For the fourth consecutive year, Purdue will earn the coveted double-bye, and begin tournament play on Friday. The Boilermakers roll into Madison Square Garden as the No. 3 seed in the tournament this season as they compiled a record of 26-5 and 15-3 in conference play. At stake is some revenge for close losses this season, a Big Ten Tournament championship, and a potential No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Boilermakers are certainly talented and capable enough, but can they break through?
The Big Ten had its selection show today. Here's how the probabilities shake out. pic.twitter.com/fRn1oM5w1Z— Ken Pomeroy (@kenpomeroy) February 26, 2018
Purdue could face Rutgers or Indiana in their first matchup on Friday. The Boilers are a combined 3-0 against these teams. Rutgers played Purdue tough in East Brunswick, Purdue escaped with a 2-point victory, but more than likely, Purdue will play against arch-rival Indiana Friday night.
Should this happen, it will be only the second time the in-state schools have played each other in the Big Ten Tournament, and that happened in the tournament’s very first year, 1998. Expect the standard rock fight between these two teams.
Still, the matchup favors Purdue. Indiana has little it can do to handle Purdue’s size. In the first and only meeting this season, Isaac Haas did whatever he wanted en route to 26 points and five rebounds. Indiana defended the three well (Purdue was 5-18), but still couldn’t capitalize behind a raucous Assembly Hall crowd. The Hoosiers played well but still came up short 74-67. Expect a similar game, but I think Purdue will be a little bit better shooting from distance and should win by around a dozen.
If They Advance
If they advance to the next round, a revenge game could await against Ohio State. A Buckeye matchup is not guaranteed, as Chris Holtmann’s crew must potentially deal with their Penn State issues on Friday. But with the status of Mike Watkins in question, I think the Buckeyes move on this time.
A Saturday matchup between Ohio State and Purdue could be fantastic. The Boilermakers lost its only home game this season on a putback from Keita Bates-Diop in the closing seconds to beat Purdue 64-63. The Boilermakers led that game 53-39 with just over 10 minutes to go, but couldn’t close down the stretch with numerous turnovers and empty possessions. If the bracket plays out this way, this will be a great one.
Should the Boilermakers exact revenge on the Buckeyes, another revenge opportunity could await in the championship game. Purdue lost to Michigan State earlier in the season in East Lansing on a three-pointer from Miles Bridges in the closing seconds. The two could meet again in the championship round with a Big Ten Tournament championship and No. 1 NCAA Tournament seed on the line.
It also should be mentioned that Michigan could play the role of spoiler in the upper half of the Big Ten Tournament bracket and advance to a Sunday championship game. The Wolverines are the defending tournament champions and come into Madison Square Garden on a five-game winning streak. Purdue and Michigan played two highly entertaining games this season with Purdue narrowly coming out on top in both of them. The contrasting styles could yield another great back-and-forth affair.
It had to hurt a bit that Purdue wasn’t able to come out with a share of the Big Ten regular-season championship. Still, the Boilers have a great opportunity to make a run this week, and then in the NCAA Tournament. Many of the teams that prevented them a regular season championship stand in their path to a tournament championship. Though they probably won’t say it, that has to be on the minds of this talented senior class.