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2015 Bracketology: Purdue Non-conference Opponents Update December 17

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North Carolina State and North Florida both had bad losses this past week.

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Losing to North Florida sucks, and is now a worse loss.

Losing at Vanderbilt stings, as Purdue did not play well.

Losing to Kansas State is bad, but Purdue might have gotten a better win over BYU because of it as opposed to losing to Arizona, then beating Pittsburgh.

The Boilers now sit at 8-3 overall with two non-conference games to go. The RPI is on the sad side of 100, but the season is far from over. The goal for every major conference team is 20 wins. As I continue to say, 20 wins should be enough to at least be in the discussion for the NCAA Tournament on selection Sunday. That is true almost every season and will likely be true again this season.

Because of that, the season should be viewed in halves. A successful non-conference season should get you half of those wins, and a successful conference season of 10-8 gets you the other half. I maintain that despite all that has happened, a 20-11 regular season where Purdue goes 10-3 against its non-conference slate and 10-8 against the Big Ten will be enough to at least be on the Bubble, which is a vast improvement from the past two seasons. That's before any Big Ten Tournament performance (where we would likely go up against another Bubble-level team) is factored in.

For that scenario to happen Purdue must first win its last two non-conference games against Notre Dame and Gardner-Webb. Gardner-Webb is not a bad team according to the RPI. Beating Notre Dame gives Purdue a victory over three major conference teams, two of which would be NCAA-caliber. The win over BYU is also still a strong one and will continue to be.

Let's be completely honest for a moment: This team is not going to the Final Four barring a surprise run. It is likely not going to win the Big Ten. This season was always going to be considered successful if the Boilers either make the NCAA Tournament or at least come close. THAT GOAL CAN STILL EASILY BE ACCOMPLISHED. Despite the losses, Purdue has done some good work. More good work can be done Saturday against Notre Dame. I still think this team can make the tournament and even win a game. Winning a game needs to be part of that goal because we haven't lost a first round game in the NCAA Tournament since 1993. In 14 straight tournament appearances Purdue has won at least one game, which is the longest active streak in college basketball. That's with seeds ranging from 1 to 11 in that time.

Purdue RPI: 133

Purdue KenPom: 49

Best wins: BYU (RPI 63, KenPom 41), NC State (RPI 70, KenPom 48)

Bad Losses: Kansas State (RPI 171, KenPom 77), North Florida (RPI 122, KenPom 177)

Samford - 4-8, 0-2 SoCon, RPI: 332, KenPom: 318 - The win over Samford is slightly better after the Bulldogs beat Presbyterian. It mostly got better because they played another major conference team in Wake Forest. They lost 86-68 to the Demon Deacons. Of their four victories this season the best is over UMKC on a neutral floor.

IUPUI - 2-8, 0-0 Summit, RPI: 307, KenPom: 322 - The Hoosiermakers saw a substantial drop in the last week after losing to Eastern Kentucky and Howard. The 57-47 loss at Howard, a  sub-300 team from the MEAC, is especially bad. It is hard to figure this team out because they have played some decent teams like Georgia State tough, but they have now lost six in a row.

Grambling State - 2-6, 0-0 MEAC, RPI: 297, KenPom 351 - KenPom continues to view them as the worst team in America, and by a pretty substantial margin. They have a score of .0434 in the Pythagorean ranking. No. 350 (Florida A&M) has a score of .0768. Grambling only played once this week, losing at Oregon State before playing at Washington tonight.

Kansas State - 6-4, 0-0 Big 12, RPI: 171, KenPom: 77 - K State had a weekend 73-53 win over Savannah State, but they have a big non-conference game this weekend in Kansas City against Texas A&M. They pretty much need to win that in order to have a chance at an at large bid. They also host Georgia on New Year's Eve before getting into Big 12 play.

Missouri - 5-5, 0-0 SEC, RPI: 157, KenPom: 156 - The Tigers split their two games since last playing us, but the loss was in a game that could have helped us had they won. They lost 74-58 at home against Xavier after beating Elon 78-73. On Saturday they play Illinois in St. Louis and they still have a neutral site game coming up against Oklahoma State.

BYU - 8-3, 0-0 WCC, RPI: 63, KenPom: 41 - This will continue to be a quality win as long as BYU takes care of business in the West Coast conference. They lost a close home game against Utah last Wednesday before beating Weber State over the weekend. Their last two non-conference games are ones that will be imperative for the NCAA chances (and possibly ours) as they host Stanford and UMass on Saturday and Tuesday. Win both, and they will be in the discussion all year long like us.

North Carolina State - 8-2, 1-0 ACC, RPI: 70, KenPom: 48 - Wofford strikes again. After NC State went home and beat Charleston Southern 86-50 they lost 55-54 at home to Wofford. It appeared that NC State had won on a three at the buzzer, but the shot came just barely late. Tonight they host Tennessee in a game that would help us a lot if the Wolfpack could win.

North Florida - 6-4, 0-0 Atlantic Sun, RPI: 122, KenPom: 177 - For awhile it looked like North Florida was at least going to do their part, but they lost at home to Tennessee Tech 82-80 in their first game since beating Purdue. To make matters worse, they were assessed a technical foul for dunking during warm-ups and started the game down 2-0 because Tennessee Tech was awarded two free throws from the technical. Basically, they handed their opponent the winning points. Let's hope they redeem themselves by winning tonight at Florida State.

IPFW - 6-3, 0-0 Summit, RPI: 240, KenPom: 198 - IPFW had a non-D1 win over Michigan-Dearborn, but they have some non-conference games against Valparaiso and Illinois State, both teams in the top 100 of the RPI, that can raise their profile. Still, IPFW winning the Summit league and getting the autobid is the best help they can give us.

Arkansas State - 2-4, 0-0 Sun Belt, RPI: 338, KenPom: 258 - Since the last update the Red Wolves lost at Purdue then turned around and lost at Toledo 73-65. Like many of our opponents, they have a big game tonight at Mississippi State that could help us if they win it.

Vanderbilt - 7-2, 0-0 SEC, RPI: 135, KenPom: 67 - The better Vanderbilt does from here on out the better for us. They held serve at home last night by winning 99-79 over Western Carolina. Saturday they go to Georgia Tech for another big non-conference game that can erase their bad loss to Rutgers.

Notre Dame - 10-1, 1-0 ACC, RPI: 138, KenPom: 35 - Some good news: If Purdue wins on Saturday they will have beaten the only two teams that have won in ACC play after Notre Dame beat Florida State 83-63 on Saturday. The Fighting Irish are currently ranked in the top 25, but have only played two top 50 teams in UMass and Michigan State. They are beatable, but it won't be easy. A Purdue victory over them on a neutral floor in Indianapolis would pay huge dividends.

Gardner-Webb - 6-4, 0-0 Big South, RPI: 31, KenPom: 187 - That is not a typo. Currently, Gardner-Webb has the best PRI of any non-conference team Purdue will play. They beat Furman 74-68 on Saturday and should get another win tonight when they play Jacksonville. I have no idea why their RPI is so high, but we'll take the gift if we can win on Tuesday night.