The weekend of Big Ten/non-conference play featured two and a half sweeps. The only half sweep came in non-conference competition as Ohio State defeated and then tied Arizona State. It was not the best game for the Buckeyes, who did lose in the meaningless shootout. The Gophers swept Michigan while Penn State swept Michigan State..
Penn State is still No. 1 in the Pairwise and it would probably take a lot (maybe losing every remaining game) to knock them out of the tournament. The Buckeyes, however, are on the bubble and they’ve dropped down to No. 13. The Gophers and Nittany Lions are tied for the Big Ten lead with 15 points each. Wisconsin is third with nine.
Per Scarlet & Grey Radio’s Miles McQuinn, OSU’s leading scorer Nick Schilkey is day-to-day with a lower-body injury. He was hurt in Saturday’s tie against Arizona State. The Gophers announced that Tommy Novak is out for the rest of the season.
(After the jump: The inconsistency returns, a Pairwise update/NCAA tournament outlook and a national scoring update)
The Inconsistency Returns
This has been a staple in conference play since about 2014-15. No, it’s not because the conference is so good anyone can win on any given night. But this isn’t about the conference as a whole – it’s about Ohio State. The Buckeyes defeated Arizona State pretty easily on Friday, I game that I did not get to see, but then played badly in a tie on Saturday, a game which I did see. I understand that Tanner Laczynski was still sick and that Nick Schilkey left the game because of an injury, but that doesn’t account for the way the Buckeyes played.
This happens every year with Ohio State (and it drives me crazy). They’ve had one of the better and arguably one of the most underrated offenses for a while now (yes, even after Ryan Dzingel left). And they’ve been one of the hottest teams in the conference at year’s end every season, but they can never quite put it together. It’s hard to tell what you’ll get with Ohio State on game day. They’re so close to being a good team and so close to making it back to the NCAAs this year, but for some reason something is always missing and they can’t quite put it together.
Pairwise Update/NCAA Tournament Outlook
Last week I said Penn State is virtually a lock for the NCAA tournament. They’re currently No. 1 in the Pairwise and, despite the poor strength of schedule (it’s ranked 34th by RPI which is the weakest amongst the top 22 teams in the Pairwise) it’s unlikely they’ll drop out. Minnesota is 11th and Ohio State is slipping towards the bubble and is currently No. 13. If the tournament started today, the Big Ten would end up with three teams in the tournament. I think they’ll end up with tw0 – which they haven’t had since the conference’s first season.
Penn State will get an at-large bid, Ohio State will probably be knocked out and I’m still betting on the Gophers winning the Big Ten tournament.
Something interesting to note is that the top PWR teams with the weakest schedules are ECAC/Big Ten teams, which is an accurate reflection of both conferences having bad years. The teams with the hardest schedules are, unsurprisingly, in the NCHC.
National Scoring Update
A few Big Ten teams have been hovering near the top of the NCAA in scoring recently (see: Michigan last year). Right now Penn State still has the lead with 4.58 goals per game but Ohio State is right behind with 4.20 goals per game. The two teams will face again this week, although the Buckeyes may be short of Schilkey isn’t playing.
A couple spots down is where Minnesota and Wisconsin are. The Gophers quietly have put together a pretty good offense, and they should still be able to produce even without Novak. The thing Wisconsin and Minnesota share is they have very talented and lethal players. It’s taken time but they’re starting to get more comfortable and those players can be a big threat.