MADISON – Wisconsin enters the final week of the regular season alone in fourth place in the Big Ten standings and in control of its quest for a top-four finish.
The Badgers (20-9, 12-6 Big Ten) moved one-half game ahead of Maryland (21-9, 12-7) thanks to Michigan’s 69-62 victory Sunday over the host Terrapins.
Purdue (22-7, 15-3) is alone in first place, with Michigan (26-4, 15-4) one-half game back and Michigan State (23-6, 14-4) one game back.
The top four teams receive a double-bye in the league tournament, which opens March 13 at the United Center in Chicago.
UW hosts Iowa (21-8, 10-8) on Thursday and closes the regular season Sunday at Ohio State (18-11, 8-10).
Maryland closes the regular season Friday against visiting Minnesota (18-11, 8-10).
According to the Big Ten tiebreakers, the Badgers have several paths to secure the No. 4 seeding over Maryland for the league tournament.
Head-to-head tiebreaker is moot because UW and Maryland split two games. The next tiebreaker is the teams’ combined record against the first-place team or teams tied for first.
The cleanest is for the Badgers to win their final two games and finish alone in fourth place at 14-6.
The Badgers can split their final two games and tie Maryland at 13-7, as long as Michigan shares the league title with Purdue.
In that scenario, UW would secure the No. 4 seeding because of a better combined record against Michigan and Purdue (1-2) than Maryland (1-3).
The Boilermakers play Tuesday at Minnesota and Saturday at Northwestern. Michigan closes Saturday at Michigan State.
UW could lose to Iowa and Ohio State and still secure the No. 4 seeding – as long as Maryland loses to Minnesota, Michigan finishes in a tie for first with Purdue and Iowa loses its regular-season finale to Nebraska.
In that scenario, UW would again secure the No. 4 seeding because it would have a better combined record than Maryland against Michigan and Purdue.
If Purdue wins the title outright or finishes in a tie with Michigan State and UW and Maryland finish at 13-7, the Terrapins win both tiebreakers over UW.
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In the first scenario, Maryland would have a better record against Purdue (1-1) than UW (0-1). In the second scenario, Maryland would be a combined 1-2 against Purdue and Michigan State and UW would be a combined 0-2.
Including the 61-57 victory over Penn State on Saturday, UW this season has won eight Big Ten games when trailing at halftime or at some point in the second half.
UW’s ability to improve from the first half to the second in those games has been remarkable.
The Badgers have shot 30.6 percent from three-point range and 41.1 percent overall in the first half of those games. The second-half numbers are 44.3 percent from three-point range and 49.5 percent overall. As a result, they have outscored four of the eight teams by double digits in the second half. On average, UW has outscored the opposition, 38.9-30.3, in the second half.
Pritzl on point
Redshirt junior guard Brevin Pritzl entered the season with modest shooting numbers. His three-point shooting numbers were 31.7 percent in league play and 34.1 percent in all games. His overall numbers were 36.8 percent in league play and 39.0 percent in all games.
Pritzl is on fire this season.
His three-point shooting numbers are 56.8 percent in league play and 45.5 percent in all games. His overall numbers are 55.6 percent in league play and 49.5 percent in all games.
“He is one of the best shooters I’ve ever seen,” teammate Ethan Happ said after Pritzl hit 4 of 4 three-pointers against Penn State. “I tell him all the time – stop passing the ball. Shoot the ball.”
With two regular-season games left, Happ has 2,057 points, 1,168 rebounds and 405 assists.
Happ is among only five players in NCAA history to record at least 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 400 assists.
The others are:
Cincinnati’s Oscar Robertson (2,973, 1,338 and 425), Indiana State’s Larry Bird (2,850-1,247-435), Duke’s Danny Ferry (2,155-1,003-506) and UNLV’s Stacey Augmon (2,011-1,005-433).