Figure Eight

Feb 8, 2023

I currently have three different articles I'm writing. And that's not really something I ever do. On the airplane yesterday I started writing the next article in the "starting to look at 2023" football series, I also have what you're about to read about 50% finished. And Bill Connelly released his Returning Production numbers for the 2023 college football season so I started working out some numbers for that (like I've done the last 3-4 years).

I should probably go football-basketball-football, but this one is at the front of my mind so basketball it is. I'll try to get this one complete before I go to bed and then I can work on both football articles tomorrow. Let's go to the hardwood...

I think I'm actually a fan of the Minnesota game being rescheduled. Yes, it crams more games into more days, but we kind of thrived on that at the end of the 2021 season so I'm hoping for a repeat. At the end of the conference season there's not much tinkering going on anymore. You are who you are - go get it.

The reason I like the Minnesota game being moved to February 20th is that we'll now have an easy game in the middle of this difficult closing stretch. If we lose at Indiana on 2/18, we'll get a confidence builder at home against Minnesota before Northwestern comes to town looking for a sweep (gross). We were going to close with four road games in our final six but now we close with four road games in our final seven. Not a big change, but, I like it.

These final eight games are super very mightily important. As I wrote yesterday (before tonight's game was postponed), we need Quad 1 wins to climb the seeding chart, and this closing stretch will give us five chances for Quad 1 wins.

A visual example of why I like the Minnesota game in the middle. The schedule before this game was postponed (simply listing where the game would be played and whether it will be Q1, Q2, Q3, or Q4 in the eyes of the Committee):

Home - Quad 4
Home - Quad 1
Road - Quad 1
Road - Quad 1
Home - Quad 2
Road - Quad 1
Home - Quad 2
Road - Quad 1

And now with the Minnesota game moved to 2/20:

Home - Quad 1
Road - Quad 1
Road - Quad 1
Home - Quad 4
Home - Quad 2
Road - Quad 1
Home - Quad 2
Road - Quad 1

Three tough Q1 games, then two on the road, and then a soft landing spot before we finish Q2-Q1-Q2-Q1. And instead of finishing 4 of 6 on the road, it's 4 of 7. I think it matters. A little.

With eight games remaining, now is probably the time to do my "what will we be happy with here?" thing. I've done an article like that nearly every season for more than a decade, especially when the difficulty skyrockets:

+ In 2020, I balanced out all of the remaining games with certain wins and certain losses and landed on four games that would define the season: Maryland in Champaign (we lost), Rutgers in Piscataway (we lost because Ayo was out with a knee injury after the MSU game), Penn State in State College (we won when Ayo returned from the knee injury and went left), and Iowa in Champaign (Kofi blocked Luka, we won, and then Covid ended everything four days later).

+ In 2021, the look-ahead was difficult to write because we had no idea which games would be canceled and which games would be rescheduled. But going back and re-reading that article led me to this fantastically awesome paragraph:

Add to that a Senior Day home win over Nebraska and my "expectation", I guess, is a 3-3 finish which would mean 14-6 in the Big Ten. My hope is a 4-2 finish which would be 15-5. My dream - a 16-4 Big Ten record in which we started 5-3 and then somehow won 10 of 11 including massive road wins the final week.

The third one hit. In the final eight days, we won at #23 Wisconsin, at #2 Michigan, and at #7 Ohio State. Dream realized.

+ 2022? I didn't write one of these articles. Going back through the archive, it was mostly all "So, How We Doin'? previews followed by game articles. That's one of the reasons I made a change to "So, How We Doin'?" this year. I was too busy writing game previews and didn't get to the good stuff.

2023? Let's break down the final eight games.

We always start by throwing out the high and low, so that should be fairly simple. We play #1 Purdue on the road during already-won-national-player-of-the-year Zach Edey's final game at Mackey, so that's the most likely loss. We also play currently-222-in-KenPom Minnesota (that's the lowest Big Ten KenPom rating since Rutgers went 7-25 in 2016), so that would be the most likely win. Toss 'em both out.

