Purdue Basketball Still in Danger of a Genuinely Lost Season

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Another misstep or two and Purdue basketball will find itself going from Elite 8 to “must run the Big Ten Tournament table” in order to reach the postseason. The 2019-20 season came dangerously close to being a completely lost campaign tonight in Evanston, as the Boilermakers trailed nearly the entire night.

With 3:22 remaining, Northwestern’s win probability was at 92.8% according to the ESPN stats and information team. With a 1:24 left, NU was still sitting pretty at nearly 75% chance of winning. The Wildcats, who went the final 4:38 without scoring, played really tight and saw their 58-50 advantage end up yielding a 61-58 loss.

NU overtly resembled a team playing not to lose, instead of trying to win and Purdue was extremely lucky to walk out of the northern Chicago suburb with a win. Basically, it was a drive it like you stole it ride home because this was indeed grand larceny.

“We’ve had such a tough start to games on the road,”said Purdue basketball coach Matt Painter after his side’s first league road win.

A cold-blooded Sasha Stefanovic (6 pts, 2-7 FG) three-pointer clinched the win and ICYMI here it is below.

“Hopefully this can help his confidence on the road,” Painter said of Stefanovic after the game.

A loss would have been a back breaker to say the least, as Northwestern sports a Net ranking of 153 and a KenPom of 119. They came into this contest 2-21 in their last 23 league games. At 12-10, 5-6 in the league, the Boilers were just seconds away from dropping to .500 overall and three games below .500 in Big Ten play.

Trevion Williams and Eric Hunter Jr. were your co-leading scorers at 13 points apiece. But for most of the night, almost every Purdue basketball fan watching the game and tweeting along on social media was essentially saying the same thing- “our season is going to be ended by a guy named Boo Buie.”

Buie, who has a ton of promise, had a great game, but he did make a terrible shooting decision on one of those many wasted possessions down the stretch.

Nevertheless, despite the near miss tonight and the blah at best league and overall records, not all is lost for Purdue basketball. They have a NET of 36, a KenPom of 27 and a signature win over Michigan State (Net 7, KenPom 9). They have a couple decent wins over Virginia (55 in both) and VCU (37, 44) as well.

The margin for error is razor thin at this point however. The good news is that no one left on the schedule would constitute a “bad loss.” The better news is that four games against currently ranked in the top 25 teams remain. Win at least two of those and they should be decent shape.

Win three or more of those important games, and finish above .500 in the league and they’ll be golden. Of course, anyone who’s watched this team play this year knows what a big ask and tall order that is right now. Then again you look at the league and you see that no one is that exceptional, but a lot of teams are good and others are pretty good. No one, with the exception of a couple teams, are bad, so in the end chaos can rule.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News NowBanks, the author of “No,  I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

You can follow Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com on Twitter here and his cat on Instagram at this link.

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