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Why Beating Rutgers Matters

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Thursday's game might seem like a blowoff but Purdue can't afford to lose.

Even Rutgers coach can't watch his team.
Even Rutgers coach can't watch his team.
Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

North Florida (191). Gardner-Webb (171). Kansas State (105). Vanderbilt (133). Purdue wears these four losses like a noose around their neck this time of the year. When it comes to if a team makes it into the NCAA Tournament bad losses count just as much as good wins. I know that all of these losses happened in 2014. I know that Purdue has currently won eight of their last ten games. I also know that the selection committee doesn't always see these things. What they do see are the numbers: 191, 171, 105, and 133. The RPI numbers (from Real Time RPI) of these losses drag Purdue down. It's why despite being 10-4 in the conference Purdue's own RPI is just 61. It's also why nearly every Bracketologist has Purdue just barely in the Big Dance. There's one more number I want to throw out. 156. That is Rutgers current RPI and it's why Purdue can't lose to them tomorrow.

With four games left in the season Purdue can't afford another bad loss. This Rutgers game Thursday would certainly count as a bad loss. It won't help in any way, but it could certainly hurt. The only good that can come out of Thursday is Purdue not shooting itself in the foot. It also gives Purdue a chance to show how they've matured as a team. Those early losses were brutal. Purdue looked disjointed on both sides of the floor. This current Purdue team has looked much better since the turn of the new year. There are of course exceptions, the second half of Minnesota for one, but all in all Purdue is a different team. Thursday gives them the chance to make that abundantly clear. Now is not the time to step on the brake. Now is the time to step on the gas. Now is the time to show the committee and the media that Purdue is a different team. Purdue can handle the easy games. Purdue can defeat the opponents they are supposed to defeat. A game like this is only a trap because it offers Purdue nothing good even with a victory. Admiral Ackbar knows what this game is and I hope Coach Painter and the team do as well.

When Rutgers comes to Mackey Arena Thursday Purdue will be facing a team that is far inferior to them. This Rutgers team struggles to defend, struggles to score, hell, they struggle to make layups. Quick sidenote on that video the guy writes Purdue as Perdue. I can't tell if he's trying to be a jerk or if he seriously doesn't know any better. I digress. There's absolutely no reason for Purdue to lose Thursday. That being said stranger things have happened. I will never understand how this Rutgers team defeated Wisconsin. It boggles the mind. Purdue can't make that mistake. Purdue's NCAA Tournament chances balance on the edge of a knife. Thursday they get the chance to make that knife just a little broader. It's a layup for Purdue, but if Rutgers has taught us anything it's that a layup isn't a gimme.

Correction- The game was originally listed as tomorrow. It is actually Thursday.