Flex On 'Em
After beating down Ohio State for the second time this season, Michigan controls their own destiny in the Big Ten title race.
Michigan has the sauce.
From the outset of their second 19-point win over Ohio State this season, the Wolverines played with the confidence-bordering-on-cockiness of a dominant team. Their first made shot of the game featured Leigha Brown celebrating Maddie Nolan’s three-pointer before she released the ball:
The Buckeyes couldn’t wait until the first media timeout to burn their first timeout in an effort to slow Michigan’s momentum. It didn’t work. The Wolverines led 13-2 at the midway point of the first quarter with all five starters already in the scoring column.
While Ohio State occasionally took some air out of the lead when Michigan got sloppy against their full-court press, the margin ballooned to as many as 34 points. The Buckeyes made a late, superficial run against M’s bench, which had spent most of the game going through their full repertoire of celebratory dance moves.
OSU needed a 22-point fourth quarter to finish with 58 points, scoring a hideous 0.78 points per possession. Their previous season lows were 66 points and 0.90 PPP. Michigan all but turned off the offense in the final quarter and still had the fifth-best performance by an OSU opponent all year (the first game was #2).
This wasn’t some scrub opponent; Ohio State ranks #22 in the AP Poll and was just a week removed from beating Maryland for their sixth straight win. Michigan could’ve been caught looking ahead to Monday’s top-ten matchup with Indiana, which will determine first place in the conference.
Instead, they played arguably their most complete game of the season while dancing up and down their rival’s home court.
Michigan all but put Ohio State’s chance at a Big Ten title to rest, handing them their third conference loss when three teams have one or zero. The race is down to your 9-1 Wolverines, 6-0 Indiana, and 7-1 Iowa.
Michigan is the only team that hasn’t had a conference game postponed due to COVID. The Hoosiers have had four such games, including the last three on the schedule — the most recent due to issues within Illinois’ program, so Monday’s game shouldn’t be at risk. Iowa is at two, including their home matchup against Indiana.
If (big if!) the teams play their remaining schedules without makeup games, here’s how that looks, with expected wins calculated using win probabilities from Her Hoop Stats:
That projects Michigan to finish 14.5-3.5 (80.5%), Indiana at 11.5-2.5 (82.1%), and Iowa at 13.1-3.9 (77.1%), giving the Hoosiers the slight edge on win percentage. You can’t have half-wins, of course, so the Big Ten is going to come down to a few swing games, starting on Monday night.
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