Please keep winning, IPFW. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
My apologies for yesterday's extended anti-IU diatribe. I have grown weary of those that think their success is pre-ordained and that the 2013 National Title banner needs only be sewn once those recruits get to campus. They will now be put in the place they need to be put: only to be discussed when our games with them are near.
Yesterday's win counts as a conference win, but since we only play the Wolverines once it almost feels like an extension of the non-conference season. The same can be said for Friday's game against Northwestern at home since we only play the Wildcats once.
Meanwhile, here is what the rest of our non-conference opponents have done (reminder, we have a current RPI of 15). People say we played a weak non-conference schedule, but as you can see below, that is not the case. In fact, we have played a tougher non-conference schedule than last season based on my final non-conference update from last year. We're currently 5-1 against top-100 RPI teams and 3-0 in true road games agaisnt such teams. One of those wins came at Michigan, which doesn't count on this list (Ed. Note: I removed NW and Michigan for clarification), so that makes us currently 4-1 against top-100 RPI teams int he non-conference. We have played our toughest games away from Mackey Arena and won them all on our opponents' floor. Last year, we played one true non-conference road game (at Alabama). We went 4-0 against the top 100 RPI outside of the conference, but only one game, against Tennessee on a neutral floor, was away from Mackey Arena.
If we win at West Virginia and teams like IPFW, Valpo, and Oakland stay in the top-100 we will be 5-1 against the top-100 with only one game at Mackey Arena and three of those wins as true road victories. Va Tech could even be considered a second top 25 true road win RPI-wise by the end of the season, when our two best non-conference victories (West Virginia and Tennessee) were at home and on a neutral court, respectively. Also consider that every game, except for Va Tech and Richmond, has been a double-digit victory. We 're blowng teams out, which we didn't do last often year. Only three teams last season (Tennessee, Wake Forest, and West Virginia) made the NCAA Tournament. This year you can make an argument for West Virginia, Va Tech, the Oakland/IPFW winner, Richmond, as tournament teams with Valpo and Austin Peay as conference tournament threats.
Howard (2-9, 0-1 MEAC) RPI: 301 - As expected, the Bisons are giving us virtually nothing as far as an RPI boost. Their lone wins are over Bowling Green to start the season and Loyola (Md.). Maybe we can convince the committee that the Loyola win was over the famous Hank Geathers/Bo Kimble Loyola Marymount team. They're best chance at a decent win is against #115 Virginia next week.
Alcorn State (0-9, 0-0 SWAC) RPI: 252 - The Braves little RPI boost over Howard is provided by playing a tough schedule that includes Purdue, Texas A&M, Kansas State, nebraska, and Colorado. Sure, they've lost all those games, but they have at least played them. They play at Mississippi (RPI: 53) tomorrow in their last non-conference game. The closest Alcorn State has come to a win was a 10-point loss to South Alabama last week.
Oakland (8-8, 3-0 Summit League) RPI: 80 - If not for a few minor stumbles this would be an even better win. The Golden Grizzlies had unexpected losses to Wright State and Valparaiso, but they have a very nice win over Tennessee. They nearly beat Illinois and Michigan State. In a way, their one upset was perfect because they beat the one major conference team not on both of our schedules, allowing the other teams we both play to build their strength. Oakland has losses to West Virginia, Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Valpo. They are currently atop the Summit League with IPFW, which is unfortunate. Had Oakland beaten Wright State, Valpo, and held on against Illinois and Michigan State they would have an at large candidacy and we could have wins over them and IPFW (an NCAA threat if they win the conference tournament). Either way, this or the IPFW win is a nice addition because it gives us a win over a likely tournament team as they are the best two in the Summit League.
Austin Peay (9-6, 4-0 OVC) RPI: 132 - This is another win that could be more than it appears to be on paper. The Governors are currently the lone unbeaten team in the Ohio Valley Conference. Their real test comes on January 8 when they go to conference favorite Murray State. Austin Peay nearly knocked off Memphis on December 16, falling by two in overtime and just missing out on a nice resume boost. One negative is that they have two victories over non-DI opponents.
Southern Illinois (6-5, 0-0 MVC) RPI: 199 - Beating the Salukis five years ago would be considered a solid win. They have since fallen greatly from the level that Bruce Weber and Matt Painter established. They don't have any great wins and they start conference play tonight at Drake before hosting Northern Iowa on Saturday.
