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Non-Conference Opponents’ Update: March 2

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Our thoughts turn to March.

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Wisconsin Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

It’s time to talk about a three seed. The chaos this past weekend seemed to hurt Purdue the most. We had the farther drop of the top 6 who lost. Then you have last night. Purdue has consistently been on the 1-2 seed line for most of the season, but a two game losing streak, even on consecutive road buzzer beaters, is damaging. It is very likely that Wisconsin will move up to a 2 seed when today’s projections come out and bump us to a 3 seed. And rightfully so. The Badgers will win the Big Ten outright at 16-4 (and I said all along 16-4 would do it) and they beat Purdue twice. They deserve it.

As for Purdue, in most years we would be doing backflips at 24-6 after 30 games. This year, it feels disappointing. This was supposed to be the team. For months the Big Ten title felt like a minimum expectation, even a birthright. Even after the early stumbles at Rutgers, home against Wisconsin, and at Indiana we had recovered to be in first place entering the last three games. As recently as last night the title was within our grasp. Now it is gone, and in the end, we won’t even come as close as the 2018 lost title. And because of an absurd 7 games that came down to an end-of-regulation possession that could go either way (at Rutgers, at Illinois, at Indiana, Ohio State, Maryland, at Michigan State, at Wisconsin) where Purdue went 3-4 there will always be a sense of “What if”.

All hopes now transfer to the NCAAs. Can Purdue get back on the 2 seed line? Well, with a some help and a couple wins in the Big Ten tournament, maybe. I don’t think a conference tournament title will affect much because the title game happens so late, but if Purdue beats Indiana and makes it to Sunday we could play our way back on. This team desperately needs a win over Indiana Saturday, or things will spiral.

A 1 seed is gone, but the next best thing is to stay as a 2 or 3 and avoid a 1 seed as long as possible. It’s a chaotic year in college basketball. There’s going to be some upsets in March. Purdue also has enough talent to make a deep run. They could also benefit from a broken bracket scenario. Of that I have zero doubt.

Unfortunately, Purdue is not playing to its level of talent right now, and really hasn’t on a consistent basis since the second half of the second Illinois game. Through all this, Purdue still has four last second losses in its six. Even playing poorly on offense in all four last second games, it has been right there. It is still one of the 10-15 best teams in America with a ridiculously high ceiling.

There is a chance that once we get out of the familiarity of the Big Ten, where teams know our sets and tendencies, we will see a difference. Purdue did go undefeated against its non-conference slate. It has to play better though. Saturday against Indiana needs to be a game where it shakes things off and refocus. There is a lot to fix right now, and it is terribly frustrating because we all know this team can be better.

That is what March is for though. All will be forgiven if we put it together for four games in the tournament. Purdue still has a chance, and it is a chance that 350 or so other teams in college basketball would love to have.

Purdue Boilermakers Profile

Record: 24-6, 13-4 Big Ten

NET: 13 (Down 2 from last week)

KenPom: 13 (Same as last week)

Tier 1 Wins (KenPom) Home 1-30; Neutral 1-50; Away 1 75: 12 Villanova (Neutral), 14 Iowa (Away), 14 Iowa (Home), 16 Illinois (Home), 16 Illinois (Away), 26 Ohio State (Home), 29 Michigan (Home), 38 North Carolina (Neutral)

Tier 2 Wins (KenPom): Home 31-75 Neutral 51-100; Away 76-135: 77 Northwestern (Away), 74 Rutgers (Home), 96 Penn State (Away), 105 Minnesota (Away)

Tier 1 Wins (NET) Home 1-30; Neutral 1-50; Away 1 75: 7 Villanova (Neutral), 14 Illinois (Away), 14 Illinois (Home), 18 Iowa (Home), 18 Iowa, (Away), 22 Ohio State (Home), 40 North Carolina (Neutral)

Tier 2: Home 31-75 (NET) Neutral 51-100; Away 76-135: 32 Michigan (Home), 83 Northwestern (Away), 94 Penn State (Away), 103 Minnesota (Away)

Bad Losses (Sub-100 NET or KenPom): None

Bellarmine Knights (17-13, 11-5 Atlantic Sun) – NET 220, KenPom 225 – Bellarmine got a split this week, beating Lipscomb 76-73, but losing to Eastern Kentucky 72-58. They play FGCU tomorrow in the Atlantic Sun quarterfinals.

Indiana State Sycamores (11-19, 4-14 Missouri Valley) – NET 234, KenPom 230 - The Trees dropped two more to finish ninth in the Valley. They lost 88-82 to Northern Iowa and 86-66 to Illinois State, who they will play in the first round of the MVC Tournament tomorrow.

Wright State Raiders (18-13, 15-7 Horizon League) – NET 209, KenPom 195 – The Riaders beat Youngstown State 84-71 and Robert Morris 71-61 to finish third in the Horizon League. They will face Oakland in the quarterfinals tomorrow night at home.

North Carolina Tar Heels (22-8, 14-5 ACC) – NET 40, KenPom 38 – The Tar Heels have played their way into the tournament with two more wins and four straight overall. They beat NC State 84-74, then beat Syracuse 88-79 in overtime on Monday. They go to Duke on Saturday for Coach K’s final home game.

Villanova Wildcats (22-7, 15-4 Big East) – NET 7, KenPom 12 – Villanova got a big win over Providence last night 76-74 and are probably a three seed right now. They can win the Big East by beating Butler this Saturday in Indy.

Omaha Mavericks (5-24, 4-14 Summit League) – NET 347, KenPom 344 – Omaha closed the regular season with losses to Western Illinois 88-76 and St. Thomas 95-74. They are the 8 seed and will face potential at large team South Dakota in the opening Summit League tournament game.

Florida State Seminoles (15-13, 8-10 ACC) – NET 101, KenPom 104 – Florida State got a miracle buzzer-beating three to beat Virginia 64-63 on Saturday, but it is too little, too late. Their midseason six game losing streak derailed an NCAA worthy season.

North Carolina State Wolfpack - (11-18, 4-14 ACC) – NET 139, KenPom 130 – In retrospect, struggling with a bad NC State team should have been a warning sign. They lost to Boston College 69-61 last Wednesday before the weekend’s loss to UNC. They are at Wake Forest tonight.

Butler Bulldogs – (13-17, 6-13 Big East) – NET 125, KenPom 134 – It’s been a bad year for Butler. They are 1-12 in Quad 1 games. This past week they lost at Seton Hall 66-60 and Marquette 64-56. They host Villanova to close the season on Saturday.

Incarnate Word Cardinals – (7-22, 3-10 Southland) – NET 348, KenPom 352 – Carson Cunningham’s squad fell at Houston Baptist 82-68 before beating McNeese 69-67. They host Texas A&M Corpus Christi on Saturday in the regular season finale.

Nicholls Colonels – (19-10, 9-3 Southland) – NET 193, KenPom 210 – Nicholls is in first place after beating Northwestern State 80-62, but losing to SE Louisiana 83-81. They are At Texas A&M Corpus Christi tonight before hosting New Orleans this weekend in a potential winner-take-all Southland regular season title match.

Likely NCAA Teams: Villanova, North Carolina

NCAA Bubble: None

Possible Regular Season or Conference Tourney Champs: Villanova, Nicholls, Wright State