Sunday’s matchup between Purdue and Northwestern didn’t have any major Big Ten Tournament seeding implications. A victory for the No. 16 Boilermakers meant adding to an already stacked NCAA Tournament resume. Though the Wildcats have to love their chances at earning a bid to March Madness, a win over the top team in the conference would absolutely solidify their chances.
It was a back and forth battle for the full 40 minutes. At times, each team had opportunities to pull away. Northwestern held a nine point advantage early in the first half. Purdue also led by as many as nine with only seven minutes remaining in the game.
Nevertheless, the game went down to the wire. Though Bryant McIntosh put forth an extremely dominant effort, Scottine Lindsey once again couldn’t get hot for the Cats.
Big Ten Player of the Year candidate Caleb Swanigan, along with Vincent Edwards, made Lindsey and Northwestern pay. The Boilermakers outlasted Northwestern and came out on top 69-65.
Let’s see what we learned from the final game at Welsh-Ryan Arena until the 2018-’19 season.
What We Learned
1. Scottie Lindsey Officially Can’t Find his Stroke.
Before Lindsey missed four games with an illness in the heat of Big Ten play, the Junior guard shot 44.5 percent from the field. Lindsey also averaged 15.1 points per game in the 22 games before he got sick.
Since Lindsey returned, he has been ice cold from the floor and has struggled to score points in general. The Hillsdale, Illinois product has only hit 27.4 percent of his field goals in five games since returning to Northwestern’s lineup. Lindsey’s 13 point effort against Indiana on February 25 was his only double-digit scoring performance since recovering from the illness. Lindsey averaged 7.6 points per game during that span.
It’s evident that Lindsey hasn’t been able to find the rhythm that helped him dominate in the first 22 games of the season. His ineffective offense has cost Northwestern some key games. The Wildcats are 2-3 since Lindsey’s recovery. If Lindsey were able to hit his scoring average of 14.2 in each of the five contests, Northwestern would have won two more games. That includes the Purdue game, in which Lindsey only scored eight and went 3-11 from the floor in a four point defeat.
There is no question that the Wildcats making the tournament is an accomplishment of its own, and takes a huge burden off Northwestern’s shoulders.
But, if and when the Wildcats make it to March, they will need Lindsey to produce in order to last more than a day in the NCAA Tournament. McIntosh has been great, but since Vic Law is the only other player on Northwestern scoring double-digits each game, the Wildcats will need Lindsey’s offense.
2. Dakota Mathias is Heating Back Up at the Perfect Time.
With Edwards and Swanigan continuing to dominate, Purdue is nothing short of lethal when Mathias puts up big numbers.
Two thirds of the Boilermakers losses have come when Mathias has failed to score at least 10 points. The junior guard is averaging a solid 10 points per game this season. After going on a bit of a cold streak, Mathias has begun to heat up again.
Mathias finished with single-digit point totals in three straight Big Ten games in February against Indiana, Rutgers, and Michigan State.
Since then, Mathias has scored at least 12 in three out of four games. The streak includes a 19 point outing against Indiana earlier this week and 13 points on 4-8 shooting from the field against Northwestern.
If Swanigan continues his Big Ten POTY tear and Edwards continues to baffle defenders in the post, Purdue is an extremely hard team to beat with the added production from Mathias.
Count on the Big Ten regular season champions making an NCAA Tournament run if Mathias stays hot.
3. Unless a BTT Collapse Awaits, the Boilermakers have Notched a Top Seed in March Madness.
Purdue essentially controls its own destiny in terms of earning at least a four seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Going into the final week of the season, the Boilermakers were ranked 16th in the AP Polls. Not only did Purdue complete another perfect week to close out the regular season, it also got a lot of help from higher ranked teams.
No. 15 Florida State, No. 13 Butler, No. 12 Florida, and No. 10 West Virginia all lost once this week. Though the selection committee doesn’t determine seeding based off of AP rankings, they have some influence.
Purdue will most likely be somewhere around 11 or 12 in the final AP rankings of the regular season. Before this week, the Boilermakers were definitely more of a five seed than a four seed.
With the mistakes by four potential four seeds, Purdue has bolstered its case towards earning at least a four seed.
Unless the Boilermakers fall apart in the early rounds of the Big Ten Tournament, they will be playing at least a 12 seed in the opening round of March Madness.
Northwestern finished the regular season in sixth in the Big Ten with a 21-10 (10-8) record. The Wildcats ended a game behind Minnesota for fourth place and a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament.
Northwestern will play the winner of the Rutgers Ohio State game in the second round of the BTT.
Purdue, on the other hand, will not play until the quarterfinals of the BTT and will only have to win three games in order to capture the outright Big Ten title.
The Boilermakers play the winner of Michigan vs Illinois on Friday.