It is finally almost March and after beating Maryland on Saturday Purdue is in excellent shape to not only make the NCAA Tournament, but possibly grab a 4 seed and be "protected". That means that the committee will try to keep them closer to home than usual and they will be favored to reach the Sweet 16, which is the reasonable goal going forward. With eight first and second round sites they cannot accommodate everyone and keep them close to home, so priority is obviously given to the top seeds on down. Here are the eight sites for the first and second round with who is likely the "protected" seed there (I.e., a high seed kept close to home) with two at each site in a 4-team pod:
Raleigh: North Carolina and Virginia
Providence: Maryland and West Virginia
St. Louis: Kansas and Xavier
Des Moines: Iowa and Iowa State
Oklahoma City: Oklahoma
Now these are mostly guesses based on the current Bracket Matrix report, which has Purdue as a consensus five seed, but the boilers can easily move up with wins over Wisconsin and Nebraska, plus a good win in Indianapolis. Other high seeded teams, like Miami, Duke, and such all have to be placed somewhere. Both Iowa and Iowa State have squandered opportunities to stay close to home in Des Moines too, but both being on the 4 seed line probably keeps them there.
There is a very good chance Purdue gets shipped out to Spokane again. It won't be as bad as playing Washington in Portland like in 2009, but it likely makes for a true neutral floor because no one around Spokane is going to be a high seed other than Oregon.
Now, as far as the Big Ten tournament goes, we know the following:
Indiana has clinched at least a share of the Big Ten - The Hoosiers, however, have NOT clinched a double bye in the conference tournament. If they lose to both Iowa and Maryland, and assuming Maryland beats Illinois, Michigan State beats Ohio State and Rutgers, Iowa beats Michigan, and Wisconsin beats Minnesota and Purdue, we would have a five-way tie for the conference crown with the seeding outlined here.
Barring a miraculous win over Michigan State, Rutgers has clinched the 14 seed - So, Rutgers has clinched the 14 seed.
Minnesota has clinched the 13 seed unless Rutgers beats Michigan State and Minnesota - Again, we knew this.
Illinois, Nebraska, Penn State, and Northwestern are all fighting to avoid Wednesday - And they all have games left among each other.
What does Purdue need for a double-bye?
The Boilers are in really good shape as long as they finish 2-0. That is the key here. They can't drop one of their remaining two contests, and a scorching hot Wisconsin is coming to Mackey on Sunday to wreck shit. In fact, it is entirely possible that Wisconsin could be playing for a share of the conference title on the line. It is the last game of the Big Ten season, so they will know by then if Indiana has lost to Iowa and Maryland. Conversely, Purdue will know if it is playing for a double-bye or not.
Basically, Purdue needs to win it last two games and have Maryland or Michigan State lose one of their two remaining games. By finishing 2-0 Purdue assures that it will catch Wisconsin, one of the five loss teams just ahead of them. Purdue's 0-2 record against Iowa is a detriment, but going a combined 4-1 against Maryland, Michigan State, and Wisconsin basically gives the Boilers a huge tiebreaker advantage.
Of course, if Iowa drops its last two games to Indiana and Michigan (possible) they would fall behind Purdue (assuming the Boilers go 2-0) and tiebreakers are no longer needed. Purdue can even go as high as the 2 seed in Indianapolis if Purdue goes 2-0, Iowa goes 0-2, Indiana beats Maryland, and Ohio State beats Michigan State. This would mean Indiana wins the Big Ten by three games and I would light myself on fire, however.
Now, onto the non-conference update:
RPI: 18 (Up 6 from last week)
KenPom: 19 (Down 3 from last week)
RPI top 50 wins: 45 Florida (neutral floor), at 39 Pittsburgh, 49 Vanderbilt, at 33 Wisconsin, 14 Michigan State, 10 Maryland
51-100 RPI wins: 56 Michigan, 98 Penn State, 74 Ohio State
KenPom top 50 wins: 1 Michigan State, 21 Maryland, 23 Vanderbilt, at 29 Wisconsin, at 40 Pittsburgh, 44 Florida (neutral floor), 47 Michigan
51-100 KenPom wins: 64 Ohio State, 84 Northwestern, 99 Nebraska
Bad losses: at Illinois (RPI 163, KenPom 137)
North Carolina A&T (RPI: 340, KenPom: 334) - 9-20, 6-8 MEAC - The good news is that North Carolina A&T won a game. The bad news is that it came 77-70 over Florida A&M, one of the worst teams in the country. The Aggies also lost 72-51 at Morgan State.
