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Rutgers at Purdue Preview

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Must-win has been used a lot this year, but this is a must-win.

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Rutgers Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Everything is at stake in this game.

No team with 15 losses has ever gotten an at large bid to the NCAA Tournament, but no team has ever had the profile that Purdue has with 14 regular season losses. (Ed Note: please ignore this statement because, as usual, you readers have proven me wrong when I thought I had a cool stat). A 15th loss is very likely coming time time in next week’s Big Ten Tournament, and if it doesn’t we wouldn’t need at large bid anyway because we would have the Big Ten’s automatic bid. The door is open because previous teams that got in at 16-14 didn’t have as many games as Purdue will have if it loses its first Big Ten Tournament game (30 vs. 32). Also, Purdue’s computer numbers remain really, really strong.

If Purdue wins this game it will finish with a NET ranking in the top 35 (currently 32) and a KenPom ranking likely in the top 25 (currently 22). It is extremely likely we need one Big Ten Tournament win in addition to this game over Rutgers in order to feel even remotely safe on Selection Sunday, but the Rutgers game is pretty much non-negotiable at this point.

At worst, a win likely clinches a top seed and the maximum three home games in the NIT, but we don’t play for the NIT. At best, a Purdue win gets it to 17 wins and there is at least a small chance we squeeze in even at 17-15. A win also banishes Indiana to the hell of the Wednesday games and locks Purdue into a Thursday game, so no chance for a bad loss against Northwestern or Nebraska. I know some have said that playing on Wednesday and getting another win for cosmetic purposes would be good, but at this point we would be trading a potential Quad 1 win for a meaningless win over Northwestern or Nebraska where we would still likely need to get two more wins after that to feel safe. Since a win over Rutgers locks us into Thursday let’s get the potential really good home win.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

From: Piscataway, NJ

Date: Saturday, March 7, 2020

Tip Time: 2pm

TV: BTN

Radio: Purdue Radio Network

SiriusXM Satellite: XM (Ch. 381); Internet (Ch. 968)

Live Stats: bit.ly/PurdueLiveStats

Odds: No Line Yet

KenPom: 27

NET: 31

2018-19 Record: 14-17, 7-13 Big Ten

2019-20 Record: 18-11, 10-9 Big Ten

Opponent Blog: On the Banks

Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 12-2

Last Rutgers Win: 70-63 at Rutgers on 1/28/2020

Last Purdue Win: 89-54 at Purdue on 1/15/2019

NCAA Tournament History: 6 appearances, last in 1991. 1976 Final Four

Coach: Steve Pikiell (57-63 in 4th season at Rutgers, 254-238 overall)

First of all, this is right on the border of being a precious Quad 1 game for us. Purdue is currently 4-11 against Quad 1, with the wins over Michigan State, Wisconsin, and the road wins at Iowa and Indiana on that list. Purdue is 5-2 against Quad 2, however, and this game can make us 6-2 against that level and 10-13 against the top 2 levels. We have some rooting interests in next week’s Big Ten Tournament, however, as long as we don’t play certain teams. Rutgers currently sits at 31 on the NET, so with a little help (say two wins next week) any hypothetical victory over them tomorrow can move to Quad 1. Iowa is in the same boat. The Hawkeyes are at 34, so a win for them at Illinois this weekend and a win or two in Indianapolis moves the home win into the top 30 to help us. We also need to cheer for VCU (currently at 64, but with a road game at Davidson tonight) and Virginia (currently at 47, but with a massive game against Louisville this weekend and the ACC Tournament coming up).

Any win next week in the Big Ten Tournament would be a Quad 1 win. The intricacies of the formula can give us two more with Iowa and Rutgers, so we definitely want both of them to have success next week in Indy.

As for this game, there isn’t a lot to say. Purdue is coming off of another big win over Iowa, but the Hawkeyes have been reluctant to play defense all year. Rutgers is a much different animal. They are a stingy defensive team at 62.5 points per game, just a half point worse than us. They have been better offensively at 69.9 points per game compared to Purdue’s 68.2. Purdue has struggled mightily against strong defensive teams all season, so this is definitely cause for concern.

In the first game Trevion Williams was dominant with a 17 and 13, but the rest of Purdue struggled except for Jahaad Proctor, who had 19. Sasha Stefanovic went 0 for 4 from long range and was scoreless. Caleb McConnell did a lot of damage by relentlessly getting to the line. He finished with 16 points and was 12 of 12 from the free throw line. He was part of a huge free throw discrepancy as the Scarlet Knights shot 36 free throws to Purdue’s 10. In a 7 point game, that is huge.

The good news is that there is no way there will be that pronounced of a difference again. If Rutgers has a 36-10 edge from the line in Mackey Arena there will be blood (although if we get Bo Boroski for this game all bets are off). Purdue is overdue for a good home game shooting the basketball, too. Penn State, Michigan, and Indiana were all horrific shooting games, especially from three. The crowd is going to be there, if not be a little desperate. It is a sellout and, as said last week against Indiana, Purdue like to turn Mackey into a gladiator pit. The Scarlet Knights went 17-1 at home this year, but were a dismal 1-10 away from home. They are a different team away from home, and how will they handle a full and rocking Mackey if Purdue gets going early?

This is a must-have game. It doesn’t get Purdue into the NCAA Tournament (though there is at least a small chance Purdue gets in at 17-15), but it can certainly knock them out. We have to get this one then hope Rutgers gets a game or two next week in Indy to get into the top 30 and make it more worth our while.