Purdue owns most favorable remaining schedule among Big Ten contenders

Purdue owns most favorable remaining schedule among Big Ten contenders

The homestretch of the season is here. The finish line is in sight and things became a lot more interesting in the Big Ten title chase when Wisconsin lost at home to Northwestern on Sunday.

The Badgers still lead the conference with a 10-2 Big Ten mark. But now Maryland and Purdue, tied for second with 9-3 conference records, are just a game back of Wisconsin. Northwestern and Michigan State are fourth with a 7-5 league records.

This is going to be a fun final sprint.

The Badgers are looking to win their fifth regular-season title since 2002. Maryland is looking for its first Big Ten crown since joining the league in 2014-15. The Boilermakers are tied with Indiana for the most league championships with 22. But Purdue is searching for just its second Big Ten title since 1996, last winning in 2010. Michigan State is looking for its eighth crown under Tom Izzo and first since 2012. Northwestern? The Wildcats last won the championship in 1933.

Let’s take a look at the remaining schedules for all five contenders, with the teams arranged by the winning percentage of their remaining opponents from easiest to hardest.

And, Purdue and Northwestern look to have the most favorable slates. Michigan State has the most challenging remaining schedule.

Purdue: 3 home games; 3 away (34-41, .453)

  • Feb. 14 Rutgers (2-11)
  • Feb. 18 Michigan State (7-5)
  • Feb. 21 at Penn State (6-7)
  • Feb. 25 at Michigan (6-6)
  • Feb. 28 Indiana (5-8)
  • March 5 at Northwestern (8-4)

No team in the Big Ten is hotter than the Boilermakers, who have won six of seven. Among all of the legit contenders, Purdue has the most advantageous slate. The last three games figure to dictate the Boilers’ title dreams, with games at Michigan and the finale at Northwestern sandwiched around a visit from Indiana. Purdue just may win the Big Ten title.

Northwestern: 4 home games; 2 away (35-40, .467)

  • Feb. 15 Maryland (9-3)
  • Feb. 18 Rutgers (2-11)
  • Feb. 21 at Illinois (4-9)
  • Feb. 25 at Indiana (5-8)
  • March 1 Michigan (6-6)
  • March 5 Purdue (9-3)

Hope floats for the Wildcats, who have four home games among their last six. It isn’t crazy to envision NU winning all of its remaining games, especially if Scottie Lindsey is back and in good shape. The last two games will be interesting, as the Wildcats close the season at home vs. Michigan and then Purdue.

Wisconsin: 3 home games; 3 away (39-35, .527)

  • Feb. 16 at Michigan (6-6)
  • Feb. 19 Maryland (9-3)
  • Feb. 23 at Ohio State (5-8)
  • Feb. 26 at Michigan State (7-5)
  • March 2 Iowa (6-7)
  • March 5 Minnesota (6-6)

Plenty of heavy-lifting looms for the Badgers, including games at Michigan and at Michigan State. The trip to Ohio State is a trap door. And the visit from Maryland this week will be interesting.

Maryland: 3 home games; 3 away (39-35, .527)

  • Feb. 15 at Northwestern (8-4)
  • Feb. 19 at Wisconsin (10-2)
  • Feb. 22 Minnesota (6-6)
  • Feb. 25 Iowa (6-7)
  • Feb. 28 at Rutgers (2-11)
  • March 5 Michigan State (7-5)

The next two games figure to make or break the Terrapins’ title hopes, with trips to Northwestern and to Wisconsin up next. Win both of those, and Maryland may be in business to win the league. But a split—with a loss in Madison—figures to doom the Terps’ title dreams.

Michigan State: 3 home games; 3 away (41-33, .554)

  • Feb. 14 Ohio State (5-8)
  • Feb. 16 at Purdue (9-3)
  • Feb. 23 Nebraska (4-8)
  • Feb. 26 Wisconsin (10-2)
  • March 1 at Illinois (4-9)
  • March 5 at Maryland (9-3)

Plenty of heavy lifting remains with games at Purdue and at Maryland, the season finale. And a visit from Wisconsin is another big hurdle for a Spartan program that has struggled for consistency.

***

Email Tom Dienhart using the form below.

Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer

About Tom Dienhart: BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, and send him questions to his weekly mailbag.

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