There are still two games left in the regular season, but Michigan State is already guaranteed at least a share of the 2011-12 Big Ten basketball championship. The Spartans were idle on Sunday, but because Ohio State lost at home to Wisconsin, Michigan State was able to clinch at worst a tie for first place in the conference. The Buckeyes are two games behind MSU in second place with Michigan, so the Spartans have a big enough cushion that they can't be passed by any other team.
To clinch an outright Big Ten title, all Michigan State needs is one win next week. The Spartans will travel to Indiana on Tuesday to take on the Hoosiers and then return home for the regular season finale next Sunday against Ohio State. Since they are currently two games up in the standings, the only way the Spartans could share the title is if they lose out.
For Michigan, the loss by Ohio State kept the door to a Big Ten title slightly open. Had the Wolverines not lost at home on Saturday to Purdue they would have had a very good chance at securing their first Big Ten title since 1986. Because they did lose, Michigan needs help in the form of Michigan State losing its final two games. If that happens and Michigan beats both Illinois and Penn State on the road to finish the season, the Wolverines will clinch a share of the Big Ten title.
Here's a look at the top four of the Big Ten with a week left to play:
1. Michigan State (13-3)
t-2. Ohio State (11-5)
t-2. Michigan (11-5)
4. Wisconsin (10-6)
With Indiana and Purdue both at 9-7 right now, Michigan needs just one win to secure a bye in the first round of the Big Ten tournament. The Wolverines could get up to the second seed if they win out and Ohio State slips up against either Northwestern or Michigan State.
As for Michigan State, it will probably wind up with the No. 1 seed no matter what happens because of how the tiebreakers are set up. Just like to get an outright Big Ten title, the Spartans need just one win to clinch the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten tournament. They have already locked up Tom Izzo's seventh career Big Ten title and their third in the last four years, but you can bet they will be hungry to clinch an outright title and the conference's top seed.