Vermont (RPI: 142, KenPom: 149) - 19-12, 11-5 America East - Vermont is on fire having won five in a row. They beat New Hampshire 73-67 and stunned league leader Stony Brook 76-62 at Stony Brook in their final regular season game. Stony Brook is currently 63 in the RPI and won the America East with a 14-2 record. Vermont enters the conference tournament as the three seed after going 11-5 and will host Maine on Wednesday.
Incarnate Word (RPI: 184, KenPom: 229) 15-11, 10-5 Southland - Incarnate Word earned a sweep this past week. They beat Hosuton Baptist 97-91 and Lamar 89-70 to move to third in the Southland.
Old Dominion (RPI: 165, KenPom: 136) - 17-12, 10-6 Conference USA - ODU won their home games against the alphabetical Texas schools. They beat UTEP 74-53 and UTSA 78-56 and now sit fifth in conference USA, a game behind a three-way tie for second.
Florida (RPI: 45, KenPom: 44) - 17-12, 8-8 SEC - The Gators are slipping their way toward the Bubble. They lost at home to Vanderbilt this week (good for Vandy), and then went on the road to lose to Ben Simmons and ESPN darling LSU. Tomorrow night they host Kentucky in a huge game.
Lehigh (RPI: 166, KenPom: 166) - 14-14, 13-5 Patriot League - The Mountian Hawks enter the Patriot League tournament as one of the hottest teams in the country. They have won nine in a row after beating Colgate (71-54) and Army (82-72) to finish a game behind Bucknell in the conference at 13-5. They will host Lafayette or Navy on Thursday in the quarterfinals.
Pittsburgh (RPI: 39, KenPom: 40) - 21-7, 9-7 ACC - The Panthers probably locked in their NCAA bid with a 76-62 win over Duke on Sunday. It offsets Wednesday's 67-60 loss at home to Louisville. As long as they hold serve against Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech this week the Panthers are in.
New Mexico (RPI: 134, KenPom: 121) - 16-13, 9-7 Mountain West - I had high hopes of New Mexico being a surprise top 100 team, but the Lobos lost to Colorado State (86-69) and Fresno State (92-82) this week. They have struggled in conference play with the Mountain West as a whole being down this year.
IUPUI (RPI: 177, KenPom 199) - 13-18, 9-7 Summit League - A bit of an odd week for the Jags. They lost 65-82 at home to South Dakota, but beat league champ IPFW 80-77 for a sweep of the Mastodons. IUPUI will be the 4 seed in the Summit League Tournament and will open against North Dakota State.
Howard (RPI: 332, KenPom: 327) - 12-17, 5-8 MEAC - For the second time this week FAMU was helping us as Florida A&M lost to Howard 63-53. Howard later lost to Hampton 68-67.
Youngstown State (RPI: 275, KenPom: 270) - 11-20, 6-12 Horizon League - The Penguins lost to Wright State 87-81 and Milwaukee 87-51, but beat Northern Kentucky 94-75 to finish 6-12 in the Horizon League. They will be the 7 seed and will play Detroit on Saturday.
Butler (RPI: 55, KenPom: 39) - 19-9, 8-8 Big East - Butler stabilized by winning their only game this week, 90-87 over Georgetown in overtime. They are solidly on the bubble with Purdue being their best win keeping them afloat.
Vanderbilt (RPI: 49, KenPom: 23) - 18-11, 10-6 SEC - Vanderbilt makes some huge moves this week with a win at Florida (87-74) and at home over Kentucky 74-62. This week they get Tennessee at home before going to Texas A&M, but their big wins this week probably moved them into the field of 68.
Possible NCAA at large teams: Vanderbilt, Florida, Pittsburgh, Butler
Possible auto-bid winners: Lehigh, Vermont, Old Dominion