Big Ten Women’s Soccer Bracketology

The Big Ten women’s soccer season is coming to a close this week with each team playing one more game. With the top eight teams qualifying for the season-ending conference tournament, here are the standings for the top ten teams who still have postseason hopes. (Reminder that the top four teams host the quarterfinals):

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Here is the last set of games to be played this Wednesday, Oct. 25:

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Let’s run through the scenarios for each team, detailing what they can accomplish and what’s at stake on Wednesday. Since we’re writing here at WNUR, we’ll start with the Northwestern scenarios.

3. Northwestern, 19 points (6-3-1)

With three straight wins, the Wildcats have secured qualification in the tournament, and control their destiny of whether or not they host a quarterfinal. They are tied on points with Minnesota, but hold the tiebreaker by virtue of their 2-0 win over the Gophers on Oct. 12 in Evanston. The Wildcats can finish as high as second place, and as low as sixth.

If the Wildcats win against Michigan State on Wednedsay, they are guaranteed at least third place. If they win and Penn State loses, they take second place. If the Lions win or draw, NU can’t finish higher than third.

Minnesota, Rutgers, and Wisconsin can all overtake Northwestern if they win and Northwestern loses or draws, except for Wisconsin. If Wisconsin wins and Northwestern draws (both on 20 points), the Wildcats also hold the tiebreaker due to their 2-0 win over the Badgers on Oct. 15 in Evanston.

If Northwestern loses, and Rutgers draws, leaving both teams on 19 points, Northwestern would win the tiebreaker with six conference wins compared to Rutgers’ five.

In a potential three-way tie where Northwestern and Minnesota lose and Rutgers draw (all on 17 points), Northwestern holds the tiebreaker for the most points in games played among each other with four. Minnesota would have three, and Rutgers would have one.

In a potential three-way tie where Northwestern and Minnesota draw, and Wisconsin wins (all on 20 points), Northwestern holds the tiebreaker for the most points in games played among each other with wins over both.

1. Ohio State, 24 points (8-2-0) 

The Buckeyes clinched at least a share of the Big Ten regular season title for the second time in program history with their 2-1 win over Minnesota. The outcomes are simple for Ohio State: win or draw against Indiana and claim the title outright. If the Hoosiers win and Penn State defeats Wisconsin on the road, the Buckeyes will have to share the title with the Nittany Lions. Even if that happens, Ohio State keeps the No. 1 seed by virtue of beating Penn State 1-0 on Sept. 30 at home.

2. Penn State, 21 points (6-1-3)

The Nittany Lions slipped up in their chase for first place by drawing Purdue 2-2 last time out, but all it takes is a win over Wisconsin and a Ohio State loss to claim a share of the Big Ten title. Penn State can’t truly grab the No. 1 seed in the tournament, as mentioned above, and can only finish as high as second.

Penn State can be overtaken on points by Northwestern and Minnesota, and caught by Rutgers as well, if the Lions lose and the Knights win. Penn State holds a tiebreaker over Northwestern, by virtue of its Big Ten opening 3-0 win at home over the Wildcats. If Penn State and Minnesota finish tied on 22 points, Minnesota holds the tiebreaker, since it would have seven conference wins while Penn State would only have six.

If Penn State and Rutgers finished tied on 21 points, because the two teams tied 0-0 and would have six conference wins, the tiebreaker would be points collected against common opponents ahead of them in the standings. Rutgers beat Ohio State 1-0, while Penn State lost 1-0 to the Buckeyes, giving the Scarlet Knights the tiebreaker. Even if Northwestern or Minnesota or both finished ahead of PSU and Rutgers, Rutgers would still hold the tiebreaker because neither team played Minnesota, and Rutgers’ 0-0 draw against Northwestern would give it four points in the tiebreaker standings, one higher than Penn State who only defeated Northwestern.

If Penn State wins, it is fine, but if it draws it could finish in third, and if it loses, it could slide all the way to fifth, even it would take wins from Northwestern, Minnesota and Rutgers.

4. Minnesota, 19 points (6-3-1)

Minnesota is tied on points with Northwestern, but as mentioned above, sits in fourth due to its head-to-head loss to the ‘Cats. Minnesota can finish as high as second if it wins against Nebraska and Penn State loses or ties against Wisconsin. Minnesota would hold the tiebreaker over Penn State in that scenario with more conference wins.