That puts us at 17-8 (8-6). Let's find another two games to pair together (where we'll go 1-1). We'll use the NET rankings for this. The most difficult road game (besides Purdue) is almost certainly the game at Indiana (NET #22). We already lost to Indiana in Champaign and they just beat Purdue in that building.

The easiest home game (besides Minnesota) is, believe it or not, Michigan. My choices for the next-easiest win here are basically home against NET 68 Michigan, home against NET 52 Northwestern, and either the road game at NET 42 Ohio State or the road game at NET 58 Penn State. My first reaction here is "we just soundly beat Ohio State at home - an 11-12 basketball team - so that's the next-easiest win", but that's on the road and Michigan is 13-10 (and they have to come to Champaign for Senior Day). Besides, we're looking for 1-1 here. The odds of winning that game at Indiana are probably similar to losing at home to Michigan.

Actually, KenPom does odds, so I can look that up. His percentage chance of us winning at Indiana: 37%. His percentage chance of us losing at home to Michigan: 26%. That works for me. 1-1 in those two games.

Now we're 18-9 (9-7) and have our Four Games That Will Define The Season:

at Penn State
at Ohio State

I mean, I see four wins, right? Of course I see four wins. I'm a fan. Go back before the season and tell someone those are the four defining games and they'll tell you it's a certain 3-0 in the first three and then maybe a 50/50 shot at going 4-0.

But we've had a Rutgers thing since they joined the league (that 2016 Rutgers team that finished 7-25? We beat them... in triple overtime). And we already lost to Penn State at home and Northwestern on the road. So that backs me down from "4-0 or maybe 3-1" and suddenly 2-2 (and 1-3) are on the table.

Maybe I'll just do this like I did with that 2021 article (linked above). A guess, a hope, and a dream.

  • My guess is that we'll go 2-2 in those four games which would mean a 4-4 finish. That's 20-11 (11-9) going into the Big Ten Tournament.
  • My hope is that we'll go 3-1 in those four games which would mean a 5-3 finish. That's 21-10 (12-8) going into the BTT.
  • My dream is to go 4-0 in those four games which would mean a 6-2 finish. (Yes, 6-2 is the dream. I just feel like 7-1 and 8-0 are off the table.) That would be 22-9 (13-7) going into the BTT.

So that's how I figure these final eight. I'm gonna just accept two road losses in the state of Indiana (ugh). And no excuses - gotta beat Minnesota and Michigan at home. 13-7 is there, and I'd love to see it, but I fear 10-10 is on the table as well with all these road games.

11-9 is the expectation. I'm hopeful for 12-8. And I really think that 13-7 is achievable.

First up? Rutgers. Let's beat the fighting Pikiells and start these eight games off right.

Somebody play Luke Goode on.


Illiniboat on February 8, 2023 @ 07:16 AM

Yeah, I thought it was weird Goode didn't play against Iowa. Last season, Underwood threw Belo out there in a huge game against Purdue when he hadn't played in weeks so I don't think it being too big a game is really the reason.

AGig21 on February 8, 2023 @ 09:24 AM

another "benefit" to Minny cancellation is more time for Goode to get up to speed.

Douglascountyillinifan on February 8, 2023 @ 04:48 PM

I wonder if 12-8 gets us a double bye at the BTT?

Giovantischixstripz on February 9, 2023 @ 10:38 AM

Probably would come down to tiebreakers, but it seems like we are headed to someone from the Big 10 being 12-8 and getting a double bye.

DB50 on February 9, 2023 @ 01:01 PM

You are right about Ayo being injured in the MS game, but it wasn't a knee injury, I thought it was a broken nose compliments of Manny Sissoko. A flagrant 1 which warranted a suspension if not for Izzo saying what a nice young man Sissoko was. Of course, the BIG didn't suspend him.

Douglascountyillinifan on February 10, 2023 @ 05:50 AM

Different game. He slipped on a water spot in a home game against MSU also.

HailToTheOrange on February 10, 2023 @ 09:44 AM

Remember how terrifying that was? It went from oh my God is that a season ending ACL to holy crap he's playing at Penn State?

Duce20 on February 11, 2023 @ 05:38 PM

We’re going 6-2

on July 3, 2023 @ 03:59 PM


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