Are things really that bad?
Purdue is 17-4. It has lost twice to a team currently in the top 10 and is one of the hottest teams in America. Both times it led that team at halftime only to be undone by a bad second half. The first time was much more disastrous than the second (because blowing a 17 point halftime lead at home is bad against anyone), but still, it is clear Iowa is a very good team and in the driver's seat to win the Big Ten.
The other two losses are to a good, but not great Butler team and an Illinois team that is bad, but played out of its mind for 40 minutes. The Boilers still have some good wins, but we know who they are. The shooters are streaky. The frontcourt is still strong, but unless Vince Edwards and Rapheal Davis are able to attack the basket Purdue cannot beat great teams. The talent is there to do some special things and really beat anyone, but the limitations are clear. Purdue is only going to go as far as Edwards and Davis can take it. It is capable of winning every remaining game on the schedule. I even believe it could still win a third matchup with Iowa in the Big Ten Tournament.
Purdue will likely be favored in at least 8 of the remaining 10 games. Only at Maryland and at Indiana do I expect to be an underdog. We are going to the NCAA Tournament and can still get a decent seed in the 3-5 range. We know what this team is and what it isn't. We know what needs to happen in order to win (attack the basket, at least hit some perimeter shots, don't turn the ball over). It is simply a matter of having that all come together for a few games in March. Purdue will probably be able to win its first game simply by being the better team against a 12-14 seed. Beyond that, it needs to put it together for three straight games against very good teams to get to Houston.
Yes, it absolutely can happen. It won't be as easy as we once thought, however.
RPI: 25 (Up from 30 last week)
KenPom: 9 (Up from 12 last week)
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 103, KenPom 118)
North Carolina A&T (RPI: 333, KenPom: 327) - 5-15, 2-4 MEAC - The Aggies had a game at Coppin State postponed due to the massive East Coast snowstorm on Saturday. Their only other game was a 75-68 home loss to Norfolk State.
Vermont (RPI: 164, KenPom: 197) - 12-9, 4-2 America East - Vermont was moving up in America East play, but lost on Monday to UMass-Lowell 93-82 at home. They did recover to win their next two games 61-52 over Binghamton and 79-72 over Maryland-Baltimore County. At 4-2 they are tied with Albany and New Hampshire for second place behind Stony Brook, who is 6-0.
Incarnate Word (RPI: 212, KenPom: 191) 9-7, 4-1 Southland - Incarnate Word had only one game this past week. Their 74-60 win means they have now won four in a row and they are doing pretty well in the Southland Conference.
Old Dominion (RPI: 195, KenPom: 139) - 10-10, 3-4 Conference USA - There was once a time that it was though ODU would be a good win. Not anymore. The Monarchs split their two games last week, beating Western Kentucky 68-62 but losing to Marshall 78-75. Because Conference USA sucks they don't face a single team in the top 140 the rest of the way.
Florida (RPI: 18, KenPom: 27) - 13-6, 5-2 SEC - Beating the gators, however, is still a good win. This week they beat Mississippi State 81-78 and thrashed Auburn 95-63 to move into a second place tie in the SEC with Kentucky. Tomorrow night is RPI inception as the Gators go to Vanderbilt in a game the Commodores need more.
Lehigh (RPI: 261, KenPom: 242) - 5-13, 3-4 Patriot League - Lehigh also had a game postponed due to the snowstorm this week, as their Saturday game at Lafayette was called off. Earlier in the week they fell to Patriot League leader Navy 69-64.
Pittsburgh (RPI: 33, KenPom: 47) - 16-3, 5-2 ACC - the Panthers had a rough week with a home loss by 17 to NC State 78-61. They recovered to get a nice road win over Florida State 74-72 on Saturday. This week they go to Clemson and host Virginia Tech.
New Mexico (RPI: 140, KenPom: 106) - 11-8, 4-2 Mountain West - The Lobos had only one game this week and beat an awful san Jose State team 83-64 on the road. They are currently third in the Mountain West behind Boise State and San Diego State with a game against each coming up.
IUPUI (RPI: 161, KenPom 188) - 9-13, 5-2 Summit League - IUPUI had only one game this week, but it was a big one as they beat IPFW, a top 80 RPI team, 84-82 in Fort Wayne. They are now tied with IPFW and South Dakota State a game behind Nebraska-Omaha for the conference lead.
Howard (RPI: 276, KenPom: 267) - 8-10, 2-1 MEAC - Howard did not play this week, as they had a 10 day break from their game with Harvard on January 16th until tomorrow against Bethune-Cookman.
Youngstown State (RPI: 236, KenPom: 259) - 8-13 3-5 Horizon League - The Penguins got thumped by Valparaiso 96-65 on Monday but came back on Sunday to beat Cleveland State 70-55 at home. Surprisingly, they play Valparaiso again this coming week, so a second top 30 RPI game helps them a little.
Butler (RPI: 48, KenPom: 39) - 13-6, 2-5 Big East - If Butler would like to get it together in the Big East it would be nice. They lost at Providence 71-68 at the very end then fell 72-64 at Creighton to fall to 2-5 in conference play. The gift that keeps on giving, DePaul, comes to Hinkle this week.
Vanderbilt (RPI: 62, KenPom: 32) - 11-8, 3-4 SEC - Vanderbilt also needs to get it together. After beating Tennessee 88-74 for a third straight win they fell at Kentucky 76-57. Vandy is currently 0-6 against the top 50 in the RPI, but their next three games are against Florida (No. 22), Texas (No. 19) and Texas A&M (No. 9)
Possible NCAA at large teams: Vanderbilt, Florida, Pittsburgh, Butler
Possible auto-bid winners: New Mexico, IUPUI, Vermont