Purdue enters today 19-10 and 8-7 in the Big Ten, a game away from the second best home record ever. A 20 win season lies in the offing, a feat unrealized in seven seasons. Yet, these numbers add up to one more week on the bubble. Despite the Boilers' recent heroics - winning 5 of the last 7 including a dismantling of Michigan St. and win over rival Indiana - Purdue rests squarely on the surface of the bubble but now they're on the outside peering inward.
Lucky enough, Purdue knows exactly what the they must accomplish. Win one more game at home over underwhelming Northwestern and punch a ticket to the five seed in the Big Ten Tournament on Friday. From there it's not much more than hope and potentially a matchup with Illinois or Iowa. The Big Ten tournament game is purely academic at this point: do what you've done for 30 games. The rest is a stomach churning exercise of numbers and opinions.
While Purdue is tipping in West Lafayette this afternoon, 27-4 Winthrop will hopefully be throttling 14-18 VMI. If Winthrop takes the Big South tourney they also take up one of the 31 automatic bids and leave open one of the precious 34 at-large bids that Purdue desperately needs. A Winthrop victory may move Purdue uncomfortably inside the bubble, but pitfalls abound nonetheless. Leagues like the Horizon, Conference USA and the A-10 can still have some upstart win their tournaments and push the odds on favorites - Butler, Memphis, Xavier - into one of the valuable at-large positions.
Long story short, Purdue will need a win in Chicago to remove some doubt, but what's new? That will only solidify their potential while most of the determining factors remain out of reach on distant courts. That's the problem with potential: it isn't tangible, nor can you point to it in the RPI, road wins, or records versus the top 65.
Purdue is full of potential, but potential isn't worth too much these days.