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Purdue’s 2014 NCAA Tournament Profile: December 18 Update

Purdue's best win this basketball season is a bit of a surprise.

Andy Lyons

Purdue has only one game left on the non-conference schedule and when you look at its current NCAA Tournament profile it is pretty much a must-win. Instead of using the RPI this week I decided to go over to Kenpom, which I know uses all the fancy tempo-free stats and other stuff that an old school guy like me does not understand. I do know that it is supposed to have a better rating system than the RPI, so all your numbers will have KenPom included this week.

The good news is that after 12 games Purdue is finally pulling itself out of the lower echelon of Division I teams. Whereas the RPI has Purdue at 133, KenPom has Purdue at No. 82. That's good, but to reach the NCAA comfortably Purdue is likely going to have to get into the top 50.

Fortunately, there is ample opportunity to get there. Purdue likely needs 11-13 wins the rest of the way to feel safe on selection Sunday. West Virginia, as a true road game, helps as they are No. 61 according to KenPom. Purdue also has games against No. 2 Ohio State (twice), No. 7 Wisconsin (twice), No. 14 Iowa, No. 15 Michigan State, No. 23 Michigan (twice), No. 36 Minnesota (twice), No. 38 Minnesota, No. 54 Illinois, and No. 73 Penn State (twice).

None of the three losses are "bad" either (Oklahoma State is 3, Butler is 57, and Washington State is 100). Purdue only has two games left against sub.-100 teams (Northwestern twice), so the schedule strength is getting a lot tougher. Unfortunately, the best win according to Ken Pom is Boston College at a paltry 117.

The best win according to RPI is Eastern Michigan. This is a better win than Indiana (No. 134 Oakland) Duke's (No. 127 Alabama), and close to Michigan's (No. 72 Florida State), so it looks like Purdue is in decent shape, at least.

Northern Kentucky (2-7, 0-0 Atlantic Sun) - RPI: 319, KenPom: 311 - The Norse actually went out and got a second win this week by beating Chattanooga 87-71 on Sunday. They have a chance at another upset when they visit North Carolina on December 27, but this is a team likely to stay in the 300s since they aren't even eligible for the NCAA Tournament yet. I say it every week, but this is basically a major bullet dodged thanks to that Errick Peck three and two free throws from Ronnie Johnson.

Central Connecticut State (3-7, 0-0 Northeast) - RPI: 264, KenPom: 243 - CCSU has alternated wins and losses in their last six games, one of which was a loss at Ohio State. There is honestly not a lot on the schedule to boost their profile and their lone shot at making the NCAA Tournament is by winning the NEC crown.

Rider (5-4, 2-0 MAAC) - RPI: 119, KenPom: 164 - The big game for Rider is finally here as they will face undefeated Villanova on Saturday on Fox Sports 1. Win that, and Rider might move into the top 100 and it would certainly make Purdue look a lot better. They at least enter the game hot on a three-game winning streak, including victories over Monmouth and Quinnipiac to start conference play 2-0.

Eastern Illinois (3-6, 0-0 Ohio Valley) - RPI: 303, KenPom: 295 - The Panthers have lost four straight and only one of their wins has been over a Division I team. They have not played since a December 7 home loss to Indiana State. The victory was over Illinois-Chicago with former Boiler Kelsey Barlow, however.

Siena (3-8, 1-1 MAAC) - RPI: 248, KenPom: 239 - Even two losses to Butler would be better than two wins over Siena at this point, so Purdue is getting almost no value out of doubling up on the Saints. They won their conference opener 84-71 over Niagara, but lost to Canisius to move to 1-1 in MAAC play. At the very least, Purdue avoided the dreaded ‘bad loss" both times.

Oklahoma State (10-1, 0-0 Big 12) - RPI: 22, KenPom: 3 - Since losing to Memphis in the Old Spice finale the Cowboys have been on cruise control. They have an interesting weekend game on Saturday against No. 20 Colorado, but blowing out Louisiana Tech and Delaware State moved them to 10-1. It is not a matter of if they will make the NCAAs, but if they will get a No. 1 seed.

Washington State (5-4, 0-0 Pac-12) - RPI: 118, KenPom: 100 - It is not a backbreaker of a loss, but Purdue's profile would look a lot better with a win over Washington State (and subsequent victory over St. Joseph's) than a loss and another win over Siena. The Cougars got over .500 with a win vs. Pepperdine and will host San Francisco State (non-D1) tonight. Not much is expected of them in the Pac-12.

Boston College (4-7, 0-1 ACC) - RPI: 116, KenPom: 117 - BC has played major programs USC and Maryland since the Purdue loss, but lost both games. Their one victory was over non-D1 Philadelphia, which does nothing for their profile. They have three nasty non-conference games coming up at Auburn, against VCU, and at Harvard before going back into ACC play.

Eastern Michigan (6-3, 0-0 MAC) - RPI: 78, KenPom: 163 - Technically Purdue's best win on the RPI scale, the Boilers are at least getting some value out of the Eagles playing a tough schedule. They beat a 7-3 Green bay squad 67-58 in their last game and go to Oakland, Duke, and Syracuse next. A major upset in one of those last two likely makes them a MAC threat and moves them into the top 50.

Butler (8-2, 0-0 Big East) - RPI: 33, KenPom: 57 - Saturday's loss was not to a bad team, as Butler is the second best team on Purdue's non-conference schedule. Unfortunately, the committee now has something to compare the teams to each other if both end up on the Bubble. We had better hope the Bulldogs evolve into a lock NCAA team, because being on the bubble with them would be very bad since they have a head-to-head victory. They travel to Evansville on Saturday.

Maryland-Eastern Shore (2-6, 0-0 MEAC) - RPI: 308, KenPom: 341 - the Hawks are one of three 300+ teams Purdue has now beaten. At 341 according to KenPom they are ahead of only 10 Division I teams, three of which are in their conference. How bad is it? The only winless team in all of Division I, Cornell, is ranked ahead of them on KenPom.

West Virginia (7-4, 0-0 Big 12) - RPI: 95, KenPom: 61 - To get anything out of its non-conference profile the Boilers desperately need a win in Morgantown on Sunday. Playing in a tough Big 12 will raise the Mountaineers by default. If they do well in that conference, even better. If Purdue beats them the Boilers are 10-3 and likely somewhere in the 70's on KenPom before beginning Big Ten play. That means a 10-8 conference record (very doable) going into the Big Ten Tournament would have Purdue in the NCAA discussion, while 11-7 would almost be a lock. A Purdue loss on Sunday means Purdue has to go 11-7 just to reach 20 wins before the B1G Tournament. Purdue would also possibly fall victim to the Iowa syndrome, as the Hawkeyes were 11-2 against a weak non-conference and did not get in with a 9-9 Big Ten mark even with 20 wins (often a solid benchmark for at large consideration).