Before getting into what our non-conference opponents are doing, let's look at how the boilers stack up against the rest of the Big Ten. We know this is going to be a dogfight of a conference season and the NCAA teams will be decided by who survives and wins the most against the middle of the conference. Right now, that middle consists of 12 teams that can probably beat any of the other 12 on any given night, with Wisconsin clearly in a class above those 12 and Rutgers clearly in a class below.
Here are the current RPIs for the 14 Big Ten teams:
Ohio State: 30
Penn State: 50
Michigan State: 51
I would not be alarmed with those RPIs, as they will go up for everyone once conference play begins. The same is true for Vanderbilt and Notre Dame, who are both below the 100 line right now in the RPI. KenPom is a little more accurate, and here is where the Big Ten ranks:
Michigan State: 14
Ohio State: 15
Penn State: 94
So if you believe that the NCAA Tournament should have the 68 best teams in the nation, according to KenPom there are 11 NCAA-worthy teams. This league schedule is going to be fun to watch every night. Getting to the NCAAs is, therefore, a two-part exercise. The first part is having a successful non-conference season where you get to the Big Ten schedule with at least a chance. The second is navigating the Big Ten and keeping that chance alive. As you will see below, Purdue at least still has that chance even with the loss to North Florida.
Samford - 3-7, 0-2 SoCon, RPI: 338, KenPom: 329 - Since the last update Samford started conference play by losing two games in the Southern Conference. They lost VMI at home 88-66 and went to Furman for a 74-64 loss. This sent them to almost the bottom of both the RPI and KenPom nationally, as both teams had only won a single D-1 game beforehand.
IUPUI - 2-6, 0-0 Summit, RPI: 248, KenPom: 316 - IUPUI had two losses, but at least their RPI rose as a result. They lost at Evansville and Xavier, both solid mid-major programs this season. Evansville is 6-1 and Xavier is 7-2. The Evansville game was an 89-62 loss and Xavier won 66-43
Grambling State - 2-5, 0-0 MEAC, RPI: 291, KenPom 351 - KenPom continues to view them as the worst team in America. Their RPI is only boosted by losing to better opponents, but they are at least 2-0 at home. Both victories have come against non-D1 competition. They won at home against Selma after losing at Air Force. They are headed to the Pacific Northwest next week with games at Washington and Oregon State before going to TCU.
Kansas State - 5-4, 0-0 Big 12, RPI: 175, KenPom: 81 - Losing to Kansas State is a bit of a catch-22 at this point. Without losing to K-State Purdue lacks a good win over BYU. It then likely loses to Arizona before beating Pittsburgh, who at 128 in the RPI is not as high as BYU. So, by beating KSU Purdue actually would have a lower RPI right now, assuming it had also lost to Arizona. Kansas State lost by a point at Tennessee but did beat Bradley this past week. Next week's game against Texas A&M is a pretty big one for their non-conference schedule.
Missouri - 4-4, 0-0 SEC, RPI: 184, KenPom: 141 - Missouri lost to Oklahoma 82-63 in the SEC-Big 12 challenge last Friday for their only game since the last update. After facing Elon tomorrow night they have a big three game stretch starting Saturday against Xavier, Illinois, and Oklahoma State where they can greatly improve their profile. Purdue would be greatly helped if they could win two of those three, and two are on a neutral floor.
BYU - 7-2, 0-0 WCC, RPI: 42, KenPom: 42 - So far this is Purdue's best victory according to KenPom. The overall RPI plummeted from 9 to 42, however, even with a 90-70 win over Hawaii since the last update. It should be noted that they have two non-D1 victories in their total that do not count toward the RPI. They also have a big rivalry game tonight at home against Utah,
North Carolina State - 7-1, 1-0 ACC, RPI: 38, KenPom: 52 - This is Purdue's second top 50 RPI win, and non-conference top 50 wins are like gold. They are invaluable. NC State officially began conference play with a 78-65 win over Wake Forest on Saturday, so we have beaten the first place team in the ACC. Their best non-conference games remaining are against Tennessee and West Virginia.
North Florida - 6-3, 0-0 Atlantic Sun, RPI: 55, KenPom: 163 - We cannot do anything about the loss to North Florida except cheer for them now. At least the RPI is strong at 55, unlike some other Big Ten losses to NJIT (RPI of 193) or St. Peter's (RPI of 308). Since they beat us, let's cheer like hell for them. They have not played since beating us, but the RPI will stay high if they can win upcoming games at Florida State, Alabama, and Iowa. They will battle Florida Gulf Coast for the Atlantic Sun title all season, and we definitely want them to win that battle.
IPFW - 5-3, 0-0 Summit, RPI: 244, KenPom: 204 - Like North Florida, any strength that Purdue gets from playing IPFW comes from what they do in their conference. They have a non-D1 game coming up before getting Valparaiso and Illinois State as games against decent mid-majors. The Summit League is a weak conference overall, but if they win it Purdue's win over a conference champ and NCAA team will at least carry some good weight.
Arkansas State - 2-2, 0-0 Sun Belt, RPI: 347, KenPom: 243 - The Red Wolves are rated as one of the lowest RPI teams in the country, but mostly because they have only played four games. By far they are the weakest team left on the schedule, as even Gardner-Webb is currently No. 31 in the RPI.
Vanderbilt - 5-2, 0-0 SEC, RPI: 183, KenPom: 82 - Vanderbilt only played once since the last update and that was a loss to Baylor at home 66-63. We really needed them to win that game, as Baylor is a top 25 RPI team. Their only other loss was to Rutgers in Brooklyn by three. Considering that Rutgers sucks we need to win Saturday night.
Notre Dame - 9-1, 0-0 ACC, RPI: 163, KenPom: 40 - Notre Dame is a solid team that won three games since the last update. They beat Michigan State in overtime before beating Fairleigh Dickinson and Mount St. Mary's. Their only game before playing us is the ACC opener Saturday night against Florida State. This will be a toss-up game because they haven't played a terribly strong schedule, but they are still winning. The lone loss was to Providence and Notre Dame is in the top 25 now.
Gardner-Webb - 5-4, 0-0 Big South, RPI: 31, KenPom: 189 - The Bulldogs are getting a surprising amount of love from the RPI because of who they have played. Their record is inflated by three wins over non-D-1 teams and they still have one more team to play from the lower levels. Losses to top-20 RPI teams Seton Hall, Old Dominion, and Arizona are giving them a major boost. They also have a Power-5 conference win over Clemson. They could be a threat to win the Big South and be an NCAA team.