Pickin’ the Big Ten: March 11-12

It’s the last weekend of regular-season play. It’s not the last weekend, however, for Drew Claussen and me to predict how B1G teams will fare.

Last week
Drew: 2-4-0 (.333)
Paula: 2-4-0 (.333)

Season
Drew: 74-51-18 (.580)
Paula: 75-50-18 (.587)

This week

Last weekend was a weekend of missed opportunities for the top three Big Ten teams. While it’s possible for Michigan to finish ahead of Minnesota when all is said and done, it’s unlikely given that the first-place Gophers play the last-place Badgers. It is entirely possible, though, for third-place Penn State to overtake second-place Michigan. It’s also possible for fifth-place Michigan State to sweep Ohio State and tie the Buckeyes in points at the end of the season and take the tiebreaker to finish fourth.

A single win by Minnesota gives the Gophers their third consecutive Big Ten regular-season championship.

A single win by Michigan gives the Wolverines a second-place finish and a first-round bye for the Big Ten championship tournament next weekend.

A single win by Ohio State would secure fourth place for the Buckeyes.

A single win by Michigan State would do nothing for the Spartans in the standings, but would bolster their confidence as they face off against Ohio State again next weekend in St. Paul, Minn.

A single win by Wisconsin would give the Badgers three B1G wins this season, one more than they had in 2014-15.

Ohio State at Michigan State

Drew: Not much to be determined here, except maybe what color jerseys each team wears when they face off at the Big Ten Tournament. I’m sure both teams, and their fan bases, would take getting swept this weekend if it meant that they would get a win on Thursday in St. Paul.

Ohio State is coming off of an impressive sweep of Michigan. The Buckeyes finally won a close game on Sunday and I think they will be one of the more dangerous teams that has to play three games at the tournament. They made it to the finals in the first year of the Big Ten Tournament and it wouldn’t surprise me if they made another run. Ohio State can score with anyone; the problem is that the Buckeyes are also prone to letting a lot of pucks into their own net. Michigan State had a nice rebound win against Minnesota on Saturday and will try to keep that home magic going. Jake Hildebrand got the shutout last Saturday and the Spartans will need him to do his best brick wall impression to do well the rest of the way.

Paula: The Buckeyes scored 13 goals last weekend against the Wolverines and were rewarded for it — a nice change of pace for OSU after having scored 11 against Michigan in December and only earning two points for the effort. Ohio State has averaged six goals per game in its last five contests, all against B1G teams that can give up a lot of goals — Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan — but allowed 4.4 goals on average in those games. In that stretch, OSU is 4-0-1. The Spartans are averaging 3.2 goals per game in their last five while allowing 2.0 goals, with a record of 3-1-1 in that span.

The Spartans and Buckeyes split a pair of one-goal games (one with an ENG) in Columbus at the end of January. Michigan State is 4-3-3 in its last 10 against Ohio State, and the Spartans were 3-1-0 against the Buckeyes last season. Games are at 7:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday night and are untelevised.

Drew’s picks: Ohio State 5-2, Michigan State 3-2.
Paula’s picks: Ohio State 4-2, Michigan State 4-2.

Penn State at Michigan

Drew: Missed opportunities for each of these teams last weekend. Michigan missed out on the opportunity to keep the pressure on Minnesota when the Wolverines got swept by Ohio State. Penn State missed out on making this series very, very interesting when it couldn’t solve Wisconsin’s Matt Jurusik in the third period of Saturday’s loss to the Badgers. A win there would have meant that both of these teams would have come into the weekend with 35 points. As it stands, Penn State needs a sweep or a win and a shootout win to jump Michigan this weekend. The Wolverines swept Penn State when the two played earlier this season. The first game of that series was a home game for PSU with the second being a neutral-site contest at Madison Square Garden.

I see this one going as a split. Ohio State had to have been a wake-up call for Michigan and the Wolverines will want to get on a roll heading into the playoffs. I think Penn State is good enough to capture a win this weekend, but I can’t see the Nittany Lions going into Ann Arbor and sweeping.

Paula: The Nittany Lions came from behind against Wisconsin last weekend in that 4-3 loss, scoring two late in the third period but — as Drew said — Jurusik was the difference, as PSU put up 49 shots on goal to UW’s 26 in that contest. If the Nittany Lions do the same this weekend, the Wolverines’ team defense may be exposed again. During the second period of their 7-4 loss to Ohio State last Friday, the Wolverines played horribly — there is no other word for it. While the Buckeyes won both of those games outright, the Wolverines did very little to further their cause.

