We're sitting atop the Big Ten right now, and by the end of Thursday night with could be there by ourselves if we beat Penn State, Michigan State loses to Wisconsin, and Indiana beat Michigan. It is a nice place to be. Just like 2008, or first priority is to reach the NCAA Tournament, then we can worry about a conference title. So far, we're 60% of the way to the almost universal 20-win mark that makes you feel safe. As I have said before, 20 wins means a 10-8 Big Ten mark, which with the state of the conference in terms of overall RPI, likely makes us safe.
Purdue record: 12-3 (2-0 Big Ten)
Conference RPI rank: 1
Top 50 games remaining: No. 6 Michigan State x2, at No. 10 Ohio State, No. 14 Indiana x2, at No. 18 Minnesota, at No. 30 Illinois, No. 32 Michigan x2, No. 33 Northwestern x2, (Just outside, No. 53 Wisconsin)
As you can see, there is ample opportunity to boost our profile with 11 or 12 games left against the top 50. We should aim to get at least 5 of them if we want to be truly safe, as well as not dropping out four games left against Penn State, Nebraska, and Iowa at the bottom, which is a safe bet on sports. We got a lot of help recently from our non-conference profile. According to CBS Sports, our RPI moved into the top 50 with the win over Illinois, and in beating the Fighting Illini we now are 3-1 against the top 50 with our win over Miami inching closer to top 50 territory. With that in mind, here is our full non-conference update, with a sports bet in mind:
Northern Illinois Huskies - 0-11, 0-0 MAC West, RPI: 337 - How bad is it for Northern Illinois? They are ranked 342nd in scoring out of 344 Division I teams. They also have a loss to a non-Division I opponent. If they don't beat their second Division II opponent tonight they could legitimately go winless. As you can imagine, this is like an anchor on our overall RPI, but at least it was a 62 point blowout.
High Point Panthers - 4-8, 0-2 Big South, RPI: 291 - As you can see, the near loss to High Point would have been an absolute disaster in terms of RPI. They could easily slip into the sub-300 category by the end of the season. Two of their four wins don't even count, as they were over Division II teams. They did beat Boilermaker menace (and two-time NCAA Tournament team) Wofford.
Iona Gaels - 10-3, 2-0 MAAC, RPI 29 - The Gaels were as high as No. 11 last week, but they will drop as they get into their conference. It won't be too much of a drop as long as they keep winning. In addition to losing to us they have dropped games against Marshall and Hofstra in their last game. They play Siena tomorrow and are the overwhelming favorite in their conference, enough so that they could earn an at large bid if they get through unbeaten (or with a loss or two) and lose in the conference tourney.
Temple Owls - 9-3, 0-0 Atlantic 10, RPI: 26 - Technically, the Owls are our best win and it can be an even better win if they take care of business on Wednesday. They host Duke Wednesday night, and they still have conference games against St. Louis, UMass, Dayton, and Xavier. This is a strong tournament team in a good conference, so it is a solid win.
Alabama Crimson Tide - 10-3, 0-0 SEC, RPI: 23 - This is far from a bad loss, and it is the only game we've lost that I felt like we were not the better team in. Georgetown, Dayton, and Kansas State got them in the non-conference, but this is still likely one of the best teams in the SEC, a.k.a., Kentucky and a bunch of other teams.
Western Michigan Broncos - 5-8, 0-0 MAC West, RPI: 117 - Because they have played a tough schedule this win isn't as bad as their record looks. They recently had a 40 point loss at Duke, but before that they had won five of six. Gonzaga, Iona, Temple, and Colorado were decent teams that beat them, so they could go on a run in the MAC and sneak into the top 100.
Coppin St. Eagles - 5-8, 0-0 MEAC, RPI: 215 - Like most MEAC teams, Coppin State has gone on the road for paychecks and beatings so far. Stops on their Tour of Pain have included Connecticut, Oklahoma, and Illinois. Four of their wins are against non-Division I competition, but they play for the MEAC title and automatic bid, anyway.
Miami Hurricanes - 8-4, 0-0 ACC, RPI: 60 - The Hurricanes got some great news with only one game to go tonight before ACC play. They got Reggie Johnson back from injury and DeQuan Jones form suspension. Neither played against us, but they are players that make them a much better team in the ACC. They have no bad losses (Purdue, Mississippi, Memphis, and West Virginia), but a nice little win over Rutgers. If they can get a split in the conference openers against Virginia and North Carolina on the road it would be huge.
Xavier Musketeers - 9-4, 0-0 Atlantic 10, RPI: 57 - I officially hate this game now. Ever since they got in a fight with Cincinnati they have struggled in losses to Oral Roberts, Long Beach State, Hawaii, and Gonzaga. The LBSU loss isn't as bad as it looks because they played a murderous early schedule and even grabbed wins at Pittsburgh and against Xavier, but this is slowly slipping into the bad loss category. Tu Holloway better start zippin' them up again.
Western Carolina Catamounts - 7-7, 2-0 Southern, RPI: 161 - The SoCon is a decent mid-major conference, so hopefully WCU can stay hot and sneak into the top 100 for us. At least this close win is better than High Point. College of Charleston and Davidson are their best chances for a decent win the rest of the year, especially after Davidson won at Kansas.
Eastern Michigan Eagles - 5-9, 0-0 MAC West, RPI: 191 - No, this does not make us the MAC West champions. EMU, as usual, isn't doing a whole lot. After a 4-1 start they have lost 1 of 9, but at least they played Syracuse, Michigan State, and Purdue in that stretch. The only win in that stretch was over Radford, but at least they play Northern Illinois next.
Butler Bulldogs - 8-7, 2-1 Horizon League, RPI: 87 - Butler's recent run of success has pulled their RPI out of triple digits and if they can continue to do well in the Horizon League it may even crawl into at large territory. The better we, Stanford, and the rest of the Horizon League does, the more it helps them, which in turn helps us. Cleveland State's two games against them offer an excellent chance to boost their profile, and it is not outside the realm of possibility for the regular season league champ to earn an at large bid. If they split with Cleveland State and don't slip up the rest of the way this can still be a tournament team, which is good for us. They are battle tested with losses to Louisville, Indiana, Xavier, and Gonzaga all away from home. The games they want back are overtime losses to Evansville and Valparaiso, especially since Valpo was a conference loss.
IPFW Mastodons - 7-6, 1-3 Summit League, RPI: 209 - It's not good that IPFW has struggled in their conference to start with losses at the Dakota schools. They get IUPUI this week in the annual alphabet bowl. South Dakota State, oral Roberts, and North Dakota State look to be the premier schools in their league, so if IPFW is going to make the tourney it will have to be via the conference tournament.