As we head into the final week of the season everyone is starting to talk about the Big Ten Tournament. People want to know what Purdue's seed will be and what matchups the Boilers will have. Will we play on Thursday? On Friday? How high of a seed can Purdue get? Well, that's what this post is supposed to be about. I briefly mentioned this morning what the possible scenarios are, but here is a more in depth look that breaks things down team-by-team. Let's start at the bottom and work our way up. All seedings listed here are as of right now, which are obviously subject to change.
14. Rutgers (6-23, 0-16) - Best possible seed: 13 - The Scarlet Knights are all but locked into last place. They would have to beat Michigan State and Minnesota this week, have Minnesota also lose to Wisconsin, and hope that Michigan State stays ahead of Maryland in the final standings just to move up to the 13 seed. That is not going to happen. The Scarlet Knights have lost 31 straight Big Ten games, a modern era record, so beating Michigan State this week would likely qualify as one of the largest upsets in Big Ten history.
13. Minnesota (8-20, 2-14) - Best possible seed: 13 - The Gophers' loss to Illinois on Sunday makes sure that Minnesota will stay in the No. 13 spot as long as the expected happens and Rutgers loses to Michigan State. they are locked into no higher than 13th.
12. Illinois (13-16, 5-11) - Best Possible Seed: 10 - The Illini are fighting to avoid playing on Wednesday and can make a big move if they beat Penn State in Happy Valley on Sunday. Unfortunately, they may also have to beat Maryland to get out of Wednesday. Their regular season losses to Northwestern and Nebraska also hurt them for tiebreaking purposes.
11. Nebraska (14-15, 6-10) - Best Possible Seed: 9 - The Cirnhuskers are currently in a 3-way tie for 9th with Penn State and Northwestern, but they are a combined 1-2 against those teams while Penn state is 2-1 and Northwestern is 1-1. That has them sitting back here. Their Sunday game with Northwester could be an elimination game for Wednesday.
10. Northwestern (18-11, 6-10) - Best Possible Seed: 9 - The Wildcats are 1-1 against Penn State and Nebraska, but they play both this week. Win both and the Wildcats reach 20 wins and they will be the 9 seed. They are currently behind Penn state because the Nittany Lions won the head-to-head matchup.
9. Penn State (15-14, 6-10) - Best Possible Seed: 9 - Penn State is also in good shape to avoid Wednesday as long as they win this week. Both games are at home and a pair of wins over Northwestern and Illinois could send them to the NIT. It would also have them winning five of six headed to Indy and make them a little dangerous.
8. Michigan (19-10, 10-7) - Best Possible Seed: 6 - The Wolverines losing to Wisconsin yesterday knocked them out of double bye consideration, and even if some really crazy things happen like Rutgers over Michigan State and Illinois over Maryland they can't get higher than 7th because of their poor record against the top of the league. They can get into a 4-way tie for 4th with Maryland, Iowa, and Ohio State or Michigan State, but can only get as high as 6th there. The good news is that they are the first team that has no chance of playing on Wednesday.
7. Purdue (22-7, 10-6) - Best Possible Seed: 2 - Purdue sits here because Ohio State has played (and won) one more game in the standings, but the Boilers would have the tiebreaker with OSU. Games like Indiana-Maryland, Iowa-Indiana, and Michigan State-Ohio State have a lot to say about where Purdue ultimately finishes, as the Boilers can go anywhere from the 8 seed to the 2 seed. To get a double bye Purdue needs to beat Nebraska and Wisconsin AND have either 1. Michigan State OR Maryland lose one game, or 2. Iowa lose twice. To get the 2 seed Purdue needs to go 2-0, have Iowa lose twice, and have both Maryland and Michigan State lose once. That creates a five-way tie for second among Purdue, Maryland, Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State, and Purdue would be the best team among the five by going 5-1 against those four. Strangely, if you go with a possible 6-way tie for second (if Iowa defeats Michigan) Purdue would be tied atop the round-robin with Maryland, but loses out to the Terps because of the earlier loss to... Illinois.
6. Ohio State (19-11, 11-6) - Best Possible Seed: 2 - Ohio State controls very little for this, but they can still finish as high as second all by themselves. That would require crazy things like Rutgers over Michigan State and Illinois over Maryland, however. If they do finish second by themselves at 12-6, however, Purdue would be the four seed in a six-way tie for third at 11-7. With Ohio state's lone game coming against Michigan State and Purdue holding a tiebreaker over the Spartans, a Buckeye victory would be huge for us. It also might propel the Buckeyes into the NCAA Tournament.
5. Michigan State (24-5, 11-5) - Best Possible Seed: 1 - Michigan State is currently in a 4-way tie with Wisconsin, Maryland, and Iowa, but they have the worst record among those four at 2-3. Even if they win their remaining two games it is possible they don't move up. They can, however, still get the 1 seed as long as Indiana loses it last two and Iowa loses once.
4. Iowa (20-8, 11-5) - Best Possible Seed: 1 - The recent struggles for the Hawkeyes have knocked them out of their once lofty spot. They scan still get the 1 seed, but closing against Indiana and at Michigan can knock them all the way down to a 7 seed if the worst case scenario happens. They currently site tied with Maryland at 2-2 among those four teams tied for second, but Maryland has the head-to-head edge then.
3. Maryland (22-6, 11-5) - Best Possible Seed: 1 - The good news for the Terps is that as long as they beat Illinois and Iowa beats Indiana they will have a chance to get a share of the Big Ten title on Sunday in Bloomington. Also, as long as they beat Illinois they are in very good shape to get a double bye in Indianapolis. Almost all scenarios have them comfortably in the top 4 with one more victory.
2. Wisconsin (19-10, 11-5) - Best Possible Seed: 1 - Somehow, even after losing to Western Illinois (now 7-17) to start the season the Badgers can not only win the Big Ten, but be the No. 1 seed in Indianapolis. They currently hold the No. 2 seed because they are 3-2 against Michigan State, Maryland, and Iowa. Even though Bo Ryan is gone the streak of a top 4 seed is not only alive, it seems likely! Even with a loss at Purdue, Wisconsin can still finish fourth.
1. Indiana (23-6, 13-3) - Best Possible Seed: 1 - It is quite simple for Indiana: Win one game, either against Iowa or Maryland, and the Hoosiers are the No. 1 seed in Indianapolis. If they lose both, however, things can get wacky. They could have as much as a five-way tie for first place. That is not as crazy as the 7-way scenario I imagined last week, but it is still crazy. If that happens (basically if Indiana goes 0-2 and Wisconsin, Michigan State, Iowa, and Maryland all go 2-0) the Hoosiers fall all the way to the 5 seed, where they would probably play nemesis Penn State on Thursday before playing Michigan State. Meanwhile, Purdue would be the 6 seed (two games behind the five), but would get Illinois (assuming they beat Rutgers) then Iowa.
So basically Purdue's best possible seed scenario requires Indiana to win the league by 3 games, while their worst case only moves Purdue up one spot to 6th.