3-Seed Boilers Headed to Hartford
The wise people turned out to be correct. Purdue’s loss to Minnesota had zero impact on their seed; while a good number of folks in the Bracket Matrix had the Good Guys as a 4 or even a 5, the committee slotted the Boilers into the South as a 3 seed. Notably, there was some distance between Purdue and fourth-place Wisconsin, as the Badgers got the 5 seed in the same region.
Let’s take a quick look at Purdue’s path to that thing they do when not many teams are left, I forget what it’s called but I’m sure someone out there knows.
First round: vs 14 Old Dominion, 9:50 PM Thursday on TBS
Old Dominion: CUSA regular-season and tournament champ
Want to feel old? BJ Stith, captain and one of three senior starters on the Monarchs, is the son of Bryant Stith, who’s currently an assistant there. You don’t remember Bryant Stith? oh. Anyway, Old Dominion shoots really poorly, but they block a lot of shots and get a lot of rebounds. Their one quality win was a 10-point win over VCU at home. This is exactly what you want as a 3 seed - while Purdue’s gotten some bad breaks in the past, this isn’t one of them.
Second round: vs 6 Villanova or 11 Saint Mary’s
Villanova: Big East regular-season and tournament champ
Saint Mary’s: WCC second place and tournament champ
Saint Mary’s also has exactly one quality win: against Gonzaga in the WCC tournament final. The Gaels typically don’t make much tournament noise; the last time they made the Sweet 16 was 2010, when they stopped 7-seed Richmond and then upset 2-seed … Villanova. Funny how that works.
The defending champs made the most of a weak Big East, recovering from a rough non-conference schedule to put up a couple more banners in the Pavilion. Surprisingly, their only really good wins were against Florida State and Marquette. The Wildcats are kind of like Extreme Purdue: they either do really well (titles in 2 of the last 5 years) or really poorly (second-round losses as a 1 or 2 seed the other 3 years). If Purdue wins their opener as we expect they will, they’ll likely face Villanova.
Regional semis: vs 2 Tennessee, 7 Cincinnati, 10 Iowa or 15 Colgate
Tennessee: SEC second place
Cincinnati: American second place and tournament champ
Iowa: Big Tenteen sixth place
Colgate: Patriot League regular-season and tournament champ
The Volunteers were 2-1 against Kentucky this season; what put them on the 2 line was likely being 0-2 against Auburn, although the second loss was in the SEC title game and likely didn’t matter. Tennessee had a 19-game win streak snapped at Kentucky, then lost at regular-season champ LSU in overtime a week later. That plus an OT loss to Kansas are their only blemishes - not likely to be enough to keep them from a spot in Louisville.
The American Conference is I think the one that has been running ads pretending that they’re the sixth power conference. (What, you think the Pac-12 counts now?) OK kids, that’s funny, show me your best teams. Cincinnati’s one of your best and has the one quality win against Houston in the conference tournament? Huh. Next!
We’ve seen enough of Iowa - runrunrunrun, draw all the fouls, hope your offense keeps up because your defense is terrible. The Hawkeyes were actually 20-5 at one point before collapsing at the end of the season, and no, it wasn’t a UM-MSU-Purdue stretch: three of the losses were at OSU, home to Rutger (!), and at Nebraska in OT. You know, 13th-place Nebraska. Take the under in this game and take Tennessee in the second round.
Colgate is just happy to be here and hopes it can help the team.
Regional final: vs 1 Virginia or somebody else
Virginia: ACC regular-season champ
4 Kansas State: Big 12 regular-season champ
5 Wisconsin: Big Tenteen fourth place
8 Mississippi: SEC sixth place
9 Oklahoma: Big 12 seventh place
12 Oregon: Pac-12 fourth place and tournament champ
13 UC Irvine: Big West regular-season and tournament champ
16 Gardner-Webb: Big South third place and tournament champ
Virginia has lost two consecutive games as a 1 seed, the only team in NCAA history to do that. They, uh, won’t make it three. In fact, this is not a particularly imposing half of the bracket: K-State and Oklahoma are generously seeded, Wisconsin is very beatable, Oregon was 10-8 in a weak conference, and UC Irvine isn’t the type of strong mid-major who could make a Sweet 16 run. If Tony Bennett doesn’t get the Cavaliers to at least the Elite Eight, Virginia fans will be … mad, or something. UVa has underperformed their seed four of the last five years, but they’ve also won two outright ACC crowns and shared another in that time, so there is no chance he’ll catch any serious heat for that.
Three of the four higher seeds make their living on defense; Mississippi is the exception, but they’re not built to beat Virginia and may not get past Oklahoma, a team that went 7-11 in conference play and dropped their Big 12 tournament opener to West Virginia (again, in case you thought those tournaments meant anything more than autobids).
Should Purdue somehow make it to the regional final, they’d be playing Virginia in an arena just two hours from Indianapolis and three from West Lafayette. That would be some kind of karmic payback from the committee. (1984 and 1986, man, you folks are young.)
A page later, sure, but whatever. This is a very favorable bracket for Good Purdue: as we saw last year, the Cavs are not built to come from behind against a team that can rain threes - they do shoot them better and more often, but still give up a ton. If Boogie and Cline are hot, interesting things could happen.
It is also a very challenging bracket for Bad Purdue. While they likely wouldn’t lose in the first round even with a terrible performance, they won’t get past Villanova if they don’t have their offensive problems fixed, and even if Saint Mary’s surprises the Wildcats, at best Bad Purdue would fall in the Sweet 16 to Tennessee, which is actually where their seed would predict them but let’s not worry about that for now.
Get your PTO requests in! Hang TVs on every inch of your walls! Don’t throw Advil at your friends in the bar! Let’s get through the first round of games and then we can start worrying.