After their losses last weekend, the Wolverines slipped from sixth to a tie for eighth in the PairWise Rankings. After their single loss to Wisconsin, though, the Nittany Lions officially became a team no longer under consideration; while still on the PWR bubble, Penn State now ties Minnesota for 17th in the PWR, so the Nittany Lions know that they need to win the Big Ten championship outright to get their first invitation to the NCAA tournament. Besting the Wolverines in points this weekend would help them tremendously in St. Paul.

Michigan knows, though, that a loss to Penn State will hurt the Wolverines’ chances to go to the NCAA tournament as well. This is the first Michigan team that I’ve covered in 21 years of college hockey reporting that has no NCAA tournament experience. While a first-time bid for PSU’s program is a mighty motivator, the Wolverines will be no less motivated — especially since this the last year of Red Berenson’s contract. Games are at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday night, and each game is carried by Comcast Cable.

Drew’s picks: Michigan 5-3, Penn State 3-1.
Paula’s picks: Michigan 5-4, 5-4.

Wisconsin at Minnesota

Drew: This series made me think back to the series between the same two teams that ended the 2011-2012 season. The Gophers faced the Badgers at home with a chance to clinch the MacNaughton Cup. Wisconsin took Friday’s game before Nate Schmidt made a great individual play to keep the puck in the offensive zone, elude a defender and launch a rocket for the game-winning goal in the third period of Saturday’s game. The video doesn’t exactly do it justice, but that was the loudest I have ever personally heard Mariucci Arena.

In two ways this weekend’s series will be similar; Minnesota has a chance to lock up the regular-season championship for its conference and the Gophers play Wisconsin. It’s just not the same, though. Wisconsin is terrible and has been for two seasons now. While the Gophers are leading the conference, their play hasn’t been great this year either. Minnesota has been downright bad at times.

Oh, and that loud arena. I’m sure attendance will be announced as more than 9,000, but I’d be surprised if the building is more than 75 percent full.

Minnesota killed Wisconsin when the two teams played at Kohl Center and there’s no reason to predict anything but a Gophers sweep this time around. Which, of course, means that the Badgers will sweep.

Paula: Both of these teams surprised me this season. Minnesota’s young team is loaded with talent, but the Gophers’ season-long learning curve wasn’t something that I expected. Conversely, I am impressed with how hard the Badgers play. At the start of the season, coach Mike Eaves said that his seniors would be motivated by “redemption” in 2015-16. That attempt at redemption hasn’t shown up on the wins and losses ledger, but the Badgers work hard as consistently as they can. I know that fans of each team are frustrated, but both the Gophers and Badgers have been interesting to watch for reasons beyond their numbers this season.

All of that having been said, I think Minnesota sweeps this weekend, too. Friday’s 7:00 p.m. start is carried by ESPNews and Saturday’s 7:00 p.m. game is televised by the Big Ten Network.

Drew’s picks: Minnesota 4-1, 5-3.
Paula’s picks: Minnesota 4-2, 4-2.

89 COMMENTS

  1. Will you be at one or both WMU/U. of Michigan games Paula?

    Are you planning on coming to Kalamazoo for any games this year?

  2. Clarkson is gonna have a tough time winning at Quinny with 2 of their top players (and scorers)  Sexton and Oakley out with injuries.

  3. hey josh in the colgate’s last four games, they actually had two wins, not one. Do some research, before you embarrass yourself

  4. I have a hard time believing that Cornell’s going to come out of this weekend only with 2 points and will get them at Dartmouth. Of course thats basically what happened last weekend, but I’m thinking if the Red only get 2 they’re coming from Lynah East. That said I’m expecting 3 points this weekend and hoping for 4!

    • I see Cornell’s weekend going the other way: beating Harvard, losing to Dartmouth.  And I’m not just saying that now that I see Cornell is up 3-1 in the 2nd.

      • Thats excatly what I said. We just call Bright Lynah East here in Ithaca. If were going to lose a game its at Dartmouth because Dartmouth is better than Harvard. But I’m still hoping for a 4 pt weekend on the road.

  5. Come on, Josh: if you’re going to pick Harvard over Cornell in Bright, don’t do it because you think Harvard has some sort of home-ice advantage. Have you BEEN to one of those games? It’s at least 2/3 red!

