Pickin’ the Big Ten: Feb. 26-27

Wisconsin sophomore Cole Caufield leads the nation in scoring. (photo: Tom Lynn).

It’s the second-to-last week of the regular season. Can you believe it? Picks so far.

Last week
Drew: 4-1-1 (.750)
Paula: 4-1-1 (.750)

This season
Drew: 55-30-3 (.6342)
Paula: 49-36-3 (.574)

This week

It’s a post-points world, as we know now that there will be an unbalanced schedule in the Big Ten because of COVID-19. That means that win percentage is the first determinant of league standings and playoff seedings. Also, the the Big Ten championship has been moved up by a few days. Other than the schedule change, there’s nothing new about this news. Every win counts during seasons when our species doesn’t face an existential threat from a mutating virus, too.

There are two conference series and Arizona State plays Michigan. Penn State is still restricted from playing because of COVID issues, meaning that the Nittany Lions finish February without having played a game in a month. It also means that first-place Minnesota doesn’t play this week, as the Golden Gophers were scheduled to play Penn State.

All games are Friday and Saturday and all times are a local.

Notre Dame at Michigan State
6:00 p.m. Friday, 3:00 p.m. Saturday

The Irish enter the weekend in fourth place after having rebounded from a loss to Wisconsin last weekend with a tie and a shootout point, a point that no longer counts in any real way. The last-place Spartans dropped two to Minnesota last weekend — but don’t let where Michigan State is in the B1G standings fool you into thinking that the Spartans won’t be formidable opponents. These teams played to overtime twice in December, with the Fighting Irish going 1-0-1 in that series. Also, each of these teams has one win in its last six games. Drew and I agree on a split here.

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

Ohio State at No. 5 Wisconsin
7:00 p.m. Friday, 4:00 p.m. Saturday

Last weekend, Ohio State halted a five-game losing streak with a one-goal home win over archrival Michigan before dropping the rematch 6-0. Ouch. With six wins this season, the Buckeyes are a few percentage points out of last place and are working to keep it that way. Meanwhile, the Badgers continue to chase first-place Minnesota after defeating and tying Notre Dame last weekend. These teams split a series in Columbus in early December and split in Madison last season. Neither Drew nor I see that happening this weekend.

Drew: Wisconsin 4-1, 3-1
Paula: Wisconsin 4-1, 5-1

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

Arizona State returns to action following a bye week, with the Sun Devils having last played at Michigan State Feb. 14-15, splitting two one-goal games. Michigan split on the road with the Buckeyes last weekend, rebounding from that one-goal loss with a six-goal win that included five even-strength markers. These two teams met to start the college hockey season in what feels like a lifetime ago — just last November, if you’re keeping track — a series in which the Wolverines outscored the Sun Devils 11-1. The only thing Drew and I disagree on here is final scores.

Drew: Michigan 4-1, 3-0
Paula: Michigan 3-1, 5-1


Follow Drew Claussen (@drewclaussen) and me (@paulacweston) on Twitter and we may just follow back. The real bonus of following Drew is that you get to see photos of his adorable daughter. Fair warning: I post cat pictures.