Last week, Ohio State had to like their chances of grabbing a first round bye in the Big Ten Tournament, and solidifying perhaps a No. 5 or a No. 6 seed for the NCAAs. Then, the team lost winnable games to Penn State and Indiana, and with only one regular season game left, has tumbled a bit.
The Buckeyes could still grab a 4 seed, and with it, a first round bye, but they'll need a little bit of help. Depending on how things go with their Michigan State game, and how things go with the rest of the league, Ohio State could finish as low as the 7th seed.
Courtesy of The Only Colors, the full chart can be found here. But in case that's TL;DR (or just TOO MANY COLORS), we break it down for you.
Here is what we know right now:
1) Michigan is almost assuredly the #1 seed. There are still a rather small number of scenarios where Wisconsin could grab it away, all of which involve both Michigan losing to Indiana, AND Ohio State beating Michigan State.
2) Wisconsin has clinched a bye, and Michigan State has ALMOST clinched one as well. It's still technically possible that the Spartans finish as the No. 5 seed, but that involves Purdue beating Wisconsin and Nebraska winning out. The SAFE bet is that Michigan is the 1 seed, and Wisconsin and MSU in some combination are the 2/3 seeds.
3) So that leaves the 4 spot up for grabs. There are three teams in contention for the last bye: Iowa, Nebraska, and Ohio State. Iowa seems to have the *most* pathways to the 4 spot, but Nebraska still very much has a chance. Heck, Nebraska can still get the 3 seed, and at least a few scenarios exist where Nebraska can get the 2 seed. In basketball. Really.
So what does Ohio State need to do?
1) Beat Michigan State. This goes without saying, really. If Ohio State can't beat Michigan State, not only will they finish the regular season on a three game losing streak, but they won't be able to finish higher than 6th in the Big Ten standings. If the Buckeyes want a shot at winning this thing, finishing below 5th will really give them a tough road.
And well, that's all Ohio State can do. What else would need to happen? There are a few scenarios that might work.
1) Illinois must beat Iowa. This is...uh, not super likely, but every scenario where Ohio State gets a bye requires it. So who hates Iowa? WE HATE IOWA.
2) The most likely scenario would also require Nebraska to beat Indiana, Michigan State to beat Iowa, Michigan to beat Indiana, and Wisconsin to beat Nebraska to end the season. This is not super unlikely. Other scenarios exist, but they typically require another implausible upset (either Purdue over Wisconsin, or Indiana over Michigan).
However, this is the Big Ten in 2014, so any or all of those things could actually happen.
So let's say Ohio State beats Michigan State, but the magic dice don't quite roll the way we want to. What happens then?
The most likely scenario is that Ohio State grabs the 5th seed. There are few scenarios out there, usually involving at least one big upset (like Purdue beating Wisconsin), where the Buckeyes could still tumble to the 6 spot, but the 5 is most likely if they can beat the Spartans.
So that isn't the worst thing in the world. Sure, Ohio State has to play on Thursday afternoon, but they get a crack at the worst team in the league, one that will either be Northwestern, Purdue, or Penn State. As long as the Buckeyes don't play Penn State again (they can't beat the Buckeyes three times in one year, right?), they should advance to face the 4 seed. That 4 seed would PROBABLY be Iowa, but it could be Nebraska or Michigan State. Any of those teams would be tricky, but that's not an impossible scenario.
Yeah, but Ohio State has played like crap recently. So what happens if they lose?
Then Ohio State will be either a 6 or a 7 seed. If Michigan beats Indiana, Ohio State is the 6th seed. If Indiana upsets Michigan, the Hoosiers probably pass Ohio State and the Buckeyes are stuck at 7th. I'd bet on Michigan to beat Indiana, so 6th seems the floor, but then again, Big Ten.
The 6 seed plays the 11 seed on Thursday night. iI seems almost impossible to forecast who that team might be; it could be Penn State, Northwestern, Purdue, Illinois, even Indiana, if things REALLY don't go Tom Crean's way. Assuming Wisconsin beats Purdue, I'd guess that the winner of that game would play Michigan State (the most likely 3 seed).
If Ohio State tumbles all the way to 7, they play at 6:30 p.m. ET on Thursday to face the 10. There's the same cluster of potential opponents there (I think Purdue or NW is most likely, but Illinois or Minnesota could be in there), with the winner probably facing Wisconsin. Not an ideal scenario.
Ohio State needs to beat Michigan State to give themselves the best chance of making the Big Ten semifinals. Plus, the Buckeyes would want to beat Michigan State anyway, to help stem the bleeding and give themselves a chance to get something in the neighborhood of a 6 seed. We'll try to get more clear projections after Wednesday, when the dust might settle a bit more.
If you're an Ohio State hoops fan right now, the rooting focus is simple: Beat Michigan State.