Minnesota can finish as low as sixth and be potentially overtaken by Rutgers and Wisconsin. If Rutgers draws and Minnesota loses, the Gophers hold the tiebreaker thanks to their 2-1 win over the Knights in September. If Minnesota draws and Wisconsin wins, the Badgers own the tiebreaker due to their 1-0 win over Minnesota in the conference opener.

In a three-way-tie with Northwestern and Rutgers, Minnesota would have the second seed out of the three up for grabs. In a three-way tie with Northwestern and Wisconsin, however, the Gophers would have the last seed, having lost to both teams.

A win ensures the Gophers will host a quarterfinal matchup, and a tie combined with a loss or draw from Rutgers and a loss or draw from Wisconsin would also guarantee the same result. The Gophers control their own destiny.

5. Rutgers, 18 points (5-2-3)

 The Scarlet Knights are safely in the tournament but are facing a long journey to likely Evanston or Minneapolis unless they get some help from the two teams in those cities. Rutgers could finish as high as second or as low as sixth.

Rutgers needs to win against Michigan and for one of Northwestern or Minnesota to slip up and lose or draw. That would guarantee a top-four finish. If both teams win, Rutgers can finish no higher than fifth, where it already stands.

Rutgers could theoretically finish second if Penn State, Minnesota and Northwestern all lose, since it holds the complicated tiebreaker over Penn State, as described earlier. That tiebreaker could be important if Minnesota and Northwestern win, leaving Rutgers in fourth and Penn State in fifth.

If Rutgers draws, it does not hold the tiebreaker over Minnesota or Northwestern.

If Rutgers loses, and Wisconsin draws, leaving both teams on 18 points, Rutgers has the tiebreaker since it defeated Wisconsin 1-0 earlier in October.

For Rutgers, it’s simple. Win and get a little bit of help.

6. Wisconsin, 17 points (5-3-2)

For Wisconsin to host a quarterfinal, the equation is also the same: win and get help. The Badgers just need a lot more help. If the Badgers tie, they are pinned into sixth place due to Rutgers holding the tiebreaker over them.

If Wisconsin wins against Penn State, it will reach 20 points. That total can beat three of the teams in front of it. It needs to be better than two of the teams for Wisconsin to host. Wisconsin needs two out of three things to happen: Rutgers needs to draw or lose, Northwestern needs to lose, and Minnesota needs to draw or lose. If all three happen, Wisconsin finishes third with a win.

Wisconsin holds a tiebreaker over Minnesota, but not over Northwestern. If Rutgers does not win, it becomes rather simple for Wisconsin. If Rutgers does win and reaches 21 points, Wisconsin can only get to fourth place if Northwestern loses and Minnesota does not win.

Even if Wisconsin loses, which is honestly more likely against Penn State, it can’t be overtaken despite being caught in points by Nebraska or Purdue. Wisconsin holds the tiebreaker over Purdue with its 2-1 win, and holds the tiebreaker over Nebraska with five conference wins compared to Nebraska’s would-be four. If both teams win and force a three-way-tie, Wisconsin would hold the best seed by virtue of having the same number of conference wins as Purdue, (both more than Nebraska), and having beaten Purdue.

It can get messy for the Badgers, and they need a lot of things to break their way, starting with an upset over Penn State.

7. Nebraska, 14 points (3-2-5)

Look at all those draws! Nebraska can’t catch Wisconsin for sixth place as described earlier, and must be more worried about holding off Michigan and Iowa to get into the Big Ten Tournament in the first place. The good news is that Nebraska controls its own destiny. Beat Minnesota, and guarantee a spot in as the seventh-place team.

Nebraska is level on points with Purdue, but holds the tiebreaker thanks to a 3-2 win over the Boilermakers on Oct. 12. Nebraska needs to finish in the top two of Purdue, Michigan, Iowa and itself. The bad news for the Cornhuskers is that Michigan and Iowa both each hold tiebreakers over them.

If Nebraska draws to Minnesota and Michigan wins, Michigan holds the tiebreaker. If Nebraska loses and Iowa wins, Iowa holds the tiebreaker.

