Earlier this week I talked about Purdue's Big Ten Tournament scenarios. The Boilers almost got a massive surprise last night when Rutgers managed to make it a game with Michigan State for a half. Things are still the same, however. Purdue needs to beat Wisconsin and Maryland needs to lose to Illinois or Indiana, or Michigan State needs to lose to Ohio State, or Iowa needs to lose to Michigan for Purdue to get a double bye in Indianapolis.
The more important tournament is the NCAA Tournament, however, and as of right now Purdue is looking at a top 4 seed there, too. In the current RPI Purdue sits at 18 with a 5-5 record against the top 50 and additional 3-1 record against 51-100. Vanderbilt is right on the cut line there at 50 exactly. Florida is at 57 and Michigan is at 59, so that moves Purdue to 7-6 against the top 60. Penn State is also right on the edge at 102.
When you look at KenPom it is even better. Purdue is No. 14 and has wins over #2 Michigan State, #22 Maryland, #24 Vanderbilt (KenPom LOVES Vanderbilt), at #27 Wisconsin, at #41 Pittsburgh, #46 Florida, and No. 49 Michigan.
A final bonus is the status of both SMU and Louisville. Both teams decided to violate NCAA rules and will sit the tournament out on self-imposed sanctions, and BOTH are currently ahead of Purdue in the RPI. Louisville is 9th in KenPom while SMU is 20th. That means two teams who would normally be considered for a higher seed than Purdue are automatically off the board.
Now, let's look at the latest major bracketology projections:
ESPN March 2 - Purdue is a 5 seed here playing a dangerous Valparaiso team, then Kentucky or Stony Brook in round two. This is an absurdly tough Pod with the likely SEC champ, the best mid-major in Valpo who could get an at large bid, and the best low major in Stony Brook.
CBS Sports March 2 - This one is better as Jerry Palm has Purdue as a 4 seed playing Stony Brook. Unfortunately, it is a 4 seed playing in Oklahoma City against Baylor as the 5 seed, making it a near home game for Baylor in round 2 with Purdue as the "protected" seed. The projected 12 seed, Little Rock, is no slouch either, as they could be an at large team too.
NBC Sports February 26 - This one was not updated since Purdue beat Maryland and Nebraska, so it has Purdue as a 6 seed in Spokane facing the Cincinnati/Alabama play-in game winner before the Oregon-Stephen F. Austin winner. I have a hard time believing this one, as would the committee send a team to Dayton, then freaking Spokane three time zones away? Also, Purdue is well above a 6 seed now.
SB Nation March 1 - Chris Dobbertean of SB Nation usually does a very good job here, and he has Purdue as a 5 seed playing the Cincinnati/Oregon State play-in game winner in Oklahoma City. Iowa State and Akron (projected MAC winner) are the other two in the pod. Normally playing a play-in game winner is a good thing, especially with Purdue being tough to prepare for on short notice, but 1. we thought that in 2011 vs. VCU and it did not go well, and 2. Cincinnati is definitely familiar with Purdue from last season.
Bracket Matrix - To totally nerd it up the site Bracket Matrix basically grabs every bracket out there, plugs in the seeds on each one, and comes up with an average seed. They research 108 brackets and Purdue is their highest 5 seed right now of the four, just behind Indiana as the lowest 4 seed. Almost across the board Purdue is a 4 or a 5, with a handful of 6's and one 3 seed out there (Thanks Beef's Bracketology!)
The 4-5 range is just about where I expected, and there is not a huge difference between either one. If you look at the teams group around us as the four 4's and four 5's on Bracket Matrix they are as follows:
Fours: Duke, Kentucky, Iowa State, Indiana
Fives: Purdue, Iowa, Texas A&M, Texas
All eight are good, but flawed teams and, honestly, Indiana is probably the most consistent of the eight. There is a good chance Purdue will have to beat one of them to reach the Sweet 16, and it won't be Indiana or Iowa because the committee won't put teams from the same conference in the same 4-team pod.
So What Now?
Well, the good news is that Purdue definitely has an opportunity to move up. So do Indiana, Duke, Iowa State, and Texas A&M with quality opponents in their final regular season games. Here is who those eight play in the last regular season games:
Wisconsin at Purdue
Maryland at Indiana
Iowa at Michigan
Iowa State at Kansas
North Carolina at Duke
Texas at Oklahoma State
Vanderbilt at Texas A&M
LSU at Kentucky
Purdue gets a slight bonus if Texas A&M loses to Vanderbilt, because that would give the Commodores a sweep of the Aggies, a share of the SEC crown if LSU also beats Kentucky, and makes Purdue's victory over Vanderbilt look much stronger. If LSU and Vanderbilt both win it creates a 4-way tie for the SEC title at 12-6 between Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, and LSU, and South Carolina can still jump in if they beat Georgia and Arkansas.
But back to Purdue, playing Wisconsin is a great opportunity. The Badgers are scorching hot right now. They have won 11 of their last 12 games and suddenly the road victory in Madison looks excellent. They are No. 32 in the RPI too, making them a near NCAA lock. Sweeping them will look really, really good, especially with as well as they are currently playing. We did happen to beat the only team that has beaten them in 12 games, too.
From there, Purdue probably get the 3, 4, or 5 seed in the Big Ten tournament. A 5 seed means a Thursday game against Minnesota or either Illinois or Penn State, which serves only as a chance at a bad loss. It also means a probable third game with Iowa or Maryland on Friday, with Maryland carrying a lot more value than the fading Hawkeyes. On the other hand, toppling Iowa would be a great way to show the growth of the team after two earlier losses. Getting Indiana in a Saturday semifinal is not only a grudge match, but a possible battle for a higher seed along with a trip to the Big Ten Tournament final.
As for the final itself, it means a game against a good team, probably Michigan State, but since it ends so late on Sunday it won't have a huge effect on seeding. That means you can likely throw it out as affecting the tournament unless a team like Northwestern or someone else with no at large chances is in it and can steal the auto bid. Even if a marginal Bubble team like Ohio State gets that far the Buckeyes would do so grabbing big wins over Iowa, maybe Michigan State, and at least two more quality teams in Indy, so they would probably be in the field (can you say Ohio State vs. Cincinnati in Dayton?)
This is just me speculating, but I would say a Sunday victory over Wisconsin probably puts Purdue securely on the 4 line, as it would be a third top 40 win in five games and come over one of the hottest teams in America. As long as Purdue avoids a bad loss in Indy to Illinois-Minnesota-Penn State-Nebraska the Boilers should stay at least around the 4 range.
Where it gets fun is if Purdue can make it to Sunday. That likely carries with it two more top 50 wins, and depending on what Florida and Michigan can do to get into the top 50, Purdue could sit on Selection Sunday with as many as 10 top 50 RPI wins. Beating Iowa and Indiana, the most likely culprits in the Friday and Saturday games if Purdue is a 4 or 5 seed, also avenges three regular season losses. I think that would be enough to move Purdue into consideration for a three seed. If Purdue gets up to the 3 seed in Indy and knocks off Michigan State in the semifinals it helps even more.
So those are my thoughts. I think we're headed for a 4 or 5 seed depending on Sunday's game, and a possible 3 seed with a couple wins in Indy. I would love a 3 seed because it means an easier first round game (Give me a 14 over a 12 any day) and it also means Purdue avoids a No. 1 seed until a regional final.