Bubble Watch: Another One Bites The Dust

Bubble Watch: Another One Bites The Dust


Running a little late today because I went to see the other kind of hoopyball, the kind where they play so many games that you can rest your best player and no one even bats an eye. It's OK though, because at dinner before the game, my friend and I noticed that BTN was running a Bee One Gee "classic": Ohio State's 81-57 blowout of Nebraska yesterday. That sentence is all you need to know about the network. Where was I? Oh yes, conference games. We've talked about Purdue's brush with mediocrity, holding off Rutgers in a game I promised I wouldn't talk about again. Obviously you all know about Indiana losing at Northwestern. It turns out that the Big Ten reeeeeally likes the idea of locking Purdue into the field of 64+4, so it was Michigan State's turn to fall, 96-90 in OT to Minnesota, the same Gopher team that recorded losses to Nebraska, Penn State, and Northwestern this season. (It's not as bad as you think. This is the longest conference winning streak the Wildcats have had in nearly 50 years. Think about that for a minute. Eleven of the other thirteen conference teams have made a Final Four appearance in that time. I wasn't even born then, and I'm so old that I remember a time when dirt wasn't invented yet.)

With road games left against Wisconsin and Indiana, MSU is likely to finish 11-7, which bumps Purdue's predicted finish up to third. At this rate, it won't matter whether or not a bye will help the Boilers; one's on order and should arrive in a couple of weeks.

Current Status: In

Bracket Matrix: average seed 10.89, 83 of 94 brackets. People basically slotting Purdue as a 10 or 11, which is fine. No play-in game, please.

Lunardi: 11 seed in play-in game against Stanford, 44th on S curve, no change. (I'm not sure why the play-in game, though.) Win that and they'd face 6-seed Butler in Columbus. Yeah, the NCAA would do that. Down to 6.9% to make the Sweet 16, 0.2% for the Final Four.

dratings: second 11 seed, up 1 spot.

kenpom: 50th, down 5 spots. Yep, that Rutgers "win" hurt.

RPI: 58th, up 1 spot.

[table id=10 /]

  • I'm close to projecting Friday in that table, but not yet. Give the Spartans another loss and I'll do it.
  • Ohio State turned things around by crushing Nebraska in that "classic". I guess gimmicks aren't the same as coaching skills, huh, Tim Miles? (Maybe the players should ban him from his office.)
  • Sparty's in no danger of missing the tournament, but they're dropping perilously close to the 8 line; in fact, Bracket Matrix has them as the last 7, just ahead of final-game opponent Indiana. Slip at home to the Good Guys, and Izzo's squad is looking at a potential four-game slide into Chicago, a trap game against 10-seed Minnesota, and then a possible third loss to Maryland. That team could end up as a 9 seed.
  • Illinois has Northwestern next. A week ago, that was no big deal. Now ... well, a loss there might knock them off the bubble entirely. Beat 9-seed Michigan in a semi-home game (which would probably go to OT; both regular-season matchups did) and you get 1-seed Wisconsin in a must-win game for your tournament hopes. The Illini are drifting in the wrong direction under John Groce, which I suppose you might expect from a guy whose resume consisted of exactly two notable wins prior to getting the job in Champaign. Alumni whose schools hire unproven MAC coaches shouldn't throw stones, I guess.

Likely Scenarios

Toe the line: 12-6

Purdue rises to the 3 seed and likely faces 6 seed ... Ohio State. Yes, the Buckeyes fall that far because they were swept by Iowa and lost to Michigan State, the other two likely 11-7 teams. Probably not a bad draw in terms of bubble status, as long as they don't get blown out, because it's definitely another quality game, and losing as the 3 to OSU doesn't look nearly as bad as losing to, say, Iowa. Beat the Buckeyes and they lock down a spot for sure, which would be nice because the value of a home win against Illinois is dropping every time the Illini play another game. (Good news: Illinois is playing its way down past Purdue and squarely onto the bubble.)

Road magic: 13-5 or 14-4

13-5 keeps them as the #3 seed now that Maryland's beaten Wisconsin, and whichever team they beat drops from the 11-7 tie to a 10-8 tie with Indiana. IU split with both teams, and none of them beat Wisconsin. If OSU is 10-8, then IU wins the tiebreaker thanks to a split with Maryland (being 1-3 against Maryland and Purdue, with OSU 0-3 against them), meaning Indiana is the #6 seed. If MSU is 10-8, IU wins that tiebreaker as well, 1-3 vs. MSU's 0-3 against them. Purdue would be solidly in with a road win in either East Lansing or Columbus; a third win against Indiana would be delicious.

14-4 would give them the #2 seed. MSU and OSU would both be tied with Indiana, so MSU's win over the Buckeyes puts them 5th, Indiana's 6th, and OSU drops to 7. Even my cat says that obviously Purdue is in the tournament in this scenario. Funny how they keep drawing Ohio State, though.

The needle hardly budges in terms of odds: still a bit shy of 38% to win at least one more road game, and just a tick over 3.0% to win all three regular-season games remaining.

Prediction Adjustments

Indiana's still favored by coin flips in each of its last two games, so the Ws say 11-7 but the math says 10-8. That does make a difference, because Indiana would rise to the second spot in a four-way tie at 11-7 with MSU, OSU and Iowa, giving them the 5 seed rather than the 7 they'd get at 10-8. (If you're curious, Penn State is the other side of that coin, at 4-14 even though they're underdogs in all three remaining games. Nebraska also is picked to lose each remaining game, but still might steal one of their last two.)

Maryland's still on the other side too, favored in three but likely to win just two.

Boilers Fade in Columbus

Boilers Fade in Columbus

Defense Rests: Boilers Check Knights, 92-85

Defense Rests: Boilers Check Knights, 92-85