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Big Ten Basketball Title Scenarios

For Purdue, the math is simple this week.

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Purdue Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday we got a huge gift from Indiana. The Hoosiers’ win over Michigan State, their second of the year, put Purdue in firm control of its own destiny for the Big Ten title. With two games to play only three teams have a chance at the title either outright or a share of it: Purdue, Michigan, and Michigan State. Here is what each needs:


Clinches a share with:

  • A win over Minnesota OR Northwestern
  • or a loss by Michigan AND Michigan State

Clinches outright title with:

  • Wins over Minnesota AND Northwestern
  • or a win over either Minnesota AND Northwestern plus Michigan State loses to Nebraska but beats Michigan.

Even if Purdue loses Tuesday night in Minneapolis it is all on us if we don’t get a share of the title. If we can’t beat last place Northwestern on the final day of the season we don’t deserve to have a piece of the title. That game against the Wildcats is a safety net right now. After losing to Illinois today the Wildcats are 3-15 in conference play with wins over Indiana, Rutgers, and Illinois. They are now locked into the 14 seed in the Big Ten Tournament too.

Of course, Purdue can have a share locked up if it completes the sweep of Minnesota on Tuesday. That’s a dangerous game. The Gophers probably need to beat us to make the NCAA Tournament and are 12-3 at home. They have lost to Maryland, Wisconsin, and Michigan at home. They are at 56 in the NET rankings and are just 2-8 against Quadrant 1. They have to win at least once this week either at home against us or at Maryland.

For the outright title we obviously get the job done by winning both games. Beating the Wildcats is no means easy, as they have at least played teams close at home, but I would rather be playing them than about anyone else in that final game. I expect a partisan Purdue crowd there. If we can’t win that game we don’t deserve to win the title.


Clinches a share with:

  • A win over Michigan State and one Purdue loss
  • or a loss to Michigan State, but Michigan State loses to Nebraska and Purdue loses both games.

Clinches outright title with:

  • A win over Michigan State and two Purdue losses

The Wolverines do not have a midweek game, so they are off until going to East Lansing at 8pm Saturday night. By the time that game tips off they will know if they have a shot or not, as Purdue’s last two games will be done. They are most likely going to need to beat Michigan State on Saturday to have any chance because it seems unlikely the Spartans will lose to Nebraska or Purdue is going to lose both games.

Michigan State

Clinches a share with:

  • Wins over Nebraska and Michigan plus a Purdue loss
  • or Two Purdue losses and a win over Michigan with a loss to Nebraska

Clinches outright title with:

  • Wins over Nebraska and Michigan with two Purdue losses

The Spartans have work to do and the bizarre sweep by Indiana is what has them reeling right now. The loss at Illinois was not great, either. They still have a chance though and if Minnesota or Northwestern does them a favor I really like their chances to win both this week. If they beat Nebraska as expected and Purdue loses its two games the Michigan-Michigan State game becomes winner-take-all for the title. If Purdue wins once that game is then for a share.

A Note on Big Ten Tournament Seeding

Just about the only way Purdue gets the No. 1 seed in Chicago is an outright title. The first tiebreaker is head-to-head record and a single tie with Michigan gives the Wolverines the advantage since they beat us back in December. A single tie with Michigan State would be decided by the second tiebreaker, which is record vs. the next highest team in the standings since we split the season series with MSU. That next highest team would be Michigan, as Purdue, Michigan, and Michigan State are locked into the top three spots in some order.

In the event of a three-way tie, which can only happen if Purdue loses both its games and Michigan State loses to Nebraska but beats Michigan, the Spartans would have the advantage. they would then be 3-1 against Purdue and Michigan while Michigan and Purdue would be 1-2 each. The Boilers would then be the three seed in that scenario.