Non-Conference Opponents Update: January 30

As we know, February is winning time for Purdue basketball. Purdue was 6-1 last February, with the one loss coming at Wisconsin on February 1. They were 6-1 in February 2010, with the only loss coming in the game after That Game At Minnesota. February 2009 was a little worse at 5-3, but February 2008 was another 6-1 year with the only loss at Indiana (which sadly cost Purdue a Big Ten title against a tainted IU squad). Finally, in February 2007 Purdue was 5-2 in February.

That's a collective record of 28-8 over the last five Februarys. It is no coincidence that all five of those teams ended up in the NCAA Tournament. This season Purdue has eight February games, and even in if the Boilers replicate their worst February of the last five seasons they would still be 5-3 and likely enough to put them safely into the field with 10 Big Ten wins.

So who will be the February Five? There are three games at home that are must-wins now over Northwestern, Penn State, and Nebraska. It is also imperative for us to beat Indiana this coming Saturday for my own sanity to notch a win over a ranked team. That means the fifth win needs to come in a home upset of Michigan State, or a road win over Illinois or Michigan.

That's all ahead, however. In the meantime, our current profile received a much-needed boost on Saturday with the win over Northwestern. That gave us a second true road win over a top 50 RPI squad and moved us to 4-5 against the top 50. We sit just outside the top 50 right now at No. 50, but that can change easily as we continue to play games against the top 50 (and, of course win a few of them). The biggest miss so far was the loss to Michigan in a game that would have helped a lot. The same is true with Wisconsin, as they are No. 23 and No. 25, respectively. Xavier at No. 46 is also a big miss.

Another major factor is placement within the conference. It isn't etched in stone, especially after the way Penn State got screwed a few seasons ago, but finishing in the top 7 of the Big Ten likely makes a team a tournament lock this year. Right now Purdue is above Indiana and Illinois as "locks" and ahead of Minnesota, whom Purdue beat head-to-head on their floor. These are two very important factors Purdue needs to keep in its favor.

Record: 15-7, 5-4 Big Ten (No. 1 RPI conference)

RPI: 49 (according to CBS Sports)

Top 25 RPI wins: Illinois (37), Temple (13) (neutral)

Top 50 RPI wins: at Minnesota (38), at Northwestern (45)

Record vs. Top 50: 4-5 (plus wins over No. 52 Miami and No. 54 Iona)

Bad Losses (sub 100 teams): Butler (124) (neutral), at Penn State (131)

Northern Illinois Huskies - 2-17, 1-6 MAC West, RPI: 338 - Well, two more losses (this week against Kent State and Buffalo) doesn't exactly make their profile worse, as they considered to be one of the ten worst teams in America. At least this game was a horrific blowout, unlike the next worst team Purdue played.they blow like hhand dryers.

High Point Panthers - 7-13, 3-7 Big South, RPI: 288 - Offer up a prayer of thanks to your deity of choice that Purdue pulled this game out, because the Panthers jumped 10 places in the RPI with an upset at Big South bigwig Winthrop. This followed a 20 point loss at UNC-Asheville, who continues to lead the Big South at 16-7 and 11-1 overall.

Iona Gaels - 17-5, 9-2 MAAC, RPI: 54 - Iona had three games last week, but saw their at large chances take a huge blow with a loss at Siena (damn you, Siena!). Siena is just 10-11 this year and well off the pace in the MAAC. The Gaels responded with road wins over Fairfield and St. Peter's (who is an ugly 4-18 after Purdue beat them in last year's tournament), but at 9-2 they are tied for the MAAC lead with Loyola (MD) and Manhattan. Even worse, Iona lost at home to Manhattan earlier this year. Iona hosts 4-17 Canisius before two critical road games at Manhattan and Loyola. If they win both and get their BracketBusters home win over someone good (say Valparaiso or Wichita State) they can be a borderline at large team, but I think they have to run the table and lose in the MAAC title game to have any shot at an at large. The dagger was Manhattan, who won on a last-second triple after Iona led by 17 at halftime.

Temple Owls - 15-5, 4-2 Atlantic 10, RPI: 13 - This win continues to get better and better, as the Owls swept UNC-Charlotte and St. Joseph's last week to move within a half game of the A-10 lead. They are behind UMass, LSalle, and St. Bonaventure and they have already beaten LaSalle once. They have excellent wins over Duke and Wichita State as well, but an awful loss to Bowling Green. Temple and Southern Miss are the only two top 15 RPI teams not in the AP or Coaches top 25.

