I hope everyone has calmed down a little this morning, especially with the various bracketologies coming out that have us still solidly in the field. Yes, Saturday sucked. It sucked a lot to be the first significant Indiana road win in ages, but it is hardly a reason to give up. The comments and various FanPosts since Saturday have seen a lot more attacking between fans, some even coming after me for being too optimistic.
Let me be clear: I am not so much optimistic as realistic. As long as this team has a legitimate chance of making the NCAA Tournament I am going to believe it is possible and map a away there. That last time I checked, we have a chance, however small, of making the NCAA Tournament until we're eliminated from the Big Ten Tournament. I have to believe in it then.
I am not, however, saying that we're definitely going or that it will be easy. I think we need four more wins before the Big Ten Tournament to have a realistic shot, which would put us at 19-12 and 9-9 in the Big Ten. Five wins makes us a lock in my mind, but four is important for several reasons. First, assuming three of those wins come over Penn State, Northwestern, and Nebraska we avoid another bad conference loss. Second, if the fourth win comes over someone like Illinois we establish ourselves in a hierarchy over six Big Ten teams (Iowa, Minnesota, Penn State, Northwestern, Nebraska, and Illinois) based on our regular season record against them. At 9-9, with a season sweep of Illinois, Northwestern, Iowa, single wins over Nebraska and Minnesota in our only meetings, and a split with Penn State, we're comfortably in the top 6. The Big Ten is getting six teams into the dance, probably seven.
My point is that there is a lot of basketball to be played, and if our shots ever start falling again it can erase a lot of bad we've seen of late. Will it be easy? Of course not. One thing we shouldn't do is concede games, even in road trips to Ohio State and Indiana. As long as they are keeping score we have to believe there is at least a chance, however small, that we're going to win. With games at Indiana and Michigan left we have a chance for a solid, shocking road win, especially when each of those home losses go a different way with a made basket here or a better defensive possession there (yes, we lost to Indiana by 17, but having the ball down 4 with just over 2 minutes left is a close game).
All we have is a difficult road ahead, not impossible. That's all I am asking people to see, and with some help from our previous wins we're already a respectable 5-5 against the current top 50 RPI. The last time I checked one of the things we pride ourselves about Purdue basketball is our tendency to never quit, so why should we quit as fans and say there is no way we're making the NCAA Tournament or that there is no way we win at Ohio State or Indiana? Yes, making the tournament will be tricky and winning at OSU or Indiana will be very difficult, but it is not impossible. Nothing the rest of the way is impossible.
It is just one game at a time from here on out, and instead of looking at tomorrow's game against Ohio State as impossible I am looking at it as another opportunity to turn things around. If that's overly optimistic, well, I am glad to be that way.
Record: 15-8, 5-5 Big Ten (No. 1 RPI conference)
RPI: 63 (according to CBS Sports)
Top 25 RPI wins: Temple (21) (neutral)
Top 50 RPI wins: at Minnesota (50), at Northwestern (37), Miami (FL) (38), Illinois (46)
Record vs. Top 50: 5-5 (plus a win over No. 57 Iona)
Northern Illinois Huskies - 2-19, 1-8 MAC West, RPI: 334 - That's two more losses for the Huskies, who find their RPI rising because at least their playing in a better conference than the other teams at the bottom of Division I. That's sad when the MAC raises your RPI. NIU at least challenged Ohio (19-4, 7-2) before losing by nine last week. A 65-40 loss at Bowling Green was dreadful.
High Point Panthers - 9-15, 4-9 Big South, RPI: 294 - High Point dropped a close game to Presbyterian before beating Gardner Webb in overtime 81-77. As dicey as our NCAA profile is to date, this is a gigantic bullet we dodged when we beat them by two at home.
Iona Gaels - 19-5, 11-2 MAAC, RPI: 57 - The Gaels got revenge for one of their league losses by winning 85-73 at Manhattan on Saturday. They continue to be one of the best offensive teams in the nation, rating third in scoring overall. Don't think I didn't smile when Lunardi's Bracketology had them facing IU. Their big game is Friday at Loyola(MD), as both teams are tied for first place in the MAAC. They also have added a home game against Nevada that is one of the better BracketBusters matchups on February 18. If they win out they are a borderline at large team.