In a potential three-way tie with Michigan and Purdue on 15 points, Nebraska gets in as the seventh seed. In a potential three-way tie with Iowa and Purdue on 14 points, Nebraska would be the second seed out of the two. That means if Michigan wins, Iowa wins, and Nebraska and Purdue draw, Nebraska is out. But if Michigan draws or loses and the other three results are the same, Nebraska is in as an eight seed.

Nebraska is in with a win, or a combined Michigan loss or draw and Iowa loss or draw. Nebraska is also in with a draw and a Purdue loss. If Nebraska loses, the only other way it can get in is if Purdue loses and Michigan draws or loses and Iowa wins.


8. Purdue, 14 points (4-4-2)

Purdue is the last team in, and controls its own destiny even more than Nebraska does. Because it holds a tiebreaker over Michigan due to a 1-0 win, it guarantees a spot in the tournament with a win or draw against last-place Maryland.

If Purdue wins and Nebraska draws or loses, it finishes seventh, but eighth if Nebraska wins. If Purdue draws and gets to 15 points, it finishes eighth if Nebraska wins or draws, and seventh if Nebraska loses. Even if Michigan gets to 15 points and forces a three-way-tie, Purdue gets in as the second of the three seeds.

If Purdue loses, and Michigan wins, Purdue is out. If Purdue loses and Michigan loses or draws, but Iowa wins, it comes down to the tiebreaker between Purdue and Iowa. Iowa defeated Purdue earlier this month and holds the tiebreaker. If Michigan loses, but Purdue and Nebraska both lose while Iowa wins, then Purdue is also out, having lost to both teams.

For Purdue to get in with a loss, it needs a loss or draw from Michigan and a loss or draw from Iowa. Purdue should feel good about its chances given it gets to play Maryland.

9. Michigan, 12 points (3-4-3)

Michigan kept its postseason hopes alive with a 3-0 win against Illinois to right the ship after three straight losses. Michigan is eliminated with a Nebraska win and a Purdue win or draw, but if either slips up and loses or even if Nebraska plays fourth place Minnesota to its sixth draw of conference play, the Wolverines can pounce.

Obviously, down two points behind the tournament spots, Michigan must win against fifth place Rutgers, or it is eliminated. If UM gets to 15 points it has a few different ways it can sneak in. If both Purdue and Nebraska lose, Michigan would advance in seventh place a point ahead of both teams. If either lose, and the other wins, Michigan would advance as the eighth place team ahead of whoever out of the Boilermakers and Cornhuskers lost.

If both teams draw however, Michigan can’t advance even with a win, because it lost to Purdue 1-0. If Nebraska wins and just Purdue draws, Michigan is also out. If Purdue wins and just Nebraska draws, Michigan holds the tiebreaker over Nebraska though, because it would have four conference wins over Nebraska’s three.

For Michigan to get in, it needs to win, and one of Nebraska and Purdue to lose, or alternatively, for Nebraska to draw.

Could happen. Michigan hasn’t missed the Big Ten Tournament since 2011.

10. Iowa, 11 points (3-5-2)

Iowa’s hopes for making the Big Ten Tournament hang on a thread. The Hawkeyes do have it going for them that they hold a tiebreaker over Purdue with a 2-1 win over the Boilermakers and a tiebreaker over Nebraska with more conference wins if they can finish their season with a victory over 13th-place Illinois.

In a three-way tie with Purdue and Nebraska, Iowa actually would take the best seed because it has the same amount of points (four) with Nebraska in the three-team tiebreaker pool, and subsequently more conference wins (four) than Nebraska (three).

If Iowa can force a tiebreaker with Purdue, Nebraska or both, it can qualify. But if both Purdue and Nebraska win or draw, Iowa is eliminated. In addition, if only one of those teams win or draw but Michigan also wins, Iowa is also eliminated. If two teams climb to 15 points or higher, Iowa is sunk.

Iowa is teetering on the very edge, but their path isn’t all too crazy. They just need the last spot to come down to teams with 14 points, a scenario in which they would have their ticket punched to Columbus.

Hopefully this all makes sense. Stay tuned to @WNURsports on Twitter on Wednesday for updates. It should be a fun night. 



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