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Big Ten Tournament Seeding Scenarios: Purdue in Great Shape

The Big Ten Tournament is in two weeks, so let’s figure this all out.

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Penn State Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve talked a lot about Purdue’s prospective NCAA Seed, but let’s take a look at the first tournament: The annual Big Ten Tournament. As things stand right now Purdue would have the No. 1 seed in the event for the first time ever. The Boilers also are in great shape to drop no lower than the No. 2 seed, which they were in 2008, 2010, and 2011. There is an advantage there. As the 1 or the two seed they would be playing the first game of either the Friday afternoon or evening session. This means a longer rest period before Saturday’s semifinals. If Purdue were the 3 seed it wouldn’t play its first game until around 9pm Friday night, with a turnaround of playing at approximately 3:30pm on Saturday with a win. As the 2 seed they would play at 6:30pm and as the 1 seed they would play at noon.

So let’s look at each seed as of now:

Wednesday Game Teams

14 Seed – For the third year in a row, Rutgers is the 14 seed. They can, at most, finish with 4 wins and everyone else in the league has at least 5 already. They will play at 7pm on the Wednesday.

12 & 13 Seeds – Right now Indiana and Ohio State are tied for this with the tiebreaker to be decided between them. They play each other on the final day of the regular season, so it is entirely possible for them to play on March 4th and again on March 8th. Both teams are 5-10 in advance of Ohio State hosting Wisconsin tonight. Indiana has some slight advantages if it can win another game because it has the tiebreaker over Illinois and Penn State (both with 6 wins). It seems likely both will be involved in the Wednesday games.

11 Seed – Currently, the last spot on Wednesday belongs to Illinois. Both the Illini and Penn State are 6-9 in league play, but Penn State won both games over Illinois for the tiebreaker.

Thursday Game Teams

10 Seed – Penn State has the tiebreaker over Illinois with their 2-0 record against them, but the Nittany Lions could be much higher. Losing to Indiana twice in close games, an overtime loss to Purdue, and a home loss to Rutgers has cost them dearly. Instead of a potential 10-5 record they are 6-9, but a dangerous Thursday team.

9 Seed – Nebraska sits alone in 9th place in advance of tonight’s game at Michigan State. They are 6-8, but if they fall to 6-9 it creates a three-way tie with them, Penn State, and Illinois. That won’t be settled until Sunday when Nebraska and Illinois meet for the first time. Nebraska did beat Penn State in their only meeting.

8 Seed – Iowa is sitting in the 8 spot all alone at 7-8 after beating Indiana Tuesday night. Road trips to Maryland and Wisconsin (and Iowa’s 1-6 road record in the conference) look daunting, so they could easily slip.

7 Seed – Michigan is alone in 7th place at 8-7. They are the lowest possible NCAA team (barring a huge tournament run by one of the previous 7 teams), but their last three aren’t easy. They get Purdue at home, then go to Northwestern and Nebraska. They likely need one of those games, and a win in the tournament wouldn’t hurt.

6 Seed – Michigan State is in good shape here at 8-6 in advance of tonight, where a win would put them in a three-way tie for the 4 seed and the last double-bye. MSU would win that tiebreaker too, going 3-0 against Minnesota and Northwestern. As bad as this year has been for the Spartans, they still are in control to get the last double-bye, but they have to play Wisconsin and Maryland in the last three games. If MSU loses to Nebraska tonight it puts them into a tie with Michigan for the 6 seed. They split the season series, so the next tiebreaker is how each faired with the top of the conference on down. Michigan State is 0-2 against Purdue, and Michigan hasn’t played Purdue yet. Since they go by winning percentage, a Michigan win over Purdue would give the Wolverines the edge. Basically, we want Michigan State to play its way to the 4 seed, as it would greatly help Purdue given their remaining games against Maryland and Wisconsin.

