Purdue has played one of the toughest schedules in America so far. Of the 19 games, 15 have come against Tier 1 and Tier 2 teams according to the NET ratings. A 16th game was against a major conference opponent that has been decimated by injuries and defections, but would otherwise be a solid team. No one else can really claim that. Now it is time to avoid the dreaded “bad loss”.
Assuming the Nebraska game is actually made up Purdue has three games in the final eight that would be considered a bad loss. As long as Purdue wins all three it will be more than fine on Selection Sunday. This game with Northwestern is one of the three “bad loss” games.
From: Evanston, IL
Date: Saturday, February 6, 2021
Tip Time: 4:30pm ET
Location: West Lafayette, Indiana
Arena: Mackey Arena (14,804)
Radio: Boilermaker Sports Network
Odds: No Line Yet
2019-20 Record: 8-23, 3-17 Big Ten
2020-21 Record: 6-9, 3-8 Big Ten
Record vs. Purdue: Purdue leads 131-46
Last Purdue win: 61-58 at Northwestern on 2/1/2020
Last Northwestern win: 74-65 at Purdue on 3/9/2014
Opponent Blog: InsideNU
NCAA Tournament History: 1 appearance, reached 2017 Second Round
Coach: Chris Collins (115-128 in 8th season at Northwestern)
This game looked a lot better on December 26th. On that day Northwestern upset Ohio State 71-70 in Evanston to take the lead in the Big Ten at 3-0. They had already beaten a then-ranked Michigan State team by double digits and won at Indiana. That win over Ohio State was enough to propel the Wildcats into the top 25 and with three really good wins to start league play it certainly looked like they would be an NCAA team.
They have since fallen off a cliff.
Northwestern has been ranked a couple of times in recent years, but has not won a game as a ranked team since 1969. Since jumping into the polls at #19 on December 28th Northwestern has lost eight consecutive games. Here is an illustration of their season since:
Six of the eight losses have been by double digits. Sure, they played Iowa twice, Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Michigan once each, and Illinois in that stretch, but it has been a rough run with losses to second tier teams Rutgers and Penn State as well. They have had a struggling defense (12th in conference play at 76.8 points per game given up) and have struggled on the glass.
A big reason for their struggles has been the regression of Boo Buie. Buie dropped 30 on Michigan State and was in double figures for the wins over Indiana and Ohio State. In the eight game losing streak he has been held scoreless twice and scored just two points twice. It is not a coincidence their closest game in that stretch, an 81-78 loss to Penn State, Buie had 18. He is shooting 38% from three and Northwestern absolutely needs to get him going. Buie also averages 4.5 assists per game, but has had some turnover issues of late too.
Miller Kopp leads them in scoring at 13.7 points per game and he is shooting better than 42% from three. Chase Audige (12.1 ppg) and Pete Nance (11.5 ppg) also average in double figures. Northwestern has a more traditional center in Ryan young, who averages 8.3 points and 4.9 rebounds per game.
Northwestern struggles to get much of anything consistent form its bench. Robbie Beran and Ty Berry are the only bench players averaging over 5 points per game, but they can also go silent for long stretches. This is a team that relies heavily on its starters to carry the load.
Northwestern can be a dangerous team. Even last year, when they were 3-17 in conference play, they pushed Purdue in both matchups. In the game in Evanston Purdue needed a furious late comeback and game-winning three from Sasha Stefanovic to pull out a win. Purdue is just the latest in a brutal stretch of games.
Speaking of Stefanovic, this will be his first game back after two and a half weeks off. Does he show some rust? He had 14 in the win over Northwestern in Mackey last year and given his ability to open things up from long range Purdue needs him back. The Boilers really struggled against Michigan without him and his absence was arguably the difference in the loss at Maryland.
Purdue just needs to win this. After Tuesday I don’t think we’ll be overlooking them in any way, but it is still the rare game this year in the Big Ten where the win expectation is high. We’re playing at home. Don’t screw it up.