Pickin’ the Big Ten playoffs: March 2-4

It’s playoff hockey time! I’m excited for the new format this year, from the best-of-three series to the campus sites to the single-elimination games that begin next week. Here’s how Drew Claussen and I did with picks during the regular season.

Last week

Drew: 6-2-0 (.750)
Paula: 5-3-1 (.625)

This season

Drew: 92-51-14 (.631)
Paula: 94-49-14 (.643)

The first round

With first-place Notre Dame having earned a bye for this weekend, there are three best-of-three series. The teams that emerge from this weekend move on to single-elimination semifinal play Saturday, March 10, hosted by Notre Dame and the highest remaining seed come Monday. The games this weekend are Friday, Saturday and Sunday (if necessary), and not one of them is televised. Teams are identified by seeding. Records listed are overall. Times are local.

No. 7 Michigan State (12-20-2) at No. 2 Ohio State (21-8-5)

Drew: I wouldn’t be surprised if this series went to three games, but I’m fairly confident that the Buckeyes will find a way to advance. All in all, this season can be looked at as a successful first step in the rebuilding process for Michigan State under Danton Cole. I’ll take the Buckeyes in a sweep.

Paula: I wouldn’t be surprised to see all three of these series go to three games, but this is the one about which I am most confident of the higher seed emerging. The Buckeyes are 3-1-0 against the Spartans this season, but Michigan State won the last meeting in Columbus 6-3 (Feb. 3). Games are at 7:00 p.m. each night in Value City Arena.

Drew’s picks: Ohio State 4-2, 3-1.
Paula’s picks: Ohio State 3-2, 4-2.

No. 6 Wisconsin (14-17-4) at No. 3 Michigan (18-13-3)

Drew: With the way the Badgers have limped into the playoffs, it’s hard to see them advancing in this one. The team that ended Notre Dame’s streak and took five of six points from Penn State the next weekend is still in there somewhere, but I don’t see the Badgers winning twice on the road.

Paula: My thoughts about the outcome of this series are less about the Badgers than they are about the Wolverines. If Michigan plays the game it’s been playing during its six-game unbeaten streak, the Wolverines will be hard to stop. Wisconsin is 2-1-1 against Michigan this season and the Badgers won the last meeting between these teams, 4-2 in Yost on Feb. 3. Games are at 7:30 p.m. in Yost Ice Arena.

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

No. 5 Minnesota (19-15-2) at No. 4 Penn State (16-13-5)

Drew: One would think that the Gophers would come out firing against a team that flat-out embarrassed them last weekend, but it’s impossible to get a finger on the pulse of Minnesota this season. I’ll take Minnesota in three.

Paula: I’m picking Minnesota in three as well, but I am not at all confident in that pick. The Nittany Lions went 3-1-0 against the Golden Gophers this season. I think Penn State is steady at home but that Minnesota is far more playoff tested. My guess is that this series will come down to how well each team can apply what it learned when the Gophers and Nittany Lions met last weekend. Games are at 7:00 p.m. in Pegula Ice Arena.

Drew’s picks: Minnesota 4-3, Penn State 3-2, Minnesota 4-2.
Paula’s picks: Penn State 4-2, Minnesota 3-2, Minnesota 3-2.

The Twitters

Follow both Drew (@drewclaussen) and me (@paulacweston) on Twitter.