Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on February 19th, 2015
On Sunday, Purdue defeated Nebraska in Mackey Arena to move its record to 17-9 overall and 9-4 in Big Ten play, which puts the Boilermakers in a tie for second place with Maryland and Michigan State. That’s something no one could have foreseen on December 31 when the Boilermakers entered league play at 8-5. If you take a closer look at the standings, you’ll see teams like Ohio State, Indiana, Illinois and Iowa trailing them. Yet, according to Bracketmatrix.com, all of these teams are currently projected to make the NCAA Tournament while Purdue is one of first four teams out. How can this be? Simple, it’s because North Florida and Gardner-Webb, two teams that rank outside the RPI top 150, got the better of Matt Painter‘s team in non-conference play and have become glaring stains on their resume. And unfortunately for Purdue, these two losses threaten to tank what has been a great and much needed bounceback season for this program.
A.J. Hammons has led the Boilermakers to second place in the Big Ten, but they still find themselves outside the bubble.
After two consecutive years of subpar basketball, Purdue finds itself closing in on 20 wins and an upper-tier conference finish. From a bird’s-eye view, this is the kind of season Painter needed in order to stave off calls for his firing. But the NCAA Selection Committee has made it clear that games in December, when the Boilermakers went 4-4, are just as valuable to an NCAA Tournament resume as those in January and February. Against North Florida on December 6, Purdue was in control for the first 37 minutes of the game before its interior defense collapsed and allowed the Ospreys to go on a run of layups to earn their first ever win over a Big Ten school. Against Gardner-Webb, Purdue once again collapsed in the second half as the Bulldogs went 14-of-25 from the three-point line to steal a victory. Those bad losses are haunting Purdue in the worst way right now.
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