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January 14-15 Big Ten Basketball: How to Watch

Purdue has the weekend off, so it is looking for help around the league.

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Yeah, we all know the Iowa loss sucked. It was another missed opportunity. Most of us thought it would be a victory, but nothing is ever easy on the road in the Big Ten. Of Purdue’s four defeats, it is the worst, but Iowa is still a decent team. They have a winning record with a few good wins. They will probably finish in the top 100 of the KenPom and RPI, plus it was on the road, so it is not totally horrible.

There is still a lot to play for in the Big Ten. There is no dominant team and at least 9 have legitimate NCAA hopes. That means every game is going to be a battle Purdue definitely will have its chances and can be right back in the race with a few breaks this weekend and two straight home wins this coming week.

The math is simple: A 14-4 record probably will be enough for at least a share of the Big Ten. That would have Purdue at 25-6 going into the Big Ten Tournament, which would be in line with a 3-4 seed depending on what else happens around the country. Purdue has proven it can play with anyone. With the way the Minnesota and Iowa games ended there are concerns with finishing games, but Purdue also finished against Ohio State.

No one is ever going to be happy. I saw people complaining this week that, “the committee would view Ohio State as a loss because Purdue didn’t finish strong”. Whatever. It was a win, and it helps in the math to go 14-4. Do earn that record Purdue needs to go 6-0 in its remaining home games (doable) and 5-2 in its remaining road games. It cannot lose at Penn State or Michigan, as those are teams it should beat. That means going 3-2 at Michigan State, Maryland, Indiana, Nebraska, and Northwestern.

It won’t be easy. It certainly was made harder by dropping that game at Iowa, but it is not impossible. As things stand right now, Purdue controls its destiny towards a share of the title if Wisconsin loses a single game. It still has games left against three of the four one-loss teams. The Big Ten is also going to be cannibalistic. There will be losses for everyone.

The season is at a bit of a crossroads. The Iowa loss certainly felt like we had pissed away the Big Ten (I even said as much), but with a cooler head there is still a lot to play for. Purdue can either piss and moan from the Iowa loss or learn and grow from it. People want to pin it on Painter, but Painter wasn’t missing open three-pointers. Painter didn’t miss those two bunnies in the lane. Painter didn’t fail to see a wide open P.J. Thompson headed towards the basket after a Vince Edwards steal with about 2 mintues left.

We can still do a lot this season. There are still chances. Purdue can still prove itself. The last time Purdue won the Big Ten it was 2-3 at this point with a road loss to Northwestern. I lost faith last night, but it is back today.

With that in mind, here is the Big Ten schedule this weekend and how it can help us:

Saturday

Minnesota at Penn State Noon, ESPNU - I have fended off too many people this week that are saying Minnesota is a bad loss. They have been a top 10 team in the RPI and they are currently ranked in the top 25 of both polls. It is a bad loss for the Big Ten race because it was at home. They are a good team though. They are likely a tournament team. They need to win this to keep pace.

Nebraska at Michigan 2pm, BTN - Michigan depserately needs a win to increase its NCAA profile, while a road win over the Wolverines would aid the Cornhuskers’ unlikely resurgeance. Since Nebraska is one of the one-loss teams ahead of us we can likely use them losing this. Purdue also plays both of these teams only on the road, so if you’re thinking down the road It could really use wins over both later on, therefore one beating the other doesn’t help us much.

Maryland at Illinois 6pm, ESPN2 - Maryland is another one-loss team ahead of us that has to go on the road to an interesting Illinois team. I did not expect the Illini to trounce Michigan last week. This will be interesting because the Terrapins blew out the Illini in College Park to start conference play. An Illinois win is like Iowa beating Purdue.

Sunday

Rutgers at Indiana Noon, BTN - The thought of Rutgers, who is 0-20 on the road in Big Ten play since joining the conference, winning in Bloomington is too hilarious to entertain. Indiana should win handily, but if they drop this the reaction is going to be priceless.

Michigan State at Ohio State 1:30pm, CBS - The three one-loss teams that play this weekend are all on the road, but the Spartans get a Buckeye team that has lost all four Big Ten games. They have only played once at home though, and that was a one-point loss to Purdue. Maybe they can do us a favor and make our win over them a little more valuable too.

Iowa at Northwestern 7:30pm, BTN - Hard to say what we need here, as Purdue plays both twice. I guess to stop everyone’s whining an Iowa win would help the most, but why not beat a really strong Northwestern team twice?