With 16 wins on the board and at least seven games remaining, it's tough to call anything a must-win coming out of the best or second-best conference in America...but we're getting closer to must-win territory.
Some great news has been coming out of God's country in the last few days- Hummel and LewJack have been practicing more...and the effort the last few games might have something to do with practice...not a game...practice. Who knows if these guys got healthier as Matty used some different motivational tactics or they see the end of their college careers quickly approaching...but whatever the case may be, it's the right time for these guys to be playing at their highest level.
J talked yesterday about Purdue's lack of success versus ranked opponents...and that chart really shows how our Boilers have wilted time and again versus the better teams in the conference. BUT, I don't think there's a must-win on the docket until Nebraska. If Illinois continues to struggle, the four-team race for two NCAA spots out of the B1G will continue. Purdue, Illinois, Minnesota and Northwestern seem to be fighting for the last two spots in the dance out of the conference if all of these teams continue to play inconsistently...head-to-head, they only play each other in two more games.
Purdue plays Illinois tonight on the road.
Northwestern hosts Minnesota on the 18th.
But games between these four and Nebraska, PSU and Iowa might be the contests that decide who's going. All three of these teams have been in the 100s nearly all season...and bad losses are probably more damning at this point than good wins are helpful. Purdue has already dropped a painful one, as we all know too well...so their magin for error is slim.
But, the Boilers beat Minnesota in their lone contest, swept Northwestern and will at least split with Illinois. These four teams all currently fall between 42 and 59 in the RPI (NU 42, UI 47, PU 54, UM 59)...far from guaranteed range.
On the flip side of bad losses are the good wins. In this conference, hell, in any conference with officiating as it is on the road and hostile environments getting more hostile down the stretch, hosting one of the elite of the conference probably lends itself to the best opportunity to snatch a victory.
Northwestern hosts UM and aOSU, Illinois hosts UM, Purdue hosts MSU, Northwestern hosts UM and aOSU and Minny hosts MSU and IU.
Sure, the conference tourneys can all open or close down at-large slots in a hurry depending on their results...but all of these teams really control their own destiny...and most-importantly, our Boilers are far from a long shot as it stands right now. And while they've been in nearly everyone's projections for the tournament, they don't even resemble a lock; even at a high seed.
And speaking of conference tourneys- if these teams finish in the same cluster as they are now, a pair of them might meet in the first round of the B1G tourney...but there are far too many variables in front of us to project that tourney at this point.
What you can be sure of is that if Purdue can play two good halves in just three or four more games on their remaining schedule, they'll probably be in...But that's a pretty sizable but since Matty's squad has only played three or four complete games all year. When you think of that, it's pretty remarkable that they're even in this conversation.
Tonight the good guys will be going to the spaceship...so Tune in to BTN at 8:30, where Weber fights for his job and Purdue's Seniors fight for their post-season lives...BTN will probably have real people on the sidelines and in the production truck to cover it.