| Detroit Free Press
Michigan basketball’s Juwan Howard on impressive win over Ohio State
Michigan basketball coach Juwan Howard praise several players for their roles Feb. 21, 2021, in the Wolverines’ win over Ohio State.
Detroit Free Press
Michigan basketball has not won the Big Ten title since the 2013-14 season.
But the Wolverines could end that drought very soon.
With a 11-1 conference record, U-M currently sits atop the Big Ten standings and is the clear frontrunner to win the regular-season conference title.
The one complicating factor: How the title will be awarded.
More on the Wolverines: With win at Ohio State, Michigan basketball cements status as national title contender
Because Michigan was forced to pause for two weeks, it is slated to play just 17 conference games instead of the 20 that were scheduled. That will be fewer games than teams like second-place Illinois (12-4 Big Ten), who is on pace to play all 20 games. Ohio State (third place) and Iowa (fourth place) are also slated to play more games than U-M.
Assuming the Big Ten chooses this season’s conference champion based on win percentage, here are the different paths to the conference title for Michigan, based on the Wolverines’ cumulative record over their final five games (Iowa, at Indiana, Illinois, Michigan State, at MSU).
5-0 finish; 16-1 conference record
Obviously, this is the easiest path for Michigan. If the Wolverines win out, they would finish with a sterling win percentage of .941. No other team would be able to match that even if they also won the rest of their games (and U-M finishing undefeated would also mean Illinois and Iowa lost to the Wolverines).
This would also clinch the title for Michigan. The Wolverines would have a win percentage of .882. Even if Illinois finished undefeated, its win percentage with a 16-4 conference record would be .800.
This is the worst that Michigan can finish while still clinching the title. The Wolverines are comfortably ahead of Iowa and Ohio State and would have a higher win percentage (.823 to .750) even if both teams won the rest of their games; they would also edge out Illinois, .823 to .800, if it won the rest of its games. Michigan State’s upset win over Illinois on Tuesday night really helped out Michigan.
This finish would still keep Michigan out of striking distance for Iowa and Ohio State, which, at best, can top out with 15-5 conference records, as both teams already have five losses each. This would open the door for Illinois, though, as it could win out and finish with a better win percentage than U-M (.800 to .765). If one of Michigan’s two wins is against Illinois, that would clinch the title.
Here is where things would get tricky. Michigan would finish ahead of Iowa and Ohio State if both teams finished with 14-6 conference records; however, if those two teams won the rest of their Big Ten games, they would finish ahead of the Wolverines. Illinois, meanwhile, could win the title over Michigan if it lost one game.
As unlikely as this finish would seem, anything is possible in college basketball. If Michigan lost out, it would need Iowa and Ohio State to finish with eight or more conference losses; a 13-7 record for both teams would slightly trump U-M in win percentage, 0.650 to 0.647. Meanwhile, the Wolverines would really need help from Illinois’ opponents, as Illinois would have to lose all five remaining games to finish below Michigan.
This scenario also opens up a window for Purdue, currently 10-6 with three more games. If the Boilermakers finished 13-6, they would have a win percentage of .684. Wisconsin could also leap ahead of Michigan in this scenario if it won out and finished 13-7.
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