Purdue's non-conference profile is complete. Aside from a 6-point loss on a neutral floor to a team currently in the top 15 nationally Purdue could not have had a better beginning to the year. It enters the Big Ten season as one of the favorites to win the conference title and would need to suffer a total collapse to miss the NCAA Tournament. That is a huge contrast to last year, when Purdue limped into the conference season at 8-5 with multiple bad losses.
The thing is, there is always a chance to turn things around. In the 2013-14 it was Nebraska that made a stunning run through the Big ten to steal an at large bid. Last year it was Purdue. This year it could well be Ohio State, who turned things around with a huge upset of Kentucky, but has a lot of work to do with losses to Texas-Arlington and Louisiana Tech. Don't count out Illinois either, who has had a lot of close games, but they are still finding ways to win them.
RPI top 50 wins: Florida (neutral floor), at Pittsburgh, Vanderbilt
KenPom top 50 wins: Florida (neutral floor), at Pittsburgh, Vanderbilt
North Carolina A&T (RPI: 273, KenPom: 300) - 5-9, 2-0 MEAC - The Aggies, like many teams here over Christmas, played only once, but it was a 95-62 blowout loss at Toledo.
Vermont (RPI: 171, KenPom: 161) - 6-7, 0-0 America East - Vermont had a chance for a nice little win last Tuesday, but fell 77-65 at Northeastern. Northeastern is the only team to beat Miami, which is the only team that beat Butler, which is the only team that beat Purdue.
Incarnate Word (RPI: 92, KenPom: 170) - 3-5, 0-0 Southland - Incarnate Word fell back out of the top 50 in the RPI and will likely stay there. They lost 66-59 at Long Island a few days after beating St. John's.
Old Dominion (RPI: 179, KenPom: 88) - 6-6, 0-0 Conference USA - Old Dominion's lone game this past week was a 71-65 win over old Atlantic-10 foe Rhode Island. They play Norfolk State before conference play begins on Saturday.
Florida (RPI: 11, KenPom: 22) - 8-3, 0-0 SEC - Florida had an 89-65 win over a lousy Jacksonville team that is in the 300s in terms of RPI. Tomorrow night they host Florida State as they look for one last good non-conference win.
Lehigh (RPI: 320, KenPom: 249) - 2-9, 0-0 Patriot League - I hope I am right that this team turns it on in the Patriot League, because they have been awful in the non-conference. They lost to Stony Brook 72-65 on Tuesday and start league play with a Wednesday game against Army.
Pittsburgh (RPI: 17, KenPom: 28) - 10-1, 0-0 ACC - Will the Panthers crack the top 25 this week? A true road win over a top 30 team by every major metric is gold right now. They beat Western Carolina 79-73 in a close game on Wednesday, but open ACC play this week by hosting Syracuse. They might break in to the AP and coaches polls later today.
New Mexico (RPI: 147, KenPom: 122) - 7-6, 0-0 Mountain West - The Lobos were one of the few teams that had multiple games this past week and it did not go well. They went out to Hawaii for the Diamondhead Classic and lost all three games when they had a chance to greatly improve their profile. It started with a close loss to Auburn 83-78 when Auburn was a top 30 RPI team. The last two games were ugly losses to BYU (96-66) and Washington State (82-59), causing them to plummet out of at large consideration. They still have a nice win over Northern Iowa, but the Lobos have now lost four straight and the trip to Honolulu was a disaster.
IUPUI (RPI: 240, KenPom 264) - 4-10, 0-0 Summit League - The Hoosiermakers played only once this week and it was an 84-48 loss at Memphis. Tonight they travel across town to Hinkle Fieldhouse to play Butler.
Howard (RPI: 247, KenPom: 256) - 7-6, 1-1 MEAC - Howard's only game was a 72-52 loss at Central Michigan, but this week they have just about the farthest road trip possible. They go to Columbia tonight before playing at Hawaii on Saturday.
Youngstown State (RPI: 259, KenPom: 247) - 5-8, 0-0 Horizon League - On Monday the Penguins went to South Bend and actually challenged Notre Dame before losing 87-78. They are off until Saturday when they begin league play at Detroit.
Butler (RPI: 23, KenPom: 20) - 10-1, 0-0 Big East - Butler dodged a bad loss by beating Southern Utah 88-52 on Monday. The Thunderbirds stayed in town with the IUPUI-Butler double from Saturday to Monday, and I even saw their team at Buffalo Wild Wings on Sunday between games. The final game of that round-robin is tonight when IUPUI goes to Hinkle.
Vanderbilt (RPI: 48, KenPom: 18) - 7-4, 0-0 SEC - The Commodores were unable to win at Purdue, but creeped into the top 50 of the RPI. Overall their profile is a little lacking with an 0-3 mark against top 50 teams, but they are a solid team that should do well enough in the SEC to get into the NCAA Tournament. They host Western Michigan and LSU this week. They also still have a road game at Texas.