Purdue has its first bad loss of the year. Yesterday's debacle in Champaign was a perfect storm of sorts. Purdue played very flat, uninspired basketball in the second half, but a ton of credit must be given to Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill, who both played out of their minds. Of Purdue's three losses, This is probably the game where the Boilers least beat themselves. Against Iowa and Butler there were very long scoreless stretches and in the second half of both Purdue was generally awful. There was no lengthy scoreless stretch against the Illini. Purdue flat out got beat. If the Purdue defense is playing well 70 points is normally more than enough to win. Instead, the boilers had no answer for Hill and Nunn, then turned the ball over a bunch.
There is a decent chance Purdue will drop out of the top 25 later today. The Boilers are still a good team and have a very long way to go to miss the NCAA Tournament. Purdue could even still challenge for the Big Ten if it fixes its turnover issues, tightens up its defense, and plays to its potential. The good news is that there is not one dominant team in the Big Ten or nationally this year. It could be a very fun March because there is no clear favorite. With 14 games left I have no doubt in my mind the boilers have the ability to roll 13-1 and still win the league, but I also have no doubts they could struggle to something like an 11-7 finish.
So yes, yesterday was terribly disappointing. Purdue was a 10 point road favorite in Big Ten play and lost by 14. That's a wide swing. Recent games have shown a ton of issues, namely:
1. Purdue cannot have Rapheal Davis be a ghost offensively. He has 6 total points in the three losses. As one of Purdue's few slashing threats we need him to be involved.
2. Turnovers, particularly in the paint, are killing this team. It is probably time to bench Caleb Swanigan and have him be an energy guy coming in later.
3. Vince Edwards and Isaac Haas need to be more aggressive. Haas is bigger than everyone out on the floor and needs to play like it. No more of this fade away crap. Good things happen when Vince attacks the basket. In fact, it opens up his long range shooting, too.
4. The perimeter defense has regressed and Purdue needs to get it back on track.
These things can all be fixed. Purdue can still contend for and win a Big Ten title if it fixes them. Yes, these two losses in conference play have stung, but Iowa is a very good team and Illinois played a fantastic game on both ends. The Illini probably aren't going to the tourney, but they are going to be a pain in the ass for some other teams.
In 2009-10 Purdue was 2-3 in the Big Ten and still won the league in a similar year where there was no clear favorite. This included a WATFO loss at Northwestern and a second half home collapse against Ohio State. The overall profile, as we will see, is still good, but it is beyond time to fix the lingering issues that are plaguing this team. Fortunately, we get Penn State and Rutgers next.
As I often say, you can either piss and moan about this loss or go out and do something about it.
RPI: 29 (Even from last week)
KenPom: 13 (Down six spots)
RPI top 50 wins: Florida (neutral floor), at Pittsburgh, Michigan
KenPom top 50 wins: Florida (neutral floor), at Pittsburgh, Vanderbilt, Michigan,
Bad losses: at Illinois (RPI 102, Kenpom 97)
North Carolina A&T (RPI: 314, KenPom: 313) - 5-12, 2-1 MEAC - The Aggies fell into the 300s this week after a non-conference loss to South Carolina Upstate and a conference loss to Savannah State. They have now lost four in a row, but get conference leader Hampton this week.
Vermont (RPI: 134, KenPom: 148) - 9-8, 1-1 America East - Vermont started America east play this week with a 90-72 win over Maine. They then lost at home to Albany, who is one of the league favorites with an RPI of 94. Albany won 69-57, and since the win came at Vermont that will make a conference title difficult.
Incarnate Word (RPI: 211, KenPom: 180) 6-7, 1-1 Southland - It is not a surprise that Incarnate Word, once a top 50 win, has plummeted in the computer rankings. They beat last place Northwestern State 70-56 this week in their only game, but you don't go up much by beating the No. 331 team.
Old Dominion (RPI: 154, KenPom: 104) - 9-7, 2-1 Conference USA - It looked like ODU was going to start coming on. They won at Louisiana Tech 56-53 to move to 2-0 in Conference USA play, but then dropped a bad game 73-71 at Southern Miss. That broke a five game winning streak that included a win over No. 97 Rhode Island. Out best hope for them now is that they climb in to the top 100.
Florida (RPI: 27, KenPom: 30) - 10-5, 2-1 SEC - The computers continue to love the Gators, but they dropped a midweek game at Tennessee 83-69. They responded on Saturday by beating LSU 68-62, dampening the gigantic erection that ESPN has for Ben Simmons. Tomorrow they can help us a ton if they can win at Texas A&M.
Lehigh (RPI: 297, KenPom: 249) - 4-11, 2-2 Patriot League - Lehigh earned a split this week in the pretty awful Patriot League. They lost at Loyola-Maryland 51-50 but recovered to beat American 65-50. Those teams are combined 6-4 and the Patriot League's "best" team in the RPI is Navy at 151.
Pittsburgh (RPI: 20, KenPom: 27) - 14-1, 3-0 ACC - Purdue's profile is getting a gigantic boost from beating the Panthers, who continue to roll. This week they beat No. 40 Georgia tech and won on the road at Notre Dame on Saturday. If they win at Louisville on Thursday they could legitimately contend for the ACC crown, but they still have insanely tough road games at Miami, North Carolina, and host Duke.
New Mexico (RPI: 116, KenPom: 94) - 10-6, 3-0 Mountain West - The Lobos have righted things after their bad trip to Hawaii. They had just one game this past week, but it was a 77-59 win to move to 3-0 in Mountain West play. Their next four games are against sub-150 teams, so they could go on a very nice run and get into the top 100 of the RPI.
IUPUI (RPI: 163, KenPom 191) - 7-12, 3-1 Summit League - A pair of wins this week gives the Jaguars a huge jump in botht he RPI and KenPom. They beat a pretty good South Dakota State team (RPI 54) at home 74-67 before winning at Western Illinois 67-60 (that's the same Western Illinois that won at Wisconsin. They trail Nebraska-Omaha and IPFW in the Summit League standings.
Howard (RPI: 265, KenPom: 262) - 8-9, 2-1 MEAC - The Bison had a split this past week, losing at home to Cornell 84-81 before beating Coppin State 72-63 for a conference win. Tonight they play one of the worst Division I teams in winless Delaware State,
Youngstown State (RPI: 215, KenPom: 224) - 7-10, 2-2 Horizon League - The Penguins had a busy week with a Monday-Thursday-Saturday slate in Horizon League play. They got a really nice 100-98 win at Oakland (and Oakland very nearly beat Michigan State) before losing 81-65 to Milwaukee. On Saturday they beat Green Bay 103-93. Valparaiso is the runaway favorite int his conference and could even be an at large team.
Butler (RPI: 41, KenPom: 34) - 12-4, 1-3 Big East - Butler is never going to be a bad loss, but they have not done well to start Big East play. They struggled to beat DePaul 77-72 before losing to Villanova last night. Their last two losses were to the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the RPI, and the other two were to No. 15 and No. 23.
Vanderbilt (RPI: 70, KenPom: 28) - 8-7, 0-3 SEC - At some point it would be advisable for Vanderbilt to win some games. They lost 90-85 at Arkansas and 69-65 at undefeated South Carolina this week to drop to 0-3 in the SEC. This week Auburn and Alabama come to Nashville. It does not help that the Commodores are 0-5 against the top 50 RPI teams.