There is roughly a week and a half left in the regular season. We also had the first bracket tease of the season this past weekend. In it, Purdue was a 2 seed. Time is dwindling to move up to the 1 line, but a 2 seed is still pretty good. There are still some advantages to moving up to the 1 line. A 1 vs. 4 matchup in the Sweet 16 is generally a little more favorable than a 2 vs. 3. You can also take advantage of the annual 12 over 5 upset if said 12 makes it to the Sweet 16. Historically a 1 vs. 16 game is a virtual bye too, while a 2 vs. 15 is a little more dangerous.
Regardless, Purdue is in very, very good shape. It is very likely going to play the first two games at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis and even as a 2 seed, it could be in Chicago for the following two. That is the ideal path. I believe if Purdue wins two of the next three it will be no less than a 2 seed, and if it wins the next three it will move up to the 1 line. Does it need some help though?
Gonzaga will almost certainly have one of the 1 seed spots. Arizona is 25-2 and in a very good spot to grab another. There isn’t much of an argument against Auburn as the third 1 seed, especially with their two recent losses being extremely narrow. That leaves the fourth No. 1 seed. It is probably between Purdue, Kansas, Kentucky, and maybe Baylor. Purdue can grab two more tier 1 wins in its next two games, and with a one spot bump the Northwestern road win moves to the tier 1 line. That would give Purdue 10 such win, tying Baylor and Kansas there for the most in the country. If Purdue wins out it will arguably have a slightly better profile overall than Auburn.
I remain confident Purdue can get a 1 seed. A 2 seed still gives you a favored path to the Elite 8, where anything can happen. What’s hurting Purdue a little is that its NET and KenPom keep dropping. The offense is still highly rated, but the defense is under the 100 line, which is not good. Last night in our group chat the idea that Purdue was “Iowa+” was floated, which is not too far off. The offense can be great, but the defense can be bad. It is a weakness that has seen improvement lately, but it is still the biggest weakness and thing I fear most in March.
Purdue Boilermakers Profile
Record: 24-4, 13-4 Big Ten
NET: 11 (Down 1 from last week)
KenPom: 13 (Down 2 from last week)
Tier 1 Wins (KenPom) Home 1-30; Neutral 1-50; Away 1 75: 12 Villanova (Neutral), 15 Iowa (Away), 15 Iowa (Home), 16 Illinois (Home), 16 Illinois (Away), 21 Ohio State (Home), 42 North Carolina (Neutral), 67 Northwestern (Away)
Tier 2 Wins (KenPom): Home 31-75 Neutral 51-100; Away 76-135: 31 Michigan (Home), 67 Northwestern (Home), 71 Rutgers (Home), 85 Penn State (Away), 103 Minnesota (Away)
Tier 1 Wins (NET) Home 1-30; Neutral 1-50; Away 1 75: 8 Villanova (Neutral), 14 Illinois (Away), 14 Illinois (Home), 18 Iowa (Home), 18 Iowa, (Away), 19 Ohio State (Home), 42 North Carolina (Neutral)
Tier 2: Home 31-75 (NET) Neutral 51-100; Away 76-135: 33 Michigan (Home), 76 Northwestern (Away), 85 Penn State (Away), 101 Minnesota (Away)
Bad Losses (Sub-100 NET or KenPom): None
Bellarmine Knights (16-12, 10-4 Atlantic Sun) – NET 207, KenPom 203 – Bellarmine got a split this week, beating Central Arkansas 79-69 and losing to first place Jacksonville State 82-67. That leaves Bellarmine a game out of first place for the regular season title.
Indiana State Sycamores (11-17, 4-12 Missouri Valley) – NET 226, KenPom 219 – Indiana State dropped two more games this week, 76-72 at home to Southern Illinois and 74-58 at Drake. They currently lead only Evansville in the MVC standings.
Wright State Raiders (16-13, 13-7 Horizon League) – NET 216, KenPom 195 – Wright State got a Horizon League split in the past week. The first was a huge win at Oakland 78-74, but they could not sustain the momentum and lost 80-75 at Detroit two days later. That all but handed the title to Cleveland State.
North Carolina Tar Heels (20-8, 12-5 ACC) – NET 42, KenPom 42 – Things looked bad for North Carolina when they lost at home to Pittsburgh 76-67 last week. They recovered for an important 65-57 win at Virginia Tech and a 70-63 win over Louisville on Monday. That has them on the right side of the Bubble for now, giving Purdue a good non-conference win.
Villanova Wildcats (21-7, 14-3 Big East) – NET 8, KenPom 12 – Villanova was on fire and steaming towards a 2 seed of their own with a 74-66 win over Georgetown, but they lost a hard fought game last night at Connecticut 71-69. That put them two games behind Providence in the loss column in the Big East, but they play the Friars next Tuesday.
Omaha Mavericks (5-22, 4-12 Summit League) – NET 346, KenPom 340 – Hey! The Mavericks won a game, 72-69 over Denver! It was only their second win since January 6th.
Florida State Seminoles (14-13, 7-10 ACC) – NET 107, KenPom 110 – The Seminoles continue to be in freefall, losing to Duke 88-70 and Boston College 71-55. This is a team that was leading the ACC a month ago after beating Miami in Coral Gables, but they have since lost 8 of 9.
North Carolina State Wolfpack - (11-16, 4-12 ACC) – NET 132, KenPom 122 – A quirk in the scheduling means that the Wolfpack has not played in the past week. They host Boston College tonight.
Butler Bulldogs – (13-15, 6-11 Big East) – NET 126, KenPom 138 – Butler had a tough week. They lost at St. John’s 91-57, then fell apart with a chance to upset Providence before losing 71-70 at home in overtime. They are at Seton Hall tonight.
Incarnate Word Cardinals – (5-20, 3-11 Southland) – NET 348, KenPom 352 – Carson Cunningham’s squad got a rare win and a split this week. They lost to Northwestern State 88-64, but beat Southeastern Louisiana 92-84.
Nicholls Colonels – (18-9, 10-3 Southland) – NET 200, KenPom 224 – Nicholls is closing in on a conference regular season title. They beat McNeese 82-73 and Houston Baptist 84-70. With four games left they are a game behind new Orleans for first place in the league, and one of their remaining games is against the Privateers.
Likely NCAA Teams: Villanova, North Carolina
NCAA Bubble: None
Possible Regular Season or Conference Tourney Champs: Villanova, Nicholls