at a bye day and a possible NCAA tournament at-large spot for the bubble teams.

Last weekend’s split with Penn State helped the Badgers in that regard. They’re 13th, so still on the bubble. Losing to Michigan State did not really help Ohio State’s cause, as now the Buckeyes are back on the wrong side of the cutoff line. The Gophers split their series with Michigan and while that looks bad, it didn’t have much of an impact for the Gophers. Except for in the standings, where that loss allowed Wisconsin to creep a little closer to the first spot.

Here are the standings:

1. Minnesota
2. Wisconsin
3. Penn State
4. Ohio State
5. Michigan
6. Michigan State

(After the jump: What to watch, why does no one talk about the really good forwards and is Michigan good)

What To Watch

The biggest games of the upcoming weekend will be the ones for Penn State, Wisconsin and Ohio State. So pay close attention to the Buckeyes-Badgers series because that has a lot of meaning in the Pairwise for big teams. Ohio State is now outside the Pairwise bubble while the Badgers are close to the edge. The Badgers are also just three points away from the No. 1 conference spot and five points away from dropping out of the second spot.

Which brings us to Penn State. The Nittany Lions should have an easy time defeating Michigan (should, but the Wolverines just beat the Gophers). For Penn State, a possible Big Ten tournament title is on the line, since they’d need a bye day if they want to win.

Penn State is just five points behind the Badgers, which means they’d need at least a regulation/OT win and a shootout win and the Badgers to lose both games. But if the Badgers win one of their contests against Ohio State, the bye day will be out of reach. 

And as I mentioned before, the Badgers have a lot riding on their series – a potential regular season championship, a bye day for the tournament and an at-large bid. 

As for the Buckeyes… this is their last hope.

Why Does No One Talk About The Really Good Forwards

Over the weekend, Minnesota’s Tyler Sheehy passed the 50-point mark. Actually he did it last Saturday after scoring two goals and an assist. But no one is talking about it. And no one is really talking about his linemate, Justin Kloos, who has 41 points. And then there’s Ohio State’s Nick Schilkey and Mason Jobst. All of those players are in the top-20 nationally in scoring, yet they’re rarely talked about.

Why?

I can’t really answer that, aside from maybe it’s East Coast bias for Sheehy and Kloos. As far as Schilkey and Jobst are concerned, I think that’s just a side effect of paying for Ohio State, a hockey program that will always kind of be in the shadows. Either way, it’s odd that these players aren’t getting much attention since they’re have great seasons. 

Is Michigan Good?

Of course not. Michigan has an offense that’s struggling and minimal defense, but oddly have good goalkeeping, finally. Although having a three netminder rotation seems odd, that’s niether nere nor there. But the Wolverines have gotten a few spoiler wins against some of the Big Ten’s better teams. 

Michigan’s win over Ohio State could be a reason their rival Buckeyes don’t make the NCAA tournament. Michigan’s win over Minnesota could be a reason why the Gophers don’t win the Big Ten regular season title.

They were big wins, but are they indicative of an upward trend for the Wolverines or just a couple of odd wins? I think they were just a couple of out-of-the-ordinary wins, but the Wolverines won’t struggle like this for long.

Weekend Preview: Big Ten, March 3

Friday, March 3rd, 2017

There are just two weeks left in the Big Ten regular season. A couple of Pairwise spots are still up for grabs, along with the first two conference spots. Ohio State is playing Michigan State and Minnesota is playing Michigan, and that should result in sweeps for the Buckeyes and Gophers. The Penn State-Wisconsin series is the only question mark, but two wins would be huge for a Wisconsin team close to making the tournament.

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Three Things I Think: Big Ten, March 1

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

With another weekend completed there are just a few contests separating these teams from the Big Ten tournament. Unlike over the past couple of years, the Big Ten tournament won’t be the only path to the NCAA tournament. Minnesota and Penn State are pretty much a lock for the NCAA tournament, while Wisconsin is 13th and Ohio State is listed as 15th but would technically be 14th if the season ended today, because St. Cloud State – the 14th team – is under .500. Anyway, that means there’s a lot of fun Pairwise stuff to watch as the season winds down.

Nothing exciting happened again last week, except that Michigan won a 1-0 game against Ohio State. Although it’s strange it was only 1-0 – when’s the last team those two teams combined for just one goal? But it looks like the lost hasn’t actually ruined Ohio State’s at-large bid chances yet. Penn State swept Michigan State and Minnesota and Wisconsin split. So basically we saw more of the same.

(After the jump: Who’ll win,, Mason Jobst and Minnesota’s coming together)

Who’ll Win

The Gophers close out their season with a couple of easy matches against Michigan and Michigan State, so I stand by my preseason prediction that the Gophers will at least win the regular season and lock up the No. 1 spot. Their main competition right now is Wisconsin, but the Badgers have to face both Penn State and Ohio State. While That’s a much tougher slate than what Minnesota has left, and last time the Badgers couldn’t beat the Nittany Lions.

