If there’s one overlooked team in the Big Ten this year, it’s the Purdue Boilermakers. Despite going 18-8 overall and sitting 13th on KenPom, virtually nobody is talking about Purdue ahead of this week’s Big Ten Tournament. And the lack of coverage has been disappointing, as this team is more than capable of doing some damage in March.
So, what can Purdue accomplish this week? Let’s take a look.
As the four seed, Purdue will get a double-bye and be off until Friday. That’s an advantage on multiple fronts. To start, avoiding the craziness of Wednesday and Thursday is always a great boost. Moreover, getting a little extra rest and more time to scout opponents is certainly a nice boost. Fans will certainly appreciate both of these benefits.
_________ will be cutting down the nets Sunday? pic.twitter.com/umsMb9qEoV— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) March 8, 2021
As far as the games themselves, Purdue will start with Ohio State on Friday afternoon. The Boilermakers swept the Buckeyes in the regular season, but both games were really competitive and Ohio State arguably has a better overall resume. As such, it seems reasonable to think this will be a really challenging game for the Boilermakers.
Ohio State didn’t impress in its Big Ten Tournament debut on Thursday, narrowly edging out a struggling Minnesota squad. However, the Buckeyes did enough to move on to Friday with a 79-75 win. Justice Sueing led the way with 16 points.
Friday’s matchup will almost certainly come down to who defends better. Both teams have nationally ranked offenses and some of the best players in the league, which means slowing down either side will be a challenge. Duane Washington and EJ Liddell lead Ohio State and Trevion Williams will hold things down on the other side. The Boilermakers have been significantly more consistent on defense than Ohio State this season, but does that carry over to Friday? It’s going to be a huge question and expect plenty of pressure on Eric Hunter and Jaden Ivey. They’ll have their hands full.
-If They Advance
Should Purdue beat Ohio State on Friday, the Boilermakers will face Michigan or Maryland on Saturday afternoon. Based on the regular season numbers, the Wolverines project as the more challenging opponent. Michigan won the Big Ten regular season title and handled Purdue in the only regular season meeting between the two. Meanwhile, Maryland is a solid team, but closer to your typical NCAA squad.
From an on-court perspective, the key to beating Michigan will be slowing down big man Hunter Dickinson. The offense runs through Dickinson, so getting him off balance would be a huge win for the Boilermakers. And if Purdue ends up playing Maryland, the top priority needs to be stopping Eric Ayala. He’s been great over the last few months and will certainly be ready to play in a matchup on Saturday.
If Purdue makes it past Saturday, it would then likely meet Illinois or Iowa in the title game. The Illini look like the more challenging opponent. Not only because Illinois beat Purdue in the only regular season meeting between the two, but also because Illinois has been phenomenal down the stretch, winning 11 of its final 12 games to close the regular season. Purdue would certainly have a shot to beat either opponent, but it would be challenging.
While the Boilermakers might not be getting the media attention it deserves right now, the team enters Indy with a serious chance of making some noise. Purdue has put together an impressive resume and is more than capable of winning every game it plays. The route to a Big Ten Tournament title looks tough, but this is the month of magic. We’ll see if Matt Painter and staff can tap into some of that magic in the days ahead.