  6. Wow you guys really shouldent over look SLU they can play and prolly beat every team in the league with how good matt weninger is playin

  7. I think its “patience grasshopper”  Cornell is looking like they are back on form after a disappointing season last year.  4 points on the road at Harvard and Dartmouth, plus the win against Yale gives them a lot of creed early in the season.  Lets go RED!

  8. I hear you David.  Probably because the Big Red had a bit of a disappointing season last year.  But to call them a “rising force” is a bit ignorant considering the success of the program over the decades.  They look good this season so far though.  Nice to see Shafer’s team nationally ranked again. 
    On another note – I still remember your 59 save performance against Wisconsin in the NCAA tournament a few years back.  That was probably the most impressive game I have seen by a goalie (college or pro) period.  Hope life is treating you well Mr. McKee

  9. Great article and great responses so far. I think people need to understand that ESPN could care less about hockey, NHL or College. Its Football and Basketball and that’s about it. Their coverage of hockey, when they do cover it, is poor at best. 

    Everyone seems to think ESPN is the end all for sports. I highly disagree. Their coverage of the bread and butter sports has gone downhill and its really hard to watch any sporting event on that network anymore.

    I would rather see someone that actually cares about hockey show it rather than ESPN, like NBCSN or even NHLNetwork. They already cover the NHL and NHLN covers the world junior tournament, so why not college hockey. I think they would do a great job.

  10. ESPN has no interest in the Frozen Four if a Boston area team isn’t in it. Beanpot got more Sports Center coverage than the national championship

  11. I think ESPNU does a good job, and I find myself watching it fairly often, but it certainly is disappointing they have moved the Frozen down a tier. 

  12. ESPN is the network of Football & Basketball but I blame the NCAA for this one.  Why not leverage the Men’s basketball tournament to FORCE ESPN to carry the other championships on the flagship?  When ESPN bought coverage for the World Cup, SportsCenter changed from anti-soccer to pro-soccer.  Sure, not a ton of highlights but soccer does make the top 10 fairly consistently.  Still loses out to the NBA equivalent to the empty netter but there are no more stupid comments from the anchors about how soccer sucks.  If ESPN gets behind hockey, it will change everything about the sports success.

  13. Thanks for your work, Dave.  You are absolutely correct that CBSCS has brought a ton of exposure to the best sport on the planet, and in spite of the criticism from DU_Fan, most of us very much appreciate the work you do.  You are knowledgeable and you clearly keep in touch with the game, as opposed to the ESPN people who only notice it at tourney time.

    As for the criticism from DU_Fan, it’s hard to take someone seriously from a fan or knowledge standpoint when they confuse the Broadmoor with the MacNaughton, Mis-spell MacNaughton, and call the Final Five the “Frozen Five.”

  14. I wouldn’t say this gophers team is loaded with young talent. They may have potential, but “loaded” no. This isn’t like the Kessel, and Okposo years, now those teams were “loaded” with young talent.

    • But they get the best of the best from MN every year. The other players from MN are irrelevant. This team is stacked. Give them title and cancel the Tourney!

          • 12 years of Sobriety this month, just unfortunatley live in the “Rodent” centric citites. Lucia is the greatest coach ever, Mariucci the greatest arena in the world…

          • Sounds like you may have to move. I personally wouldn’t mind if they move on from the DON, but that is a topic for another day. I do like watching hockey at Mariucci, better then Magness arena or World Arena, but not the best. The best would have to be the old Civic Center in St. Paul nice and flat so you can’t see…

          • I wish I could move, but unfortunately I can’t. I wish the Don would get fired, Heck Eaves too!. The Ralph is the nicest arena I have ever set foot in and I have been to a lot of arenas.

          • Never been to the Ralph, but I have heard it is really nice. Maybe one day I’ll see a game there, kind of out of the way though…

        • I have never met chokes, although i would like to. He is brilliant. I am a Wisconsin transplant who unfortunately attended the University of Minnesota. Very racist university, that is why i support PETA in changing the nickname. GO SHOWERS

  15. Unfortunately Paula you are way off when it comes to Penn State needing to win the B10 tournament to get a bid to the NCAAs. In fact, they don’t even need to win both games from Michigan this weekend. A split in Ann Arbor puts them right back into the thick of things in the Pairwise rankings. By my calculations, they just need to take two out of three games with Michigan (I’m assuming they will meet in the BTT) and that should be enough for an at-large bid.

      • She’s certainly right AFTER Penn State was swept, but she wasn’t BEFORE they were; which is when she wrote the article and when I made the observation.

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