We can now, officially, give up on winning a share of the Big Ten as Purdue fans. The Boilers absolutely needed to win in Bloomington to have a legitimate chance. Now, it would take far too much for the one and only one scenario the Boilers need to win a share of the crown:
- Purdue would have to win its last three games.
- Indiana would have to lose its last three games to Illinois, Iowa, and Maryland
- Iowa would have to lose to Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Michigan, but beat Indiana
- Maryland would have to lose to Illinois at home because it would still need to beat Indiana on the road and lose to Purdue on the road.
- Michigan State and Ohio State would each have to lose once, and it has to be in a split of their two games because Ohio State's third of its remaining three games is against Iowa, which it would have to win.
If, in the highly unlikely scenario all this happens, Purdue, Iowa, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan State (assuming it doesn't lose to Rutgers or Penn State), Ohio State, and the winner of the remaining Michigan-Wisconsin game would finish in an unprecedented 7-way tie for the Big Ten title at 12-6. In that insane scenario Purdue would get the 3 seed in Indianapolis.
So yeah, it's not going to happen (Given the way this season has gone in college basketball it is totally going to happen).
More importantly, Purdue still has an excellent chance at getting a double bye to the Big Ten tournament. This morning it sits in a tie with Michigan for 7th, but only a game and half behind Maryland for third with a game still to play against the Terps, plus the Terps still have to go to undefeated-at-home Indiana. Also, Purdue still plays Wisconsin ahead of it and Michigan State and Ohio State play each other twice.
Getting a double by would be nice because the Boilers would be all but guaranteed a solid, NCAA-caliber opponent in Indianapolis and it would have a decent shot at winning the Big Ten Tournament. In the 18 years of the tournament only once, Iowa in 2001, has a team won four games in four days to take the title. In fact, 14 of the 18 winners have been either the No. 1 or No. 2 seed, with Purdue in 2008 as the three seed being one of the four outliers.
Without a double bye the most likely scenario has Purdue as the 5 seed, playing the winner between Minnesota and probably Illinois. It does open the revenge scenario, however, where Purdue can beat Illinois, Maryland, Iowa, and Indiana in successive days to make sure it has at least one win over every big Ten opponent.
So how does Purdue get the double bye? Well, first of all, winning these last three games will help a ton. Getting to 12-6 also hands Wisconsin a 6th loss and guarantees a head-to-head tiebreaker with the Badgers. It also gives Maryland a fifth loss and helps Purdue in a potential tiebreaker with Michigan because the Wolverines have a win over Maryland. This is because, if two teams are tied and they split two regular season games, the next tiebreaker is games against the top of the Big Ten until the tie is broken. The Michigan tiebreaker only comes into play if Michigan also goes 3-0 in their last three games against Northwestern, Wisconsin, and Iowa. If they drop one and Purdue goes 3-0, the Wolverines are out of the top 4.
So, assuming Purdue goes 3-0, it will likely be ahead of Michigan and will have the tiebreaker with Wisconsin to get as high as 6th. If Ohio State drops another game for a 6th loss Purdue also owns the direct tiebreaker with them. The same is true with Michigan State. Ideally, we want Ohio State and Michigan State to split their remaining two games against each other to give each a 6th loss. This is mostly because Michigan State has Penn State and Rutgers as its other two games, so it is not likely to lose to anyone not named Ohio State.
I am going to consider Iowa and Indiana untouchable barring the crazy 7-way tie, but Maryland can also be caught if they lose to Illinois or Indiana in addition to Purdue.
Purdue's likely best case scenario is:
- Finish 3-0
- Have Michigan State and Ohio State split
- Have Maryland lose to Indiana
- Have Iowa win its last four games and win the title outright, denying Indiana. (Yes, this is the "spite" scenario, but not absolutely necessary for Purdue to get a double bye).
What can really sting Purdue is Maryland's home victory over Iowa. That gives them a direct tiebreaker with Purdue if Michigan State sweeps Ohio State to get the 3 seed and Maryland and Purdue tie for the 4 seed while going 1-1 against each other. Purdue would get the 4 seed if Ohio State somehow sweeps Michigan State and no other results are changed, while Michigan State sweeping Ohio State likely means Illinois has to beat Maryland for Purdue to get a double bye.
So, the bare minimum that Purdue needs to get a double bye:
- Finish 3-0
- Michigan State must lose once
- Ohio State must lose once
Because Maryland beat Iowa Purdue is not going to win a tiebreaker with them, but Purdue does hold direct tiebreakers with Michigan State, Ohio State, and Wisconsin as long as it goes 3-0. Since MSU and OSU are still a game ahead of Purdue in the loss column (and this is where the Michigan loss really hurts) we need them both to lose once. We're guaranteed to have one of them lose at least once, and Purdue only gets the 4 seed if Ohio State sweeps Michigan but still loses to Iowa.
There are a lot of other permutations out there, including one where Purdue comes out on top in a 4-way tie with Maryland, Ohio State, and Wisconsin because it would have gone 4-1 against that troika, but we really, really need Ohio State to spring an upset tonight in Columbus.