Now, there’s more than just a regular-season championship at stake. The top of the Big Ten standings are pretty tight, with just 10 points separating Minnesota, Wisconsin, Penn State and Ohio State. With three points on the line for each game, that leaves 12 points available now until the end of the season. The bye day means the most for Wisconsin and Ohio State, since their only path may be through the automatic bid.

Mason Jobst

Mason Jobst gets little fanfare, but the sophomore forward is really good, and he has 42 points this year. That ranks 12th in the country and second in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes in general have an underrated offense and Jobst is the leader of that. He’s a small player but extremely impactful.

Minnesota’s Coming Together

The Gophers always start the season struggling, but that has a lot to do with their tough non-conference competition. This year it seems like Minnesota has started to put it together as the season continued, and the Gophers are almost a lock for the Big Ten regular-season title. They’re also the most likely team who can win two games in a row.

This wouldn’t be the first time Minnesota has won a Big Ten tournament and not been a great team (see 2015) but things seem different for the Gophers this year. Their goaltending might not be strong, but don’t pass on their offense – Tyler Sheehy’s 48 points rank eighth in the country.

Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Feb. 24

Friday, February 24th, 2017

This is the last weekend of play for most conferences, but the Big Ten has a couple more weeks left in its regular season. The border battle resumes, Penn State plays Michigan State and the Buckeye-Wolverine rivalry will resume.

The series to keep an eye on is really Ohio State-Michigan. The Buckeyes are currently “in” the NCAA tournament, and should easily beat Michigan. But the teams split last time and the loss was enough to knock Ohio State out temporarily. If the Buckeyes lose again, that might doom their NCAA chances permanently.

Right now the Gophers are almost a lock for the NCAA tournament. Penn State has a high chance of making it, but the outlook isn’t as great for the Badgers and Buckeyes.

The Minnesota-Wisconsin series will be interesting in the Big Ten standings, since only three points separate the two teams. And Penn State and Ohio State aren’t far behind, so either one of those teams could sneak into a top-two spot depedning on the outcome of the Badgers-Gopher series.

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Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Feb. 21

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

All the usual suspects won out in the Big Ten. Minnesota swept Penn State, Wisconsin swept Michigan and Ohio State swept Michigan State. The Gophers and Nittany Lions played to a close, overtime thriller on Saturday and it may indicate that Penn State has a chance at winning the Big Ten tournament. Wisconsin beat Michigan easily on Friday but followed with a victory by a margin of two goals the next night.

The closest series was, oddly, the Ohio State-Michigan State series. The Buckeyes are supposed to be a good team but could only beat the Spartans by a goal in each game.

The Gophers, Nittany Lions and Buckeyes are currently on the inside of the Pairwise, but more on that below. The Gophers hold the No. 1 spot in the confernce

(After the jump: A Pairwise look, Ohio State things and bad Big Ten goaltending)

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Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Feb. 16

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

The biggest matchup of the weekend is the second series between Minnesota and Penn State. The games will be played at Penn State, giving the Nittany Lions a chance to prove if they can be a dominant team in the Big Ten this year.

The Badgers and Buckeyes should have an easy time this weekend, as Wisconsin faces Michigan and Ohio State faces Michigan State. Both the Wolverines and Spartans have struggled this year.

Here’s the Big Ten standings:

1. Minnesota (27)
2. Wisconsin (24)
3. Penn State (22)
4. Ohio State (17)
5. Michigan (10)
6. Michigan State (8)

Minnesota is fourth in the Pairwise, Penn State sixth, Ohio State 15th and Ohio State 21st.

The Buckeyes will be without Josh Healey for the weekend as he was, wait for it, suspended two games for a contact to the head major penalty and game misconduct on Feb. 11 against Minnesota. Guy Gadowksy told reporters this week that defenseman Kevin Kerr will be out this weekend.

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Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Feb. 12

Monday, February 13th, 2017

Another wild weekend produced another wild series of Pairwise flips. Penn State swept Wisconsin, Michigan State tied and beat Michigan and Minnesota and Ohio State split.

Penn State has moved back up to sixth in the Pairwise. Minnesota is fifth, Ohio State 15th and Wisconsin 21. The Gophers have the sole lead in the conference now and has a three-point lead over the Badgers. Penn State is five points out of first and Ohio State is 10 points out. The Buckeyes, though, are just seven points (so about three games) out of second.

(After the jump: Each game has wild PWR implications and Penn State is nearly a lock and Michigan may be the worst in the B1G)

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Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Feb. 9

Friday, February 10th, 2017

This weekend features two interesting series. The Badgers and Nittany Lions will face off as will the Gophers and Buckeyes. Those games will all have major Pairwise and Big Ten standing implications. The Michigan-Michigan State will also be interesting, but neither team has a chance at a top-two seed in the conference or the NCAA tournament.

Ohio State has been slipping badly in the Pairwise and a win would be huge for them. Meanwhile Penn State has a lot to prove this weekend.

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