As if we did not have enough scoreboard watching to do, there is another factor I have not talked about much before now: Mid-Majors. There are usually a handful that get into the NCAA Tounament with at large bids, and it often depends on what happens during Championship week. We're about three weeks from getting really tense in that department, and as a Bubble team, Purdue has reason to be concerned.
You see, Purdue is on the fringe right now at best and even if it gets to 20 wins, it would still likely be one of the last handful of teams to make the field. What can really mess with things is if things go really crazy in the smaller conferences that normally have one bid, but could get two if there is an upset in their conference tournaments.
Here are some teams we should keep an eye on as ones that we want to win their league tournament so they don't potentially steal an at large:
Eastern Washington (19-6, 10-2 Big Sky) - Yes, the same Eastern Washington that we thought was an embarrassing loss for IU back in November. It turns out that they are a pretty damn good team in their own right. The win at Indiana looks really good right now and it is helping them have an RPI of 54, so if they were upset in the Big Sky Tourney final they might get one of those First Four spots in Dayton anyway. They lost by two at home to Portland State on Saturday and have a loss at conference co-leader Sacramento State. At the time of the games they had losses to ranked Washington and SMU, but Washington has fallen off. If they go undefeated the rest of the way and lose to Sacramento State in their league tournament final they might have a chance.
Green Bay (10-6, 9-3 Horizon) - On Friday night the Phoenix lost at Valparaiso to fall a game behind the Crusaders for the Horizon League lead. Both teams, however, might be good enough to get in. Right now Green Bay has the better resume with an RPI of 49 and a nice non-conference win at Miami, but Valpo is up to 61 in the PRI and have an impressive 23-4 overall record. Their losses are to New Mexico, Missouri, Green Bay, and Cleveland State. If these two meet in the final it is possible BOTH could get in.
Harvard (17-5, 7-1) - Could the Ivy League get two teams in? Harvard and Yale are both tied for the conference leadand Harvard's RPI of 53 combined with some recent success might get them a look if they lose the March 6 game at Yale and the Ivy title. What hurts them is an early 1 point loss to Holy Cross and an ugly 9-point home loss to Dartmouth, which is the only league win for Dartmouth. They also lost in OT at Boston College. Yale's own RPI is at 64 and they have a win over Connecticut.
Iona (20-6, 13-2 MAAC) - Iona has been here before, snagging a First Four spot as an at large in 2012 and helping us when we had beaten them in Puerto Rico that year. They have a top 60 RPI (59) and a win over Wake Forest. If they run the table to their final and lose they are going to be right there with 27 total wins.
Missouri Valley Conference - We have seen it happen before as Arch Madness in St. Louis can easily produce a surprise winner. Both Wichita State and Northern Iowa are stone cold locks to make the tourney and might even both get a top 4 seed. We had better hope that one of them wins the MVC Tournament, too. If someone like Evansville gets hot for three days and wins it to steal the auto-bid there will be one team pushed out because there is no way that UNI and Wichita State are both staying home. In fact, the Valley might be the most likely place for a stolen bid because Northern Iowa and Wichita State are so good. Evansville has already beaten UNI though.
Murray State (23-4, 13-0 Ohio Valley) - The RPI is currently below Purdue, but the Racers are one of a handful of teams undefeated in their conference. They went 4-0 against Missouri Valley teams and haven't lost since November 29 to Valparaiso. They also could have 28 wins overall if they reach their final and lose. Do you punish them for going 16-0, winning their conference, and then having one stumble?
Wofford (21-6, 12-2 Southern) - Wofford is a damn good basketballteam. They are No. 50 in the RPI, have a win at North Carolina State, have beaten Iona, and have generally played well all year. They are the lone SoCon team anywhere close to having a viable at large profile and, in my mind, are far more viable than some 7th place team in a major conference.
Southland Conference - It is highly unlikely this conference will get two bids with leaders Sam Houston State (104) and Stephen F. Austin (84) not having the RPI numbers, but both teams are already at 20 wins and on pace to easily reach 25. Both could have 28-29 wins if they meet each other in their league final and it would be a blood feud. For the record, Sam Houston has won the only regular season meeting so far, but they play against March 7. Sam Houston has also beaten Eastern Washington and had close losses to Wofford, Texas A&M, and LSU.
Gonzaga (26-1, 14-0 WCC) - This is another conference that often gets multiple bids, but it is no guarantee if Gonzaga takes the auto bid. St. Mary's and BYU are right there for an at large, but are probably outside looking in right now. Gonzaga is definitely a lock though and might even be a No. 1 seed. If they lose the conference tourney this is definitely a two-bid league.