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2021 NCAA Tournament: Where the Big Ten Stands on March 2

By the math, Purdue can technically pick up two tier 1 wins and a tier 2 win tonight.

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Penn State Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

Most bracket projections currently have Purdue as a 5 or 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Boilers are also in great shape for yet another double bye in the Big Ten Tournament here in Indy. There is still a lot of basketball to be played, however. Getting a top 4 seed in the NCAAs would be a tremendous accomplishment for such a young team, and there might even be a path to a 3 seed, where we can avoid a 1 seed for as long as possible.

We’ll need some help, however, and tonight is a good night for that. Not only is Purdue playing a top 25 team at home with a chance to pick up a tier 1 victory, Michigan State hosts Indiana and can raise its own profile to greatly help us. The league is in pretty good shape to get at least eight teams into the NCAAs but after that there is a steep drop-off.

Definitely Out (Barring a Big Ten Tournament title)

Nebraska - 7-17, 3-14 – NET: 122, KenPom: 92 – I said that Nebraska could play spoiler and they have done just that. With two straight wins they have ruined Minnesota’s chances and put a hefty dent into Rutgers’. Best of all, the two wins gave them about a 20 spot boost in the NET rankings, so they are now a tier 2 win for Purdue! That puts us a hefty 11-7 against the first two tears and we can get two more such wins tonight (more on that later). They shouldn’t drop much with a loss at Iowa on Thursday, but a win at Northwestern Sunday would help a lot.

Northwestern - 6-14, 4-13 - NET: 89, KenPom: 73 – The Wildcats ended their losing streak with a 67-59 win over Minnesota on Thursday, but it won’t keep them out of the Wednesday games in Indianapolis. They finish with Maryland and Nebraska, then will play some time next Wednesday in a game that would have had no fans anyway.

Penn State - 8-13, 5-12 – NET: 52, KenPom: 40 – Even with the poor record Purdue’s win Friday night looks excellent to the computers, as it is solidly on tier 1. They host plummeting Minnesota tomorrow night in a game the Gophers absolutely need. We also don’t want them tripping Maryland on Sunday so the Terrapins can stay in the top 30.

Bleeding Profusely

Minnesota – 13-12, 6-12 – NET: 70, KenPom: 57 – Since Marcus Carr banked in that lucky shot to beat Purdue the Gophers have lost five straight, including games to Northwestern and Nebraska. They need to beat Penn State and Rutgers this week in order to have a chance, and even then, they might be done. Let’s just keep them in the top 75 so the home win has some juice as a tier 2 win.

The “Loser Leaves Town” Match Tonight

Michigan State – 13-10, 7-10 – NET: 77, KenPom: 63

Indiana – 12-12, 7-10 – NET: 57, KenPom: 37

I am putting Indiana and Michigan State together because the loser of tonight’s game is basically done when it comes to their at large chances. Michigan State picked itself off the mat with impressive wins over Illinois and Ohio State last week before losing by 18 at Maryland. Indiana has lost three straight, two by double digits, and likely needs to beat Michigan State and Purdue this week to have a shot. We want Michigan State to win tonight because 1. It’s Indiana and we want them further quitting on Archie, and 2. Michigan State is at 77 in the NET. If they get back above 75 our home win over them moves from tier 3 to tier 2 and the road win moved from tier 2 to tier 1. Both still have a long road to make the tourney after tonight and Sparty likely needs to win one of the two Michigan games.

I also want to take a spot here to tease something very special I have for Sunday involving Archie Miller, win or lose on Saturday. Let’s just say it will be using humor for good.

One More Win Needed

Rutgers – 13-10, 9-10 – NET: 38, KenPom: 32 – Uh... Rutgers? You guys okay? You got a nice win over Indiana to solidify things a bit, but losing by 21 to NEBRASKA after they lost their best player? Do we need to have a talk? Rutgers has not gotten a top 30 win since beating Purdue on December 29th. Should they lose to Minnesota this week they will head to Indy having lost 4 of 5. They are still probably okay, but losing that Minnesota game starts tempting fate.

Maryland – 14-10, 9-9 – NET: 28, KenPom: 26 – I was tempted to move Maryland to a “lock” but I want to see that 10th conference win yet. They should get it. They are at Northwestern tomorrow night and have a backup chance against Penn State on Sunday.

NCAA Locks

Purdue – 16-8, 11-6 – NET: 22, KenPom: 13 – Can Purdue get to a 3 seed? A 4 seems absolutely in reach with a win tonight and a win Saturday against Indiana. With a win or two in Indy on top of that I can see us entering the 3 seed conversation. As stated, Purdue is currently 11-7 against the top two tiers and depending on what happens tonight it can add two more wins to that. Indiana would be a tier 2 win as it stands right now and any wins in Indy would likely be tier 1. Liberty and Notre Dame are holding steady as decent non-conference wins in a year where there was barely a non-conference. I’d love to get a three seed to avoid a 1 seed as long as possible and hope for chaos. In terms of the Big Ten tournament Purdue is at worst the 4 seed if it wins the last two games.

Wisconsin – 16-9, 10-8 – NET: 24, KenPom: 11 – The Badgers have basically beaten up the league’s middle to lower teams and struggled against the upper echelon. They are 0-6 against Michigan, Ohio State, Illinois, and Iowa. They are still a solid tourney team, but with a loss tonight and at Iowa on Sunday they are probably looking at a 6-7 seed.

Iowa – 18-7, 12-6 – NET: 6, KenPom: 5 – How did this team lose to Indiana twice? They have won 5 of 6 since, losing only at Michigan and they picked up a 16 point win at Ohio State. It is possible that the conference gets four of the top 8 seeds in the tournament which is absurd. They close with home games against Nebraska and Wisconsin and if they lose one of those it opens the door for a third place finish for Purdue.

Ohio State – 18-7, 12-7 – NET: 7, KenPom: 7 – The Buckeyes probably lost their shot at a #1 seed with two losses last week and getting a hot Illinois team on Saturday won’t help. Do you really deserve a No. 1 seed going 13-7 in your conference though? I know the closing slate is brutal, but the Buckeyes could enter the Big Ten tournament on a four game losing streak and would have to play on Thursday. They are a good team, but I didn’t buy “Top 5” good.

Illinois – 18-6, 14-4 – NET: 5, KenPom: 6 – Michigan is probably going to win the Big Ten regardless of tonight’s result, but the Fighting Illini are still in a great spot to get a second 1 seed. Beating Michigan and Ohio State this week would lock it up.

Michigan – 18-1, 13-1 – NET: 2, KenPom: 2 – It was a valiant effort and they still have to play Illinois tonight and Michigan State twice this weekend, but the Wolverines will only play 17 conference games while everyone else is playing at least 19. They lost games to Indiana, at Penn State (which ended up being postponed twice), and at Northwestern. Yeah, they likely win those three anyway, but what if they had slipped at Penn State on January 9 as they were rounding into form? What if Indiana, in between Iowa wins, had tripped them January 30th? It is a bit of circuitous logic, but say Illinois gets them tonight and Michigan State takes one from them this week. Then Purdue is a hypothetical Michigan loss in one of those three cancelled games and a possession each against Maryland and Minnesota from a shock Big Ten title shared with Michigan and Illinois.