5 Seed – Right now it is a tie between Northwestern and Minnesota, each at 9-6, for the 4/5 spot. It is a huge tiebreaker because getting the 4 seed means one less game to play. Instead of playing the 12/13 winner on Thursday as the 5 the 4 seed gets to sit and wait until Friday. Minnesota’s 66-60 win in Evanston on January 5th gives them the edge and sends Northwestern here. If MSU wins tonight, Northwestern would drop to the 6 spot having lost to both Michigan State and Minnesota.

The Double Bye Teams

4 Seed – As of right now, Minnesota is here, but Michigan State’s 2-0 record over them is looming if the Spartans win tonight. As long as they can stay ahead of Michigan State, however, Minnesota is in great shape. Last night’s win at Maryland gave them a season split, and Minnesota’s win at Purdue (because of the top down rule) therefore gives them an advantage over the Terps. The same is true if Minnesota can get a split with Wisconsin in the regular season finale.

3 Seed – Maryland likely saw its Big Ten title dreams end with the loss to Minnesota. It’s chances at the one seed are virtually non-existent now. The Terrapins are at 10-5, but would not have the tiebreaker with Purdue or Wisconsin. It also just lost it with Minnesota. Michigan State is only a game behind them in the loss column now too and can earn the tiebreaker with a win in the regular season finale. A week ago Maryland was leading the Big Ten. It is now entirely possible for them to fall as low as the 6 seed. They do at least have tiebreakers over Michigan and Northwestern. They are in decent shape for a double bye as long as they beat Iowa and Rutgers.

2 Seed – With four games left it looks like Wisconsin is in good shape to at least get a double bye. Their finishing schedule is not easy though, starting tonight at Ohio State. They do not own a tiebreaker with Northwestern thanks to losing to them in Madison, and Michigan State can take ownership of the tiebreaker with a win this weekend. They would still need to lose 3 of 4 to close the season to have any danger of losing a double bye.

1 Seed – Finally, we get to Purdue, who is in a great position to get no worse than the 2 seed. First off, even if Purdue loses its remaining 3 games against Michigan, Indiana, and Northwestern, the ONLY way it loses the double bye is in a direct tie with Minnesota for the 4 spot or a multi-team tie that involves Minnesota and Northwestern. Purdue holds tiebreakers over Wisconsin (1-0), Maryland (1-0), and Michigan State (2-0). The potential for a crazy 6-team tie for the Big Ten title still exists, but even then Purdue would be 5-2 against the other five teams (Wisconsin, Maryland, Minnesota, Northwestern, Michigan State) in the 6-way tie. Wisconsin would have at least three losses to that group in said scenario (currently two, but they would have to lose to Michigan State or Minnesota for it to happen), Northwestern already has 4, Minnesota has 4, and Michigan State has two, but both to Purdue (and head-to-head would come in after round-robin multi-team tiebreakers)

Here is basically the only way Purdue can lose its double bye status:

· Purdue loses to Michigan, Indiana, AND Northwestern

· Minnesota beats Penn State, Nebraska, AND Wisconsin

· Wisconsin wins two more games (at OSU, at MSU, Iowa, but NOT Minnesota)

· Michigan State loses one game to get to 7 losses (the most Purdue can have is 6, and Purdue’s 2-0 vs. MSU helps greatly in a multi-team tie).

· Northwestern loses once, but not to Purdue

· Maryland wins twice to pass Purdue

From there we’re looking at multi-team tiebreakers that could hurt Purdue. If there is a three-way tie between Purdue, Minnesota, and Northwestern at 12-6 Purdue would lose that tiebreaker because Minnesota would be 2-0 against that group while both Purdue and Northwestern would be tied for 5th then at 1-2. A direct tie with Minnesota for the 4 spot obviously goes to Minnesota, but can only happen if Purdue drops each of its last three games.

(Ed. note: Several people pointed out this would create a tie for 3rd, not 4th, with Maryland in second behind Wisconsin. Most multi-team ties also favor Purdue so I think this means we have it clinched already)

Purdue clinches a double bye with:

Either one more win or one Minnesota loss.

Upon review, I think we already have it.

Purdue clinches the No. 1 seed with:

Any combination of Purdue wins and Wisconsin losses that adds up to 3, plus one Maryland loss.