The regular season is complete and that means it is Big Ten Tournament time. For the first time in the 14-team era of the event Purdue does not have a double bye. The Boilermakers will have to slum it up with the commoners this year on Thursday as the No. 10 seed. I have once again gotten a media pass and will be courtside at Bankers Life Fieldhouse for at least as long as Purdue is playing.
Here is the full schedule:
6pm: 12 seed Minnesota vs. 13 seed Northwestern
9:30pm: 11 seed Indiana vs. 14 seed Nebraska
Indiana is the only one here with any reasonable at large NCAA hopes, and if they lose to Nebraska it could be a mortal blow. They should already have a mortal blow, as no team iwth a losing record in conference play deserves an at large bid to the NCAA Tournament (yes, us included).
Noon: 8 seed Rutgers vs. 9 seed Michigan
2:30pm: 5 seed Iowa vs. Minnesota-Northwestern winner
6:30pm: 7 seed Ohio State vs. 10 seed Purdue
9pm: 6 seed Penn State vs. Indiana-Nebraska winner
All the teams waiting until Thursday are safely in the field except Purdue. At the end of this post I will outline the extremely small chance we have at an at large bid, but needless to say, it is completely off the table if we lose to Ohio State. Of course, the Buckeyes are the only Big Ten team with an all-time winning record (91-88) against us, so at least this is a chance to cut into that.
Noon: 1 seed Wisconsin vs. Michigan-Rutgers winner
2:30pm: 4 seed Illinois vs. Iowa-Minnesota-Northwestern winner
6:30pm: 2 seed Michigan State vs. Purdue-Ohio State winner
9pm: 3 seed Maryland vs. Penn State-Indiana Nebraska winner
Semifinals 1 and 3:30pm (Purdue would be in semifinal #2)
3:30pm Championship game
So it is a tough path for Purdue. It is not going to beat Michigan State by 27 again if it gets there, and it needs to find a way to get past an Ohio State team it played really poorly against. Most likely, Purdue needs to at least make the final on Sunday to have any reasonable at large chance, but it might (the key word: might) have a chance if it beats Ohio State and Michigan State. Here is what needs to happen:
Nebraska beating Indiana
Right now the Hoosiers are borderline in the tournament in most brackets. A loss to last place Nebraska would be a crippling blow. They would have an equal Big Ten record to Purdue with a pair of losses to the Boilers, but they are significantly behind us in the NET rankings (we are at 33, they are at 60). We need the Cornhuskers to find a way to close the gap after a couple narrow losses earlier in the year. Clearing Indiana out of the Bubble way before we even take the floor would be nice.
Minimal bid thieves
Utah State was already a bubble team that may or may not have gotten in, but they got the Mountain West’s auto bid and sent San Diego State to the at large pool. Bradley may have made the Missouri Valley Conference a multi-bid league if you think Northern Iowa deserves to be in. That might already be two off the board. Liberty winning today helps. East Tennessee State needs to take care of business in their conference. So does Stephen F. Austin.
Purdue must win at least two Big Ten Tournament games
That gets Purdue to 18 wins and a total of six Quad 1 NET victories, as beating both Ohio State and Michigan State would qualify. Our NET remains ridiculously strong too at 33. In fact, I believe that we would be the highest ranked NET team left out in the NET era. It is obviously no guarantee, but beating the Buckeyes and Spartans likely brings us into the top 30. If we’re sitting there at 18-16 after a semifinal loss with a NET of 27 or so it could just barely be enough.
We want Iowa to go as far as possible
Before losing at Illinois tonight the Hawkeyes were at 34 in the NET. If they can win a few in Indy and get into the top 30 that gives us a bonus Quad 1 win because then the home victory over them counts on that tier.
Virginia reaches the ACC final
The Cavaliers have won 9 of 10 and finished tied for second behind Florida State in the ACC. They have climbed to 41 in the NET after beating Lousiville yesterday too. Like Iowa, we want them to win as much as possible in the ACC Tournament to try and get them into the top 30.
VCU reaches the Atlantic 10 final while beating Dayton
This is more of a small boost than anything, and if VCU wins the A-10 title game they likely become a bid thief themselves, but they are still sitting there at 65 in the NET. If they could get to the final and lose, but still beat Dayton along the way, that might give them a bump into the top 50 (which is what we would need since it was on a neutral floor) to help. The would play Dayton in the quarterfinals on Friday if they beat UMass on Thursday.
So say Purdue beats Ohio State and Michigan State, but loses a close one to Maryland on Saturday. Also say Iowa reaches the final and gets into the top 30, while Virginia makes a nice run to reach the top 30. That means on Selection Sunday Purdue is sitting at 18-16 with a top 30 NET and eight Quad 1 wins (Michigan State x2, Iowa x2, Ohio State, at Indiana, Virginia, and Wisconsin). It’s not the absolute worst profile and it might barely be enough. Should Purdue reach Sunday’s final you can add a ninth Quad 1 win over Maryland or Penn State (if it is Indiana may not be in the top 50 for the neutral court win to count).
Yes, it is a longshot. Yes, the dream probably died when Eric Hunter Jr. had that free throw roll off the rim at the end of regulation yesterday. For now, just beat Ohio State on Thursday and see what happens.
Of course, if we just win four games in four days we have nothing to worry about.