Alabama Crimson Tide - 14-7, 3-4 SEC, RPI: 36 - Another team with a split this week, their win over Arkansas broke a four losing streak that saw the Tide bottom out with a loss at last place South Carolina. The RPI is still strong at 36, but they are slipping dangerously close to bubble territory, which does not bode well for Purdue. Of the at large possible teams Purdue played in the non-conference Alabama and Xavier are slipping, which is bad since those were losses. Iona is also slipping, but Temple is climbing (and is the only team I'd call a lock that Purdue played in the non-con) as well as Miami.

Western Michigan Broncos - 10-11, 4-3 MAC West, RPI: 144 - Another week means another split for the Broncos, as they lost at MAC favorite Ohio but beat Miami (OH). They continue to trail Eastern Michigan by a game in the MAC West Division and are tied with Ball State.

Coppin St. Eagles - 10-11, 503 MEAC, RPI: 250 - Another team, another split. Coppin State won at Hampton, but lost in overtime at home against North Carolina A&T. Norfolk State continues to be the class of this conference with a two game lead at 16-6 overall and 8-0 in the league. They are only at No. 94 in the RPI, so they are an unlikely at large team in case of any upsets.

Miami Hurricanes - 12-7, 3-3 ACC, RPI: 52 - Finally, the ‘Canes did their job! After a Sunday home loss to North Carolina State on the 22nd Miami took care of business this week with road wins at Georgia Tech and Boston College to get to .500 in the ACC. This is a very big week for them as they host Maryland on Thursday before playing at Duke on Sunday. As you can see, this is creeping toward a top 50 win for Purdue. The home game against Maryland (No. 95) is absolutely critical for Miami's NCAA chances. The ‘Canes are 0-5 against the top 50, and 0-6 if Purdue moves in since the Boilers are No. 51. Sunday before the Super Bowl we could get a double treat of Miami helping Purdue by getting a massive road win and the joy of seeing Duke lose at home. It's not impossible, either, as Miami lost 78-75 in overtime at Duke in 2009.

Xavier Musketeers - 14-7, 5-3 Atlantic 10, RPI: 46 - The theme this week seems to be Purdue's non-conference opponents earning splits int heir two games. That carried over to Xavier, who lost at home to St. Louis but beat UNC-Charlotte on the road. Overall it costs Xavier three RPI places and sent them drifting toward the bubble, which is dangerous because the loss to them on the road could be a tiebreaker if Purdue is on the bubble with them on Selection Sunday.

Western Carolina Catamounts - 9-13, 3-6 Southern, RPI: 244 - The Catamounts did not earn a split, losing to Elon at home and dropping an overtime decision to UNC-Greensboro. That knocked them to 3-6 in the SoCon and just a half game out of last place in the North Division. Thank goodness Purdue pulled this game out by five.

Eastern Michigan Eagles - 10-11, 5-2 MAC West, RPI: 208 - A split with Buffalo and Bowling Green saw the Eagles slip below 200 on the RPI, thus dragging down our overall profile just a little more. They could have used the win over Buffalo, who is 12-6 overall, while Bowling Green is 9-11. EMU does lead the West Division by a game over Ball State and they have a head-to-head win over the Cards. Ball State is better overall at 12-7.

Butler Bulldogs - 12-11, 6-5 Horizon, RPI: 124 - Butler went to Wisconsin and got swept in both Horzion League games by double digits, thus severely damaging their conference title hopes. They now trail Cleveland State by three games in the loss column and have already lost to them at Hinkle Fieldhouse. It is officially conference tournament or bust for Butler if they want to return to the NCAAs, but I still applaud them for their last two years. This loss and the Penn State loss are anchors tied to Purdue's ankles, and I fear we're going to regret them.

IPFW Mastodons - 10-11, 4-8 Summit, RPI: 240 - The erstwhile Hoosiermakers earned a split with the Dakota schools in Summit League play. The win over North Dakota State at home broke a four game losing streak for IPFW, but they are still not a tournament threat. Their RPI did jump nine points, however.

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