Non-Conference Opponents' Update: February 13

Things certainly look a lot better this week. A very competitive loss at Ohio State and a 10 point win over an NCAA contender at home are a lot easier on the outlook of our beloved basketball team than seeing the momentum shift back to the south in our bitter rivalry with Indiana. Last night's victory brought us closer to the happy side of 50 in the RPI, and if we follow it up with a little winning streak here it should go north of 50 permanently.

More importantly, we got some help this past week from the teams we have beaten. Miami won a critical mid-week game at home before falling at Florida State. Temple cemented its hold atop the Atlantic 10, which rates No. 7 in conference RPI ahead of the Pac 12. Even Butler finally started carrying its weight a little and stopped sucking. Perhaps they got my memo

With six games left in the regular season I see Purdue as having the following in terms of its NCAA chances:

Win Four Or More Games = Locked In - Winning four games before the Big Ten Tournament definitely puts us in the field because it means at least one win over a top 25 teams (Indiana, Michigan, or Michigan State) and it gets us to the magic numbers of 20 wins overall and 10 in the Big Ten. There is no way a 10-win Big Ten team gets denied this year (unless it is Iowa, more on that later), especially one with two solid out of conference wins over Temple and Miami, plus a nice win over Iona.

Win Three Games = Likely In - Should Purdue finish the regular season at 19-12, 9-9 in the Big Ten it is still very likely safe as long as we don't suffer an embarrassingly bad loss in the Big Ten Tournament. The most likely scenario for this finish is beating Illinois, Penn State, and Nebraska. Those aren't great wins, but they make sure we avoid another "bad loss" and we clinch a critical 7-0 against Minnesota, Northwestern, Iowa, and Illinois. With Penn State, Nebraska, and Iowa (likely) out of at large consideration and the conference looking at 7 or more bids, that 7-0 mark against fellow bubble teams would be huge.

Of course, Illinois and Minnesota are quickly slipping to the wrong side of the bubble, and a victory over the Illini on Wednesday might be the final push they need. They are 1-6 in their last seven with the only win the 42-41 victory over Michigan State that is, quite frankly, saving their ass at the moment. They're already 5-7 in the league, and they still have to go to Nebraska (only a five point Illinois win at home), Ohio State, and Wisconsin while hosting Michigan. Illinois desperately needs Wednesday's game, and they are probably done without it.

Minnesota is trickier. It helps us a lot that we played them on their floor and won. They are 5-7 as well and have home games against OSU and MSU before going to Wisconsin. They got stung by Iowa twice, and have a crap sandwich in terms of a non-conference profile. The win at Indiana helps, but they likely need to beat OSU or MSU in the Barn to really have a chance.

Finally, you have Northwestern, who might be in the best shape of the possible NCAA teams behind us. Yes, they are 5-7 as well, but they have a nice win over Michigan State and they are buoyed by finally playing a non-conference schedule with some chest hair. Seton Hall is their best non-conference win, but simply playing Baylor was a good move. If Northwestern wins its next two home games against Minnesota and Michigan, then holds serve on the road against Penn State and Iowa, I think their streak will be over. Of course, upsetting Indiana this week or Ohio State at home later would be really nice too.

One wild card here is Iowa, who has a realistic shot of reaching 9-9 or better in the Big Ten with three home games and road games only at Penn State, Illinois, and Nebraska. They have a realistic shot of winning their last six if they play well, and that would really mess with people, except us, who swept them. Say they do go 6-0. They would be 11-7 in the Big Ten, but only 19-12 overall. Could they sneak in? I doubt it, but they would throw a wrench into everything if they came to Indianapolis on a roll and won a game or two here.

Still, as long as we get three more wins we should look pretty good to the committee. Getting a game in Indianapolis or two would be icing.

Win Two Games Or Less - This is where it gets dicey. At 18-13 and 8-10 I don't think it will be enough without a Penn State-esque run to the Big Ten Tournament final. Winning only two more means we likely only beat Nebraska and Penn State at home, while losing at Illinois and whiffing in our last three games against ranked teams. To me, that's not good enough. It would also put our critical "Last 10" at 4-6.

Clearly, our best bet is to win at Illinois Wednesday and finish off the Illini. In the meantime, here is how the rest of our profile looks. One negative is that beating Illinois again likely knocks them from the top 50.

Record: 16-9, 6-6 Big Ten (No. 1 RPI conference)

RPI: 55 (according to CBS Sports)

Top 25 RPI wins: Temple (18) (neutral)

Top 50 RPI wins: at Northwestern (43), Miami (FL) (35), Illinois (46), Northwestern (43)

Record vs. Top 50: 5-6 (plus a win over No. 56 Iona)

Bad Losses (sub 100 teams): Butler (114) (neutral), at Penn State (131)

Northern Illinois Huskies - 3-20, 2-9 MAC West, RPI: 328 - The Huskies won a game! They won at home 62-59 over Miami (OH) in a battle of the last place teams in each MAC division. Facing first place Akron on Saturday saw NIU return to its losing ways 75-51.

