Purdue has just seven games left in the regular season. They currently sit in second place in the conference, just like we all expected. If the season were to end today, due to some crazy tie-breaking rules Purdue would be the second seed in the B1G Tournament. Never in a million years would I have expected this team to be in this position at this point in conference play. Maybe it's the general weakness of everyone not named Wisconsin this year, but Purdue has a legit shot at being the two seed. I'm by no means predicting a 7-0 record down the home stretch but let's take a look game by game for a 10,000 foot view.
If Purdue wants to stay near the top of the conference this is the road game they have to win. Rutgers is certainly not the strongest of the two new members of the conference. They have just two conference wins with one being the improbably victory over Wisconsin that scholars will look back on in 100 years and scratch their heads. Assuming Purdue doesn't coat their hands in butter as they did against Minnesota this one is a victory.
Yours truly will actually be heading back to the great state of Indiana to attend this game. Let's hope it's better than my prior return trip to see Purdue face Gardner-Webb. This, again, falls into the camp of games Purdue has to win to march toward the big dance. It's another that Purdue should win especially with the resurgence of Mackey Magic.
Purdue is clearly a terrible matchup for IU. Purdue has size on the interior whereas IU doesn't have a player over 6'9 who does anything on the court. If Purdue can stick to their game plan that led to their 83-67 trouncing of IU at Mackey it should be a hell of a game. Playing in Assembly Hall is never a good thing for an opposing team, let alone a Purdue team. Just like Purdue gets up for the IU game IU does the same for Purdue. If Purdue can stay composed, that's a big if after that Minnesota game, it's possible Purdue pulls this one out. It would be a big road victory for the Boilermakers. My initial reaction though is that Hammons/Octeus/Stephens/Davis will struggle to stay out of foul trouble. I'm inclined to put this one in the loss column then be pleasantly surprised if something changes.
If I think that Purdue can handle Rutgers on the road why would I choose against them in a return matchup that takes place in Mackey Arena? There's no reason to think I'd do something so foolish. Chalk this one up as a victory.
@ Ohio State
This one, again, is a question mark. Purdue and Ohio State just played one hell of a fun game last week. Purdue of course came out on top in this one. The questions about this game are numerous. They include what happens to Marc Loving? Will he play in this game? If so he presents quite the problem for a Purdue team that barely squeaked out a victory without Loving playing. Next, how will this Purdue team play in Value City Arena? This again is one I'm inclined to hand toward the opponent.
@ Michigan State
Michigan State this season is not the Michigan State of 2-3 years ago. They aren't going to overpower you, they aren't going to run the table, and it seems to me they aren't going to come close to sniffing the Final Four. Hell, the big dance might look a bit like a stretch at this point if things don't shape up soon. In their last six games Michigan State is just 3-3. They've struggled to find themselves. I'm going out on a limb here but despite this one being on the road I give Purdue the edge here.
This is the final conference game. If my predictions above hold up Purdue will have gone 4-2 this point with losses to IU and Ohio State, both on the road. That would put Purdue at 19-11 on the season. A victory against Illinois, who Purdue should've defeated earlier in the season, would give them 20 wins and a ticket to dance in March. I really think this is another one Purdue should, and will, win. The anger over letting the previous game slip away, and the raucous Mackey Arena crowd that will want to help put their boys back into the tournament, should help propel Purdue to their final regular season victory.
So, there you have it. I think Purdue ends the season 20-11. My glasses are a bit rosy as I predict these games but you won't begrudge me a little home cooking will you? What are your predictions for the final seven games? I'm on record with a 5-2 final stretch.