The NCAA Tournament is all about RPI. The higher the better as long as you have a good record. The Big Ten, as long as we finish in the top three, will give us a nice RPI boost, but we need one from our non-conference schedule as well. Last season we got a great boost that was wiped out because of the Hummel injury. This year we probably won't get as big of a push, but I'll try to keep track of it as the season goes along. Here is an update on what our non-conference opponents are doing. For the record, our current RPI is 51.
Howard - 1-8, RPI: 314 - It is safe to say we're not going to get any help at all from the Bisons. In fact, they may be an anchor dragging us down. They won their opener over Bowling Green by two points and have lost every game since. They aren't even losing to good teams, with Oregon State (3-4) being the best loss other than us.
Alcorn State - 0-8, RPI: 242 - Alcorn State is at least playing good teams. They have lost to Kansas State and Texas A&M. Unfortunately, a victory before SWAC play would be a stunner. The strangeness of early season RPIs will be revealed later, because right now this is actually a better win than some others we have.
Oakland - 5-4, RPI: 75 - We almost got a major boost from the Golden Grizzlies last night. They led Illinois at halftime in a game that was played with a women's ball for nearly eight minutes. They have a December 14th game at Tennessee that would a nice upset for them to pull. This should pay some dividends as well since they are favored in the Summit League and they play a tough non-conference schedule with five teams currently in the top 25.
Austin Peay - 5-5, RPI: 163 - The Governors are off to a 2-0 start in the Ohio Valley Conference, but Murray State is the favored team. They play at Memphis next week, which is another place where we could use an upset. Murray State has probably lost any chance of this being a two bid league with a slow start.
Southern Illinois - 5-4, RPI: 191 - The Salukis are a middle of the pack team in a down year for the Missouri Valley Conference. Normally, it is a good win any time you beat an MVC team because it is a tough league. There is no real place for them to get a good win the rest of the way.
Richmond - 7-2, RPI: 63 - Hopefully, this will be our lone non-conference loss and the Spiders will go on to have an at large-worthy season. The two losses are bad (Iona) and decent (Old Dominion, with an RPI of 11). Unfortunately, I feel like we missed out on a chance to have a good win paying us dividends.
Virginia Tech 4-4, RPI: 88 - It is strange that the Hokies are a worse victory than Oakland, but that comes from Virginia Tech swinging and missing on a bunch of chances so far. The good news is that they are the only team that has beaten Oklahoma State. The ACC offers three teams (Duke, Miami, North Carolina) that give them chances to get top 25 RPI wins. The bad news is that they whiffed in games against Kansas State and UNLV. At least it is still a top 100 road win.
Alabama - 4-4, RPI: 302 - You read that right. The Crimson Tide is currently the weakest team we have played other than Howard. The four wins are nothing special and losses to St. Peter's and Iowa are huge anchors. It is rare that you see a major conference team this low. Hopefully they can do something in SEC play to raise the profile.
Valparaiso - 6-3, RPI: 35 - I know the Crusaders won't stay this high, but I was stunned that we now technically have a top 50 road victory. Two of their three losses have come against top 20 teams, and the third (Ohio) was an NCAA Tournament team a year ago. They are already 2-0 in the Horizon League, which will be a tough league this year that features more than Butler. I doubt this will stay a top 50 win, but there is the potential for it to be a second top 100 true road win. If it stays there, that means our three true road games will all be of the top 100 variety, fighting the myth that we played a weak non-conference schedule. I doubt any other major conference team has three top 100 true road non-conference games.
North Florida - 4-4, RPI: 122 - The Ospreys have no good wins and three good losses (Florida State, Missouri, Pittsburgh). Really, this is going to be your stereotypical purchased non-conference home game. It needs to be a win and should be.
Indiana State - 4-5, RPI: 175 - The Sycamores are not expected to do much in the MVC, but they did kick the living crap out of a Big East team last night. Unfortunately, DePaul is a Big East team in name only. Their non-conference losses included Eastern Kentucky and a 30 point loss at Wyoming.
IPFW - 6-2, RPI: 126 - The Mastodons are off to a good start and are already 2-0 in Summit League play with Oakland. The losses aren't bad, and they were close games against Xavier and Cincinnati. This could be a decent win, though we want them to lose next weekend when they play at Valparaiso. Since we beat Valpo on the road we need them to be the stronger team.
West Virginia - 6-2, RPI: 21 - It probably won't be as big of a game as last year, but we need to win this game for seeding purposes. The Mountaineers are the best non-conference game we have, and since it is a road game in the middle of the conference season it is an excellent chance to boost our resume. They won't even handicap it this year as a "We had Robbie" game. The losses weren't bad (Minnesota and at Miami). They have beaten Oakland, But Vanderbilt is their best non-conference win. Of course, the Big East offers a bunch of chances for good wins. Our ideal scenario is that they go unbeaten the rest of the way except for when we play them.