Pickin’ the Big Ten: Feb. 21-22

 (Jim Rosvold/University of Minnesota)
Minnesota travels to Penn State for a showdown with the Nittany Lions this weekend. (Jim Rosvold/University of Minnesota)

With seven conference points separating co-leaders Minnesota and Penn State and sixth-place Notre Dame, the Big Ten seems destined to remain interesting as ever heading into the last two weekends of the regular season.

Paula and I ended up with the exact same picks last week so let’s check on how those turned out before we get started this week. Spoiler: It wasn’t spectacular.

Last week
Drew: 2-3-1 (.417)
Paula: 2-3-1 (.417)

This season
Drew: 78-49-12 (.604)
Paula: 67-60-12 (.525)

This week

All seven teams play for the first time in a while. The top six teams in the conference face each other, which could lead to some movement in the standings, while Wisconsin closes out its nonconference slate. All times are local.

No. 12 Ohio State at Michigan State
Friday and Saturday at 7:00 p.m.

Two teams that are tied with 31 points and two teams that, I’m sure, would love to put some separation on the other and be at home when the Big Ten playoffs start. If the Buckeyes can get a good result this weekend, they have another good opportunity to close out the regular season next weekend at home against Wisconsin. The Spartans hit a bump in the road last weekend against Michigan, but with the Wolverines being so hot right now, it’s tough to pile on MSU for those results.

Drew: Ohio State 3-2, Michigan State 3-2
Paula: Michigan State 3-2, Ohio State 2-1

Notre Dame at Michigan
Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 4:00 p.m.

Michigan’s second-half run has been nothing short of impressive. With this series against Notre Dame and a trip to Minneapolis, it’ll be equally impressive if the Wolverines are able to end the regular season on a high note. Said run started when Michigan swept the Irish in South Bend in January. Notre Dame was able to keep things close against Minnesota at home last weekend, but only came away from the series with one conference point.

Drew: Michigan 3-2, 3-2
Paula: Michigan 4-2, Notre Dame 3-2

No. 18 Minnesota at No. 11 Penn State
Friday at 8:30 p.m., and Saturday at 6:30 p.m.

This is definitely the conference headliner of the weekend. Since they will be idle next weekend, this is the last opportunity for the Nittany Lions to grab points before they are forced to sit and watch next weekend. Penn State swept Minnesota in November, outscoring the Gophers 14-5, but Minnesota seems like a different team in the second half. It’ll be interesting to see how the young Gophers handle the pressure of playing Penn State at Pegula with so much on the line.

Drew: Minnesota 4-3, 3-2
Paula: Penn State 5-3, Minnesota 4-2

No. 9 Arizona State at Wisconsin
Friday and Saturday at 7:00 p.m.

Wisconsin’s NCAA Tournament chances have steadily declined since the middle of October, but the Badgers have an opportunity to at least make it harder for Arizona State to get into the tournament at this weekend. The Sun Devils, currently the No. 10 team in the PairWise, wrap up their regular season this weekend and don’t have the advantage of a conference for the automatic bid into the tournament. The Badgers were able to upset Penn State last weekend but are still a disappointing 2-6 in their last eight games.

Drew: Arizona State 4-2, 4-3
Paula: Arizona State 4-3, 4-3

The Tweet Machine

Follow Paula (@paulacweston) and me (@drewclaussen) on Twitter. I went to bed at roughly 7:00 p.m. last Friday, but maybe I’ll make it later this weekend and be able to tweet something about a hockey game.