There are 10 games left in the regular season and Purdue honestly could not ask for a better position. We’re in first place in the Big Ten with a spotless 8-0 record, 4-0 away from Mackey Arena. The road to a 24th Big Ten Championship (and second consecutive) will go through West Lafayette in the back nine of the conference season. We’re also on the No. 1 seed line in almost every bracket projection.
bracket Matrix is currently tracking 90 brackets and Purdue trails only Villanova in terms of overall profile. The Wildcats are a perfect 90 for 90 on all brackets as a No. 1 seed. Purdue is an averaged seed of 1.13. We’re No. 1 seed on most brackets and a No. 2 seed on every other bracket. Even College Sports madness, who had us listed as a 4 seed last week, has us as a No. 1 seed today.
Joe Lunardi, ESPN
The most popular bracket every year is Joe Lunardi at ESPN, and he continues to have Purdue on the 1 line playing the first two games in Detroit. He has us as the No. 1 seed in the Midwest region, playing a play-in game participant in Arkansas-Pine bluff or Nicholls State. A rematch with Butler could be in store for round 2 in this Bracket, and a dangerous Cincinnati looms in round 3. Given what they did to us last year, I would not be excited to see Kansas in the Elite 8.
Jerry Palm, CBS
Palm is always high on Purdue and he has us as the No. 1 seed in the Midwest playing Wagner. Round 2 would be a rematch with Marquette or a chance to measure our sauciness against C.J. Walker and Florida State. Cincinnati, North Carolina, and Kansas are a difficult 4-3-2 here.
Fox has us in the west region as a No. 1 seed facing Cal State Fullerton. if this were baseball I would be worried, but Cal State Fullerton has never been to the NCAA basketball tournament despite being a baseball powerhouse. Notre Dame in round 2 could be tricky if Bonzie Colson returns by then. Playing Arizona in the West for the regional final would not be fun.
Chris Dobbertean, SB Nation
Chris also has us atop the Midwest. This was made last week and he had Virginia as the No. 2 seed in our region. This is just asking for a busted bracket that sends someone like Tennessee to the Final Four because Purdue and Virginia historically dicktrip in March. If the seeds int his bracket held something will have to give.
So What Do We Have to Do?
In short, keep winning. A weakened Big Ten means any stumble outside of Michigan, Michigan State, or Ohio State would be really bad, but Purdue currently leads the nation with 6 tier 1 wins and Minnesota is just outside the top 75 at 76, so they could slid back in there for the road win to be a tier 1 win.
The next six games will likely decide our fate, too. Purdue plays the other three league contenders over the next 6 games, as well as Maryland (probably the team with the best chance at being the 5th Big Ten team in the NCAAs) and an always tough rivalry game in Bloomington. Purdue going 5-1 in this stretch would be enough to stay on the top line and probably all but lock up at least a share of the Big Ten title. Beating Ohio state and Michigan would be two more tier 1 wins too, and I really like our chances to do so in Mackey Arena.
I think as long as Purdue does not lose at home we’re fine. If we do just that there is a good chance we go to Michigan State still unbeaten in league play. That game is then gravy. a win would seal up everything. A loss would be far from crippling.
If Purdue goes 4-2 in the next 6 you’re likely looking at a deep Big Ten Tournament run to stay on the top line. Last year North Carolina got a 1 seed with 7 losses. Two years ago three of the four top seeds had 6 or more losses. losing at Michigan State would not damage anything. In fact, that is the only projected loss remaining on the schedule. If Purdue goes into that game undefeated in conference play I think a No. 1 seed is all but locked up unless we really stumble in the final four games (where we will be a large favorite).
The thing to remember is that a loss is probably coming. No one has run undefeated through the Big Ten in 42 years. The following teams made it through with just one loss:
2007 Ohio State (15-1)
2005 Illinois (15-1)
1999 Michigan State (15-1)
1993 Indiana (17-1)
Dreaming of an undefeated Big Ten season is still premature. Even 17-1 would put us in pretty rare territory. 16-2 might still be enough for a No. 1 seed, and no team with just 2 losses in Big Ten play has failed to win at least a share of the crown since 1971. Only Michigan State in 2005, Wisconsin in 2007, and Purdue in 2008 failed to win the Big Ten with just three losses, so history has shown that even a 7-3 finish could be enough.
What helps Purdue is that, aside from the trip to East Lansing, the toughest remaining games are in Mackey Arena, where we feel invincible. Purdue has lost just once in the last three years with a full Paint Crew: Against Villanova last season. We have a full Paint Crew the rest of the way. Of the last 5 road games, four are against sub-100 RPI teams.
As long as we don’t lose at home we’re going to be in very, very good shape.