After a pair of losses in Big Ten play the most important thing that the Boilers can do to make the NCAA Tournament is win. Losing to Ohio State and at Minnesota are not back breakers, but winning at Minnesota would have helped Purdue a lot. The return game at Mackey Arena is now pretty much a must win.
If the tournament began today Purdue would be nowhere near the Bubble. The RPI is at 107 and Purdue is only 2-4 against the top 100. With 16 games to go, however, 12 of them are against top top 100. Assuming Purdue wins the four games (Penn State and Northwestern twice each) that means a 6-6 record in those remaining top 100 games will pull Purdue into at large range.
As Al Davis once said, just win, baby. The next four games are very winnable and especially with a trip to No. 20 Illinois (who just got pantsed by Wisconsin) things can look a lot different in a few weeks. In the meantime, here is what the non-conference opponents have been up to:
Northern Kentucky (7-9, 3-1 Atlantic Sun) - RPI: 255, KenPom: 295 – Even though the Norse are ineligible for the NCAA Tournament they are off to a great start in Atlantic Sun play. They have now won three in a row and six of their last eight after beating Stetson, Jacksonville, and North Florida. That stretch has them a half game out of first place behind last year’s NCAA darlings Florida Gulf Coast. While Northern Kentucky can’t give us a win over an NCAA team they can help a lot by being a regular season conference champ.
Central Connecticut State (4-9, 0-0 Northeast) - RPI: 334, KenPom: 292 - CCSU lost its last non-conference game at Coastal Carolina and will begin play in the Northeast Conference play tonight at home against Wagner. We shouldn’t get much of a boost from them as they will likely stay in the 300s the rest of the year. Their highest remaining game is against No. 116 St. Francis.
Rider (7-6, 3-1 MAAC) - RPI: 160, KenPom: 211 – Rider split its last two games and is 3-1 in the MAAC, which has them a game out of first place. It is rare, but their loss actually helped Purdue because it came 62-47 against Siena, which counts double on our profile. The Broncs have still won five of their seven and have an excellent chance of winning their conference, though Manhattan remains the favorite at No. 62 in the RPI.
Eastern Illinois (4-10, 1-2 Ohio Valley) - RPI: 322, KenPom: 327 – Eastern Illinois dropped a pair of conference games to Eastern Kentucky and Morehead State to fall out of first place. Like Central Connecticut State, there are not a lot of chances for them to get better with victories in their conference. The conference is rated No. 26 among all conferences in the RPI and only Belmont at No. 79 has a remote at large chance.
Siena (6-9, 2-2 MAAC) - RPI: 209, KenPom: 206 – As mentioned above, Siena got a nice win at home over Rider, but they also dropped a road conference game at Monmouth and fell to 2-2 in their league. The Saints have established a trend so far of winning their home conference games while losing their road games.
Oklahoma State (13-2, 1-1 Big 12) - RPI: 15, KenPom: 10 – Mark Titus had some great commentary in his Grantland column this week about Marcus Smart and how frustrating he can be. He showed his ass a bit at Kansas State and it led to a technical foul and four free points in a 74-71 loss. Okie State has a great chance to end Kansas’ dominance in the Big 12, but they could also very easily be a first round NCAA flameout if they don’t have the right attitude. On Saturday they travel to West Virginia where the Mountaineers can really help us out with a win.
Washington State (7-8, 0-3 Pac-12) - RPI: 130, KenPom: 137 – 25 points. That is all the Cougars scored in a loss at No. 1 Arizona. They also lost games at Arizona State and missed a great chance to help us last night with a one point home loss to Colorado. Colorado is No. 8 in the RPI, but won 71-70 last night after Que Johnson hit a 3-pointer to tie at the end of regulation. Washington State is now in last place in the Pac-12.
Boston College (4-11, 0-2 ACC) - RPI: 164, KenPom: 158 – Boston College isn’t even the best team in Boston after losing on New Year’s Day to Harvard. They are now 1-7 in their last eight games with the only victory coming over non-D1 Philadelphia. They opened ACC play with a 62-60home loss to Clemson and they head to Virginia Tech this week. Even though this is a win over a major conference program Purdue has better victories over Eastern Michiganand Rider.
Eastern Michigan (9-5, 1-0 MAC) - RPI: 45, KenPom: 121 – This continues to be Purdue’s best victory and it is now the only one over a top 50 team. They earned a road win in MAC play over Bowling Green this week 56-51 and also a third non-D1 win over Rochester. It remains to be seen if they will stay in the top 50, but if they do throughout MAC play an at large berth is certainly possible. They had a tough non-conference schedule against Duke, Syracuse, UMass, Purdue, and Kentucky, but still went 0-5 in those games. Fortunately for us, the MAC is decently strong this year with Eastern Michigan, Toledo, and Ohio as top 60 teams. That will help this win have some value.
Butler (10-4, 0-2 Big East) - RPI: 63, KenPom: 62 – Play in the Big East has not gone well so far for the Bulldogs as they dropped their first two games to Villanova and at Xavier. They weren’t bad losses, but like Purdue, Butler needs to win at least half of their Big East games to make the NCAA Tournament. So far Purdue has only lost to one team that has no real chance at an at large berth, but it could also find itself on the bubble with Butler and Minnesota.
Maryland-Eastern Shore (2-12, 0-2 MEAC) - RPI: 345, KenPom: 345 – There are only 351 Division I programs according to KenPom, so UMES ranks as one of the worst teams in all of college basketball. Only Alcorn State, Bethune Cookman, Cornell, The Citadel, Southern Utah, and Grambling State are rated as worse teams. UMES very easily could slide all the way to the bottom as they have started 0-2 in one of the worst rated conferences.
West Virginia (8-5, 0-0 Big 12) - RPI: 74, KenPom: 55 – The Mountaineers made a big jump from 115 to 74 in the RPI, as road wins to open Big 12 played at TCU and Texas Tech moved them up 41 spots. They have a two-game homestand Saturday and Monday against Oklahoma State and Texas before going to Kansas State. All three are possible tournament teams, so the better West Virginia does the more it helps Purdue. By Monday night our win over West Virginia could be a true road victory over a top 50 team.