One of the more underrated streaks that Purdue is on of late is earning a double bye to the Big Ten Tournament. Since the tournament expanded to 14 teams in 2015 Purdue has had the coveted “double bye” to the quarterfinals in all four years. This was after finishing dead last and going into the 2014 tournament as the 12th and final seed. As things stand now, Purdue is well on its way to another double bye.
Battling for a Double Bye:
Michigan State 13-3
With five games to play Purdue is in excellent shape because of tiebreakers. We played Wisconsin and Iowa only once each and won both games, giving us the direct tiebreaker over both. With Maryland, it is a little trickier. We split the season series with the Terrapins, so that tiebreaker is as follows:
Each team’s record vs. the team occupying the highest position in the final regular-season standings (or in the case of a tie for the championship, the next highest position in the regular-season standings), continuing down through the standings until one team gains an advantage. When arriving at another pair of tied teams while comparing records, use each team’s record against the collective tied teams as a group (prior to their own tie-breaking procedures), rather than the performance against the individual tied teams. When comparing records against a single team or a group of teams, the higher winning percentage shall prevail, even if the number of games played against the team or group are unequal (i.e., 2-0 is better than 3-1, but 2-0 is not better than 1-0).
Purdue is 1-1 against Michigan State and 0-1 against Michigan. Maryland is 0-1 against both teams with a game against Michigan to play. That means our win over Michigan State gives us an advantage here.
At the absolute worst, Purdue can be the 8 seed right now. It would take losing the last 5 games and a lot of other things for that to happen though. Most likely Purdue is going to finish in the top 4 and get a double by yet again. Michigan and Michigan State are in the same boat, with Wisconsin, Iowa, and Maryland fighting for that fourth spot. When Maryland beat Iowa on Tuesday it moved them to 2-1 against Iowa and Wisconsin. That gives them a very nice edge. Iowa has lost to both Maryland and Wisconsin with a game left at Wisconsin. It seems like the Michigan at Maryland game will be a big one for the remaining league standings.
Penn State 3-12
Nebraska is such a strange case. They won 13 Big Ten games last year, but their computer numbers are better this year and they still could get an NCAA berth if they find a way to turn it around. The same is true about Indiana. Unfortunately for both, they have been just awful of late. Nebraska is 2-8 and Indiana is 1-9 in the last 10 games. They are basically in “Win all their remaining games or they’re done” territory. Nebraska closes with four straight ranked teams too, so they at least have a chance.
Northwestern and Penn State seem locked in to playing on Wednesday in front of nobody. Indiana is well on its way there too after they started the league 3-0. Rutgers probably won’t be the 14 seed for the first time ever, as they have their most Big Ten wins since joining the league. Can they avoid Wednesday entirely? Their last two games are against Penn State and Indiana, so they might. Indiana might take their place as they face Iowa, Wisconsin, and Michigan State in their next three games and look completely broken. The Hoosiers were once 12-2, and they might finish the season with a losing record overall. Just stunning.
If Purdue does win the Big Ten it will be because it avoided slipups against the bottom five teams here. We’re 6-0 against this group with games to come at Nebraska and Northwestern. Those are games we’re almost certainly going to need to win if we’re going to win the Big Ten. Michigan and Michigan State, the teams we’re competing with, each have a loss to this group.
Michigan State 23-3
It would take a stunning collapse for any of these five to miss the tournament. They have all locked up at least a .500 record in conference play (except Iowa) in the No. 2 rated conference. These teams are also running out of time to accumulate any bad losses. Iowa has an undefeated non-conference record with several excellent wins that will get them in, and they are likely not losing the rest of their games.
Work to do:
Ohio State 17-9
This is a dangerous group because Purdue has to play both and they would love to add to their resumes with a win over us. Hopefully Minnesota helps themselves tonight by beating Michigan in The Barn. The Golden Gophers only lost to the Wolverines by two in Ann Arbor, and a win tonight helps both them and us. The Gophers will need to win at Rutgers and Northwestern, plus probably get a win over Michigan or Purdue at home or at Maryland in order to feel safe. They also already lost by 20 at Ohio State.
The Buckeyes are in a similar boat, but with a tougher finishing kick. They have to go to Maryland, Northwestern, and Purdue while hosting Iowa and Wisconsin. They’re probably okay with just two more wins, but getting a win in Mackey on March 2nd would be like gold for them.