There will be no Whistlestop Tour today, as I think we have all heard enough about football, including how much better everyone else is in the Big Ten. Purdue finishes the year dead last in the conference for the third straight season. We all know the only win came about because of Ryker Fyfe's meltdown. Aside from coaching search stuff, we're done.
Fortunately, we have basketball now as our saving grace. While we shouldn't have to track the non-conference opponents in the hope of gaining precious strength from them to simply reach the NCAA Tournament, we can still track all 13 opponents to see how they can raise our profile to a higher seed. On paper, Purdue should finish the non-conference season with at least a 10-3 record. There is no guarantee of that, however. The strongest opponents in Vanderbilt and Butler are still to come.
The boilers do have an early season tournament championship already locked, and wins over Lehigh and Vermont could get stronger over time if they compete for the conference titles as expected. With that in mind, here is how the very early NCAA profile looks:
RPI top 50 wins: Florida (neutral floor)
KenPom top 50 wins: Florida (neutral floor)
North Carolina A&T (RPI: 274, KenPom: 317) - 0-7, 0-0 MEAC - Don't expect anything here unless they win their conference tournament. Even that is unlikely, as they have a non-Division I loss to Roanoke 94-87. A&T lost by 50 to Florida, 30 to Virginia Tech, and 21 to North Dakota State.
Vermont (RPI: 200, KenPom: 128) - 3-4, 0-0 America East - Don't expect a ton out of the Catamounts this year, but they should be competitive for the America East title. They challenged Florida in a 16 point loss and have wins over Quinnipiac, Niagara, and Marist. A December 22nd game at Northeastern carries some heft after Northeastern stunned Miami this past weekend.
Incarnate Word (RPI: 63, KenPom: 251) - 2-2, 0-0 Southland - So far the RPI loves Incarnate Word, but that is because they have only played (and lost) two Division I games against Purdue and Oklahoma. They lost those by 35 and 33 points, respectively. They have two more non-DI games coming up and only Texas A&M Corpus Christi as a top 100 opponent left.
Old Dominion (RPI: 149, KenPom: 98) - 3-3, 0-0 Conference USA - The Monarchs started well with wins over Niagara, Buffalo, and Morgan State, but have since lost three in a row. St. Joseph's beat them 66-64 in the third place game and old Colonial rivals VCU beat them 76-67 on Saturday. Tomorrow night a game at William & Mary is almost a must-win with Bill & Mary being a possible NCAA team.
Florida (RPI: 28, KenPom: 30) - 5-1, 0-0 SEC - This is currently Purdue's best win and it will only get better as long as Florida is an NCAA team. They have some excellent non-conference games lined up at Miami, at Michigan State, against Oklahoma State in the Orange Bowl Classic, and at home against Florida State. Even tomorrow's game against Richmond is a good one. As long as they keep winning they will be a major chip in our favor.
Lehigh (RPI: 278, KenPom: 196) - 0-6, 0-0 Patriot League - this is a win that will get better, but will only carry weight if Lehigh wins the Patriot league as expected. They have decent losses to Purdue, Syracuse, and Virginia, but a 17 point loss to Columbia is not good. Their best remaining game in terms of RPI is Boston University.
Pittsburgh (RPI: 51, KenPom: 32) - 4-0, 0-0 ACC - The Panthers give us a shot at notching a true road win over a top 50 team. So far they have a non-DI win over St. Joseph's College as well as wins over Detroit, Cornell, and Kent State. We are, by far, their toughest opponent to date. Their ACC schedule will keep them plenty strong if we can win tomorrow night. What stings is that their Armed Forces Classic game with Gonzaga was cancelled with them leading at halftime, so it counts as nothing.
New Mexico (RPI: 73, KenPom: 74) - 4-1, 0-0 Mountain West - Playing the Lobos is not a bad thing. They are a decent mid-major and they have some chances at good wins over Christmas when they play in the Diamond Head Classic. They also host Northern Iowa a week after playing at Purdue, and Northern Iowa did take down North Carolina. So far the one loss is to USC.
IUPUI (RPI: 324, KenPom 292) - 2-5, 0-0 Summit League - After opening the season with a 72-70 win over Indiana State the Hoosiermakers have lost five straight Division I games. They beat Division II power Kentucky State, but have had some close losses to Georgia State, Marquette, and Kennesaw State.
Howard (RPI: 123, KenPom: 244) - 4-2, 0-0 MEAC - The Bison lost to UMass and Rutgers to start the year, but have won three in a row including a very nice win over No. 65 William & Mary. On Saturday they kick off conference play by going to North Carolina A&T. They also have a very long road trip to Hawaii coming up later.
Youngstown State (RPI: 276, KenPom: 259) - 3-4, 0-0 Horizon League - The Penguins only have Division I wins over Niagara and North Dakota. They have consecutive games against Michigan and Notre Dame that will raise their profiles, but their best remaining game is a conference home and home against a very good Valparaiso team.
Butler (RPI: 93, KenPom: 34) - 4-1, 0-0 Big East - The top game in the Crossroads Classic looks to be Purdue-Butler. The Bulldogs were the runner-up in the Puerto Rico Shootout, losing to Miami in the final, but they are notable for dropping 144 in their season opener against the Citadel. Wednesday night they have a tricky non-conference game at Cincinnati.
Vanderbilt (RPI: 49, KenPom: 13) - 5-1, 0-0 SEC - Vandy had a great trip to Maui with wins over St. John's and wake Forest before losing to Kansas by 7 in the Final. The other wins were over Austin peay, Gardner-Webb, and Stony Brook. Non-conference games at Baylor and home against Dayton highlight a solid non-league slate. They also get Florida twice in SEC play along with Kentucky.