CHICAGO — Ironically, Iowa is not the biggest loser in its loss Thursday to Penn State in the Big Ten Tournament second round. That honor goes to Purdue.
Purdue entered the Big Ten Tournament on the bubble with its NCAA Tournament prospects in the air. The Catch and Shoot has the Boilermakers as a No. 11 seed in the First Four, and the Bracket Matrix agrees.
Purdue has several good wins, but no great ones. It also has some very bad losses, most notably December defeats at home to North Florida and Gardner-Webb.
That is why the Boilermakers, the No. 4 seed at the Big Ten Tournament, would have benefited from playing a quality opponent, such as Iowa, Friday in the Big Ten quarterfinals.
Beat a team like Iowa, ranked No. 36 in the RPI entering Thursday, and it’s one more solid win on Purdue’s résumé. Losing to Iowa would not be ideal, but at least it would not be another bad loss.
While winning would be a big boost, losing would be manageable.
In a matchup against Penn State, nothing good can happen for Purdue.
If the Boilermakers beat the 18-15 Nittany Lions, that does not help their résumé. All it does is set up a semifinal matchup likely with No. 1 seed Wisconsin, in which Purdue would be a heavy underdog. (Although it’s worth noting an unlikely upset over the Badgers would make the Boilermakers a lock for the Big Dance and put them one game away from earning the conference’s automatic bid.)
However, a loss to Penn State, another non-tournament team, would likely be the straw that breaks Matt Painter‘s back and sends Purdue to the NIT.
The Big Ten entered Thursday with a realistic shot at having eight teams earn NCAA Tournament bids. Illinois’ loss to Michigan effectively eliminated the Fighting Illini, and now Penn State’ run could spell more trouble.