INSTANT UPDATE: Vote here for Chris Kramer, as he is up for the Lowe's Senior Class Award.
It is a great Saturday. We have our favorite quarterback going for his first Super Bowl ring tomorrow, there is a lot of college basketball on, and our basketball Boilers have the day off while our main rival for the conference title has a tough road game. That game comes with the possibility that the Spartans won't have their best player. We continue to do our part for a high seed in March, but today is a big day for everyone else. Here is what our non-conference opponents have been up too, as well as who they face next.
Strength of Schedule: 33
Top 50 RPI wins: #5 West Virginia, #9 Wisconsin, #20 Wake Forest, #22 Tennessee
Top 50 RPI games remaining: at #14 Michigan State, #14 Michigan State, at #34 Ohio State
Top 100 RPI wins: #61 Minnesota, at #77 Illinois
Worst loss: at #63 Northwestern
Cal State Northridge (9-13, 4-5 Big West RPI: 231) - The Matadors have been playing a little better of late, winning their last two games over Santa Barbara and Riverside. The Big West is a pretty tightly packed conference with 3rd through 7th place separated by a game. This is a pretty weak conference though, where the winner will be a 15 seed at best. It should be noted that a rivalry does make a difference. Northridge is currently ranked one spot behind Indiana in the most recent RPI, and we beat them by 25.
South Dakota State (12-11, 8-4 Summit RPI: 214) - The Jackrabbits continue to be decent in Summit League play and should be seeded in the upper half of that conference tournament. They lost a close game at Oral Roberts last weekend that would have given them third place in the league. They have the chance for more too with league leaders IUPUI and Oakland on the schedule. This should be one of the better smaller conference tournaments, as ORU, IUPUI, SDSU, and Oakland are the best four teams and any one of them can win it.
St. Joseph's (8-14, 2-6 Atlantic 10 RPI: 178) - The Hawks had been playing well, but have now lost three straight and two of those at home. One of their small upsets, the Paradise Jam win over Boston College, is costing us an RPI hit as BC is a top 100 team at 96. There is nothing we can do about it though. St. Joe's has one game remaining against a ranked team when it hosts Temple in two weeks.
Tennessee (17-4, 5-2 SEC RPI: 22) - I look at this win as a major bonus win because we beat them when they were at full strength. They are still a pretty good basketball team even a little shorthanded. They are a game behind Kentucky in the SEC at the moment with two games coming up in the next three weeks against the Wildcats. If we stay hot and they get one or both of those games we can possibly move up to a #1 seed. The Volunteers could leapfrog us though, as that would give them multiple wins over #1 teams. They face South Carolina today in Knoxville.
Central Michigan (11-9, 6-2 MAC RPI: 172) - The Chippewas are near the top of the MAC at the moment trailing Kent State by a half game. They are tied for first place in the loss column. They recently defeated Bowling Green and Buffalo, but this is a cannibalistic conference. Five teams are within one game of first place and only the conference tournament will decide who goes to the NCAA's.
Wake Forest (15-5, 5-3 ACC RPI: 20) - The Demon Deacons lost at Georgia Tech last week, but rebounded with a home win over Miami to earn a split with the Hurricanes. They travel to Virginia today before hosting Boston College and Georgia Tech in the following two games. Currently, Wake sits a game out of first place in the ACC and they have plenty of chances for good wins remaining.
Buffalo (11-9, 4-5 MAC RPI: 122) - Of all of our wins this one has taken the biggest hit. The Bulls were a top 100 team for most of the season, but they have sucked in MAC play. They have now lost five of their last six and have fallen out of contention when they were one of the early favorites. They have at least lost to Central Michigan and Ball State in that stretch, thus helping us.
Valparaiso (11-13, 6-6 Horizon RPI: 168) - Unless Valpo upsets Butler in the final game of the regular season we will get no help from the Crusaders. They can still finish as high as second place in league play. They have four home games left and the two road contests are against two of the weaker teams in the Horizon League. This is a team that did win three of four on a four game road trip over the past two weeks. Butler leads this conference by four games over everyone.
Alabama (13-9, 3-5 SEC RPI: 101) - This is another loss that took a hit lately. The Crimson Tide couldn't close out Florida at home this week, losing 66-65 in a bubble elimination game. This was after losing 58-57 at Auburn. The Tide currently has three one point losses in SEC play. That is likely the difference between the NCAA's and the NIT for them. They can make a huge leap forward if they win today at Mississippi and Tuesday at Kentucky.
Ball State (12-9, 6-3 MAC RPI: 180) - The Cardinals are the big mover this week, as they have won four in a row to move within a game of first place in the MAC. They face a crucial game at home today against fellow 6-3 team Akron. The Cardinals are playing their best basketball in years and could be a surprise NCAA team. I say that because they are as good of a pick as any to win the MAC Tournament and get the lone bid. Based on seedings, it could even a rematch in March.
SIU-Edwardsville (3-20, RPI: 322) - Only two of the Cougar's wins came over Division I opponents, and just one of those, over Drake, was against a top 200 team. Drake ranks #175 in the RPI. Edwardsville has yet to play a Division I team within 10 points since December 28th.
West Virginia (18-3, 7-2 Big East RPI: 5) - The Mountaineers are a top 5 RPI team, but it is ridiculous that some have them seeded ahead of us. Head to head we waxed their ass, but because they are in the Big East they are ahead of us. They have won five in a row since losing by a point to Syracuse by a point. Their other Big East loss was by two at Notre Dame. The Mountaineers have been in the new more lately because of their fans, but on the court they have a tough schedule ahead. They are at St. John's today before hosting league leader Villanova on Monday. If they win both they will be in an excellent position to win the Big East. This is no doubt a very, very good win considering that we beat them by 15 and no one else ahs been nearly as dominant against them.