Last night was devastating for Purdue's NCAA Tournament hopes. While I don't think the NIT will be a struggle, making the NCAA Tournament will now be exceedingly difficult after letting a game get away that probably should have been a win. Purdue must now go 9-3 in the final 12 games to have a chance. So how does that happen?
- Beat Rutgers twice, Nebraska, and Northwestern - This doesn't change anything, as Purdue wasn't going if it did not win these four games anyway.
- Hold serve at home and beat Iowa, Indiana, Ohio State, and Illinois - Purdue has six home games left starting Saturday against Iowa. It has to win those six. After already dropping home games to Gardner Webb and North Florida there is no margin for error. If Purdue does these two points and only these points it gets eight of those nine wins.
- Steal a road win at Indiana, Minnesota, Michigan State, or Ohio State - Of these, Minnesota is the most likely candidate. We have already beaten them once and they are a snakebitten team. Given their Big Ten record it would also avoid another "bad loss", though there are few bad losses in Big Ten play in reality. Michigan State would be the next most likely because of the way they miss free throws, but it is never easy to win in East Lansing. Beating Indiana would be the most satisfying, but also the least likely given the Hall of Calls.
When you look at it that way, Purdue can get close, at least. It is not a stretch to ask us to win our six remaining home games and win at Rutgers, Northwestern, and Minnesota, but it goes back to consistency. There is none from this team. Yes, a healthy Kendall Stephens makes a difference last night, but the terribly frustrating thing is that it should never have been that way. The 12-2 run at the end of the first half was a huge difference-maker, and Purdue was flat out-played in the last five minutes when it could not get a stop after getting plenty for 35 minutes.
If you look at the 12-6 goal as needing to go 2-1 in six three-game series (like baseball) Purdue has gone 2-1 and 1-2. With four "series" left you only need one sweep to erase the 1-2 and go 2-1 in the remaining three. The goal of the NCAA Tournament is not dead, but it is a longshot. There is a ton of work to do to get there and you can probably label the majority of the remaining games as "Must-win". All the Boilers can do is play them one at a time and see what happens. Most likely, Purdue wins 5-7 more and plays in the NIT, where they can get some more experience. The thing is that I don't know how much experience will help. We're basically asking to run this entire team back (minus Octeus) next year.
I will have more on that outlook later when I can do a full season recap and look to next year with coach Painter (and deal with it, he will be back next season). If Purdue does miss the tournament it will only be the second time since the tournament expanded to 64 teams that it has gone on a three-year gap.
So, before looking at our non-conference opponents one more time, I should say that last night sucked. We let one get away. Fortunately, the rest of the Big Ten has enough flaws that we still have a chance if we can put in the work. This team has fought before and there is a precedent for a run even this late. Last season Nebraska was 1-5 in the Big Ten after six games and was 9-9 overall. They had losses to Penn State, Purdue, and UAB. Instead of quitting they finished on a 10-2 run and took an NCAA bid by force.
It can be done. We just have to go do it.
Purdue RPI: 110 (Up from 130, was as high as 98 earlier this week)
Purdue KenPom: 78 (Up one from 79)
Best wins: BYU (RPI 50, KenPom 36), NC State (RPI 37, KenPom 42)
Bad Losses: North Florida (RPI 200, KenPom 150), Gardner-Webb (RPI 101, KenPom 172)
Samford - 7-18, 0-8 SoCon, RPI: 318, KenPom: 304 - Samford is now 0-8 in the Southern Conference and has lost six in a row overall. They lost a tight game to Chattanooga 82-76, but for the most part they have been pretty awful in their league. Tonight they play 3-13 UNC-Greensboro, which might be their last shot at a win.
IUPUI - 7-12, 3-2 Summit, RPI: 216, KenPom: 261 - IUPUI split their last two games, losing to South Dakota State 68-53 before beating Nebraska-Omaha 89-84. Tonight they host new league favorite North Dakota State, who only has a single loss in Summit League play.
Grambling State - 2-14, 0-6 MEAC, RPI: 345, KenPom 350 - Another week and the Tigers lose two more games, falling 60-51 to Texas Southern and 74-60 to Prairie View A&M. The good news is that their KenPom numbers finally improved enough to move out of dead last place. Winless Florida A&M is now the worst team in America, and Grambling has designs on winless Central Arkansas for No. 349
Kansas State - 11-8, 4-2 Big 12, RPI: 92, KenPom: 84 - Kansas State continues to play well and they are now a top 100 team, making us look a little better. They grabbed nice wins over Texas Tech (58-51) and Baylor (63-61) before losing Tuesday night 77-71 to Iowa State.
Missouri - 7-11, 1-4 SEC, RPI: 154, KenPom: 166 - Missouri has done nothing to help us, including blowing a second half lead last night against Texas A&M before losing 62-50. That followed a 59-51 loss to Tennessee, making the Tigers 1-4 in the SEC. They host Arkansas and Kentucky next.
BYU - 15-6, 5-3 WCC, RPI: 50, KenPom: 36 - The dangerous part for BYU is that they are not doing well in the WCC. They have already dropped both games against Gonzaga and St. Mary's, the latest an 82-77 loss at St. Mary's. with a loss to Pepperdine they are third in the pecking order in their league that may not get three bids.
North Carolina State - 13-6, 4-2 ACC, RPI: 37, KenPom: 42 - The win over Duke is still impressive, but NC State just missed another good win with an 81-79 loss to North Carolina at home last week. They did beat Florida State 72-63 over the weekend, however. Tonight they go to Miami for what could be a Bubble elimination game in the ACC.
North Florida - 11-9, 3-0 Atlantic Sun, RPI: 200, KenPom: 150 - North Florida is at least doing its part in the Atlantic Sun. They are 3-0 and leading the league with a win over favorite Florida Gulf Coast. They beat Stetson 80-65 over the weekend and will play at Northern Kentucky tonight.
IPFW - 8-11, 1-5 Summit, RPI: 299, KenPom: 273 - Well, so much for the Mastodons being the favorite in the Summit League. They lost this last week to Oral Roberts and South Dakota State and are in last place at 1-5.
Arkansas State - 8-9, 3-5 Sun Belt, RPI: 265, KenPom: 249 - The Red Wolves are the big mover this week, jumping as much as 40 places. They beat Appalachian State (and Jacob Lawson) 59-50 and followed that with a 78-73 win over Texas State. Their loss wasn't bad, as it was 60-54 to league favorite Georgia State.
Vanderbilt - 11-7, 1-4 SEC, RPI: 102, KenPom: 60 - The Commodores have now lost four in a row after a 1-0 start in SEC play. They pushed Kentucky earlier this week before losing 65-57. That came after a bad loss at Mississippi State 57-54 over the weekend and a 70-67 loss to Georgia.
Notre Dame - 17-2, 5-1 ACC, RPI: 39, KenPom: 16 - The Fighting Irish are a game out of first place in the ACC and are generally taking care of business. They beat Georgia Tech 62-59 on the road last week and held off Miami 75-70 over the weekend. Tonight they play at Virginia Tech in what should be a laugher.
Gardner-Webb -12-7, 4-2 Big South, RPI: 101, KenPom: 172 - In a battle between teams that will fight for the Big South title Gardner-Webb lost at home to High Point 84-72. They went on the road and followed that with an 82-67 win over Coastal Carolina. A few more wins will get GW into the top 100, moving them off the "bad loss" list in the eyes of the committee, which will help. They still need to win their conference tourney, but they are doing well in the Big South.