For Purdue to reach the 2014 NCAA Tournament at least 20 wins are needed. The good news is that five of them are already locked on the board. Unfortunately, Purdue is not going to get a ton of credit because the slate of opponents is generally week. There will be plenty of chances to gain quality wins in the conference season.
Purdue has not started strong in the all-important RPI department. The Boilers are currently at No. 120 out of 351 Division I teams. Playing three pretty good games in Orlando will help a lot and likely get Purdue into the top 100, where it never was last year. Several other teams like Indiana (No. 111), Kentucky (No. 106), and Michigan (No. 131) are around us, so I am not worried.
As usual, this will be a feature I'll track all season to see who emerges as a resume win and who was avoided as a bad loss.
Northern Kentucky (1-4, 0-0 Atlantic Sun) RPI: 62 - Purdue's closest win is over a team that is surprisingly strong despite being 1-4. The Norse have played Kentucky, however, and recently won a true road game at Tulane, who was 4-0 before the overtime loss. A couple of 30+ point losses to San Diego and Kentucky are paired with a 74-61 loss to Morehead State.
Central Connecticut State (0-4, 0-0 Northeast) RPI: 345 - The Blue Devils have not held a team under 83 points yet, but came closest to beating Northeastern before losing 83-69. Northeastern stunned Georgetown in Puerto Rico, so there is some measure of redemption there, but this is a bad team that has played a bad schedule. A December 7 game at Ohio State is by far the best team they have yet to play.
Rider (1-2, 0-0 MAAC) RPI: 274 - Rider does share a conference with Siena and got their first win of the season over the weekend when they won at Central Connecticut State. If you're looking for a "name" game where they could pull an upset they visit Villanova on December 21.
Eastern Illinois (3-2, 0-0 Ohio Valley) RPI: 220 - The Panthers saw their football team earn t he No. 2 seed in the FCS tournament and their basketball team is 3-0 against teams not in the Big Ten. A pair of their wins were over Division II team, but they also beat Kelsey Barlow and Illinois-Chicago. They are not done in Indiana as they host Indiana State and have a non-conference home-and-home with IPFW.
Siena (2-4, 0-0 MAAC) RPI: 252 - Purdue's most recent opponent does not have a strong record to start, but it only lost to LaSalle (2013 Sweet 16 team) by four and lost to Vermont, who scared the crap out of Duke last night. Next they get Memphis in Orlando and we could see them on Sunday again depending on how the tournament goes.
Oklahoma State (4-0, 0-0 Big 12) RPI: 54 - Their RPI is going to shoot a lot higher once the season gets going in earnest. In the meantime, they are going to be Purdue's toughest non-conference test by far. Marcus Smart is averaging 20 points per game and is playing like a Player of the Year candidate. Memphis is the lone team of note they have played, but they thrashed them 101-80. Tonight they play at South Florida on their way to Orlando.
Washington State (2-2, 0-0 Pac-12) RPI: 150 - I am thinking we get the Cougars if we lose to the Cowboys on Thursday and Butler if we win. Also, we're guaranteed to play Butler later so I might as well cover them later. Wazzu started 2-0 with wins over Cal-Bakersfield and Lamar, but lost at Gonzaga by 16 and at home to TCU by two. If Purdue plays them it will help that they are not a major conference opponent, but they aren't expected to be a good one.
LSU (3-1, 0-0 SEC) RPI: 40 - This is the team I would most like to face in the Sunday game because they represent the best RPI value. The Tigers opened the season with a loss to UMass by two but have since beaten Northwestern State, New Orleans, and Southeast Louisiana. I am not quite sure why people are high on them because they had a good recruiting class, but it is still SEC basketball not named Kentucky.
St. Joseph's (2-1, 0-0 Atlantic 10) RPI: 206 - I feel this is Purdue's most likely Sunday opponent if the Boilers lost to Oklahoma State but beat the Washington State-Butler loser. Assuming Memphis and LSU win their first games the second loser's bracket semifinal would be St. Joseph's-Siena. So far the Hawks have wins over Vermont (which looks pretty good now) and Marist but a loss to Creighton.
Memphis (2-1, 0-0 American) RPI: 183 - As usual the Tigers have beaten up on a lighter schedule with wins over Austin Peay and Nicholls State, but were crushed by Oklahoma State and Smart, who scored 39. Should Purdue play them they are still a Conference USA favorite and likely tournament team, so it would be a quality win.
Boston College (2-4, 0-0 ACC) RPI: 67 - The Eagles are rewarded more for playing a tough schedules and losing rather than winning. They have played a ton of close games with a four point overtime loss at Providence, a loss to UMass, a three point loss to Toledo, and a two point loss at Madison Square Garden to Connecticut. They beat Florida Atlantic by three and Washington by 11. Olivier Hanlan is off to a hot start too averaging 22.8 points per game.
Eastern Michigan (5-0, 0-0 MAC) RPI: 36 - Who knew the Eagles were a juggernaut? Okay, so they have only beaten two Division II teams, Robert Morris, Cleveland State, and Texas-Arlington, but 5-0 is 5-0. If they come to Purdue at 7-0 we'll talk about them being a quality win. They play Kentucky and UMass next. They also visit Duke and Syracuse later, both of whom have looked shaky. For now let's pencil them in as a possible surprise in terms of strength of schedule.
Butler (4-0, 0-0 Big East) RPI: 15 - Butler is back doing Butler things even with a new coach and their top player out for the season. Things have been tight in wins over Princeton, Vanderbilt, and Ball State, but they are getting it done and they have a ton of chances for quality victories in Big East play. If Purdue faces Butler twice it would be very good if we can grab at least one of them since they are the top program in the state now.
Maryland-Eastern Shore (2-2, 0-0 MEAC) RPI: 211 - The good news is that they have already tied last year's win total. They beat Mount St. Mary's and a Division II team. The bad news is that they lost 95-55 at Iowa, so they have not done well vs. the Big Ten. I kind of feel bad for them too, as they play a Oregon State just two days before coming to Purdue.
West Virginia (4-1, 0-0 Big 12) RPI: 214 - Yes, the RPI is so crazy right now that Maryland-Eastern Shore is higher than West Virginia. The Mountaineers' lone loss was at Virginia tech, but they are 4-0 with home wins over Mount St. Mary's, Duquesne, Georgia Southern, and Presbyterian. Given that they have two games each vs. Oklahoma State, Kansas, Iowa State, and Baylor this would be a very good win.