Richmond (10-3, 0-0 Atlantic 10) RPI: 63 - I can't call this a bad loss. It is more of a missed opportunity. It won't hurt us, but had we won, the Spiders could definitely help us with success in a decent Atlantic 10 conference. Their losses are varied They lost to a good Old Dominion team, Georgia Tech (who is at least in the ACC) and Iona. They host Wake Forest tonight who, while awful, would at least be a major conference team. Their conference also provides plenty of strength to boost an at large profile, which is what we want. Ironically, our loss to them will likely be a huge boost to their profile to get them in the tournament, in turn helping us because it wouldn't be a loss to a non-tournament team. If we had to have a non-conference loss I would have picked Richmond because it came on a neutral floor, while every other non-conference game is a boost if we win because they are road games (Valpo, Va Tech, West Virginia) or a big hit if we lost since it would have come at home.
Virginia Tech (7-4, 0-1 ACC) RPI: 39 - As long as Virginia Tech can maintain this RPI we will have ourselves at least one top 50 road win in non-conference play. At the very least, it will stay a top 100 road victory. They remain the only team in the country that has beaten Oklahoma State. They went 0-3 against their other strong non-conference opponents (Kansas State, UNLV, Purdue). It doesn't help that they are already down a game in a pretty weak ACC after Duke. Currently Duke, North Carolina, Boston College, and Miami remain as top 25 RPI targets on their schedule. They play all but Boston College only once in league play. Wins over Penn State and Mississippi State are major conference wins, which boosts their profile simply because of who those teams will play. In a way, that's just another way Penn State's win over Indiana helps us.
Alabama (7-6, 0-0 SEC) RPI: 188 - If the Crimson Tide had not had such a disastrous trip to the Paradise Jam they could be helping us. They beat Pepperdine last night, but have lost every game against a major conference opponent so far (Seton Hall, Iowa, Purdue, Providence, Oklahoma State) with an awful loss to St. Peter's. Only one team, Kentucky, is currently in the top 25 from the SEC. They helped us more last year when we beat them on the road and they played a better non-conference schedule. They did thrash Lipscomb (RPI: 101) by 20, whose only other losses are to North Carolina and Baylor and they play at a possibly overrated Memphis tomorrow. Strangely, Lipscomb can help us if they beat Memphis because they lost to Alabama, but they beat Austin Peay in two non-conference games, and they can win the Atlantic Sun, thus boosting Alabama's profile. Do you have all that?
Valparaiso (10-4, 2-0 Horizon League) RPI: 70 - So far our win over the Crusaders has been a very pleasant gift. It is another top 100 road victory, which when coupled with our remaining game at West Virginia, could give us three true road victories in non-conference play against the top 100. Since Valpo is 2-0 in the Horizon League and has at least four games left against Butler (RPI: 11) and Cleveland State (RPI: 16) this win can get even better. They could be a fringe at large team if they somehow pull a Butler and sweep through the Horizon League, but lose in the conference title game to either Cleveland State or Butler. An overtime loss to a bad Toledo team sucks, but Valpo beat Oakland last week 103-102 and already has a win over Illinois-Chicago (who beat Illinois). They play at Hinkle Fieldhouse Saturday afternoon to restart Horizon League play. Strangely, Toledo can screw us in basketball too because they are only 3-9, but chose to break an 0-9 start by beating Valpo in overtime. Damn you, Rockets!
North Florida (4-7, 1-1 Atlantic Sun) RPI: 138 - The Ospreys are on a four game losing streak, which includes a loss to Texas. They play at Maryland tonight before going to Kansas State on Friday, so there are a few chances for an upset to boost this win a little. If they can get hot in conference play with solid mid-majors Lipscomb, Belmont, and Campbell (whose one of three losses is Virginia Tech) they can help us and climb into the top-100 category.
Indiana State (5-6, 0-0 MVC) RPI: 172 - The Sycamores open conference play tonight against Bradley. It will be their first game since losing to us at Conseco Fieldhouse. Saturday they travel to Evansville, with only MVC games left.
IPFW (8-4, 3-0 Summit League) RPI: 91 - The Mastodons stand as our fourth top-100 win of the season, and they made a statement that they are going to stay around in the Summit League race with a 76-73 win at perennial Summit League power Oral Roberts last night. They travel to Centenary (RPI: 345 of 346 teams) tomorrow. Their big remaining games are when they host Oakland January 15 and at Oakland February 12.
West Virginia (8-2, 0-0 Big East) RPI: 6 - The two losses (Minnesota on a neutral floor and at Miami) are not bad. They are against likely NCAA Tournament teams if those two continue to play well. Beating Oakland, Cleveland State, and Vanderbilt are good if you look at the RPI. Their real season begins tonight when they host St. John's in Big East play. There is enough there that West Virginia can be a solidly seeded team, therefore we need to get this road win.