High Point Panthers -10-16, 5-10 Big South, RPI: 276 - High Point sprung a 70-65 upset at second place Coastal Carolina last week, but couldn't keep the momentum going during the weekend. Charleston Southern beat them 70-67 to end a modest two game winning streak. High Point is now in 9th place in the Big South

Iona Gaels - 19-5, 11-2 MAAC, RPI: 56 - Iona probably saw its at large chances end Friday night when they couldn't come back from a huge deficit in an 87-81 loss at Loyola (MD). That's three MAAC losses now to go with a bad loss to Hofstra. Their best win profile-wise is St. Joseph's at 48. They can still get the RPI above the 50 mark, but they need to beat WAC leading Nevada at home on Saturday to do so. If they are going to get an at large they cannot lose again until the conference title game, and that had better be against Loyola or Manhattan.

Temple Owls - 19-5, 8-2 Atlantic 10, RPI: 18 - Temple has won eight in a row and has a half game lead in the A-10 over St. Louis after beating Xavier 85-72 at home on Saturday. They are on the verge of getting into the top 25 (No. 27 this week) and will probably be there next week at this time with two more wins. This continues to be our best win, and it is a victory that gets even better as the weeks go on.

Alabama Crimson Tide - 16-8, 5-5 SEC, RPI: 32 - Alabama can't gain any traction, as a nine point loss at LSU on Saturday ended a three-game winning streak. The overall profile is enough to keep them in the field right now, but other than beating us and Wichita State they missed on a lot of non-conference chances. The suspension of Trevor Releford, Andrew Steele, Tony Mitchell, and JaMychal Green is nothing short of crippling though. It isn't known how long they will be out, but rest assured that our loss to them will be judged with them at full strength, which helps.

Western Michigan Broncos - 10-15, 4-7 MAC West, RPI: 185 - I am convinced that no one wants to win the MAC West, and WMU definitely doesn't with four straight losses now. They took first place Akron to overtime last week but lost 69-66. At Buffalo on Saturday was another close loss 59-57.

Coppin St. Eagles - 12-12,7-2 MEAC, RPI: 226 - Coppin State had just one game last week, an 84-81 loss at home to Delaware State that cost them a shot at second place in the MEAC. This is still a possible NCAA team as a threat in the MEAC tourney.

Miami Hurricanes - 15-7, 6-4 ACC, RPI: 35 - Thursday's 65-49 win at home over Virginia Tech marked the first time ever that the Hurricanes have won five in a row in ACC play, but they couldn't beat rival Florida State in Tallahassee on Saturday. Wednesday night they have a huge game at home against North Carolina, which could boost them into the NCAA Tournament with a win.

Miami has the opposite problem of us. They have a solid RPI, but the top 50 record (1-6 with losses also to No. 52 Mississippi and No. 55 Purdue) is suspect. They need some more good wins, and home games against Florida State and North Carolina are good chances for them. The one top 50 win, at Duke, is stellar though.

Xavier Musketeers - 16-9, 7-4 Atlantic 10, RPI: 57 - Zip ‘em up! The Musketeers may be done. The RPI has slipped to 57 after losing at Temple, and they are now two games back in the loss column in the A-10. Their best wins are at Vanderbilt and at home against St. Joseph's, making them 2-7 against the top 50. it may be in our best interest to have these guys lose their way off the Bubble, because we don't want to be on there with them.

Western Carolina Catamounts - 10-17, 4-10 Southern, RPI: 254 - WCU has lost 7 of 8 after dropping games to College of Charlseton and Furman. They are now in last place in their SoCon division, so the less said about the fact we struggled against them, the better.

Eastern Michigan Eagles - 11-14, 6-5 MAC West, RPI: 213 - EMU got a nice Saturday win over Ohio (19-6) and they appear to be the one team in the MAC West that is interested in winning the division. They sit at 6-5 and finish the year against MAC West teams.

Butler Bulldogs - 15-12, 9-6 Horizon, RPI: 114 - It's about damn time, Butler! The Bulldogs swept Youngstown state and Cleveland State this week to make a near 40 point jump in the RPI. Their next three are very winnable games at home before going to Horizon leader Valparaiso. Winning all four gets them to 19-12, 12-6, and they still have an outside shot of hosting the Horizon League Tournament then. As we know, this is about when Butler turns it on, and this can still be an NCAA team if they win the Horizon Tourney. That also likely would move them out of the "bad loss" category by getting them back in the top 100. Of course, we help that too by winning and improving their profile.

IPFW Mastodons - 10-15, 4-11 Summit, RPI: 287 - IPFW has now fallen lower than every other team we've played except Northern Illinois. They've lost 9 of 10, including a loss at Chicago State, who is 3-22.

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