Temple Owls - 17-5, 6-2 Atlantic 10, RPI: 21 - Temple got two more wins last week, beating Fordham and Rhode Island each by at least 17 points. They now sit atop the Atlantic 10 all alone at 6-2, but St. Louis, UMass, LaSalle, and Xavier are all a half game back at 6-3. This week the Owls have home games against George Washington and Xavier.
Alabama Crimson Tide - 15-7, 4-4 SEC, RPI: 34 - The Tide got back to .500 with a hard fought double overtime home win over Mississippi. Now they go to Auburn tomorrow night for a bitter rivalry game. That is, if SEC fans cared about basketball outside of Kentucky. Alabama is a lot like us in that they are in the creamy middle of their conference creeping towards the Bubble rather than away from it. That is not good for us, because we don't want the committee to use their win over us as a tiebreaker.
Western Michigan Broncos - 10-13, 4-5 MAC West, RPI: 166 - I had hopes that Western Michigan would play well in the MAC and creep their RPI to the good side of 100. This week they lost by 24 against Bowling Green and by five in overtime at Kent State, so those hopes are done. They are still a game out of first in the West Division, but that is by far the weaker division of the MAC.
Coppin St. Eagles - 12-11,7-3 MEAC, RPI: 202 - Coppin State makes a 48 place jump in the RPI because they did what most teams this low don't do: win. They stunned league leader Norfolk State on the road by five and beat Morgan State by two on the road as well. They are now a game out of first in this lowly rated conference, but with the win over Norfolk State they proved they could be an NCAA team by winning the league tournament.
Miami Hurricanes - 14-7, 5-3 ACC, RPI: 38 - We owe a big thank you to Mrs. T-Mill's ‘Canes this week, as they became a top 50 RPI win for us and, if they maintain their hot streak, could become a top 25 win. In the middle of the week they survived a 90-86 double overtime win at home over Maryland. Then yesterday they shocked everyone by going to Duke and winning in overtime 78-74. They get Virginia Tech on Thursday, then go to Florida State before hosting North Carolina in games that could thrust them into the ACC race. I'll be in Miami on March 3rd for their home finale and I might just have to go check them out against Boston College. We should be thankful we did not have to face Reggie Johnson, as he was dominant yesterday against Duke. He missed the start of the year recovering from a knee injury.
Xavier Musketeers - 15-8, 6-3 Atlantic 10, RPI: 53 - Xavier is another team that is like Alabama in that they are sliding toward the bubble and their victory over us could be a major factor on Selection Sunday. They squeezed out a one point road win at George Washington before stepping out of conference to lose at Memphis by four. This Saturday they go to Temple in a game that I am not sure I know what I want to happen.
Western Carolina Catamounts - 10-15, 4-8 Southern, RPI: 253 - WCU played three games last week, losing to Wofford and Georgia Southern by beating Chattanooga. At 4-8 they are in fifth place in their six team division, which is the weaker of the two in the SoCon. Davidson at 17-5 overall and with a win at Kansas is the class of this conference.
Eastern Michigan Eagles - 10-13, 5-4 MAC West, RPI: 227 - EMU lost in overtime by five at Miami (OH) before getting crushed by 30 at Akron to fall to 5-4 in the MAC West. The good news is that they still lead that division. The bad news is that division sucks out loud.
Butler Bulldogs - 13-12, 7-6 Horizon, RPI: 151 - Memo to Butler: STOP SUCKING! This loss continues to be an anvil tied to our ankles that is getting heavier as the season goes on. If we miss the NCAAs, this loss may be why. Butler lost at home to Detroit on Saturday and has now lost three of four. For good measure they get a weekend road trip to Youngstown State and Cleveland State, who are among the league leaders. They drew in-state rival Indiana State in the BracketBusters
IPFW Mastodons - 10-13, 4-10 Summit, RPI: 260 - In the rivalry that Indiana and Purdue fans have no idea who they want to win IPFW lost to IUPUI on Saturday 66-63. This followed a midweek 62-52 loss at Western Illinois. IPFW has now lost seven of eight after a good start to conference play.