We’re about a month into the season and that means we’re starting to see who the good teams are and who the bad teams are. Purdue has now played nine of its 13 non-conference games too and we’re getting a clear hierarchy of which games will help us and which will not. So far it looks like they break down as follows:
Quality Losses/Missed opportunities:
Villanova, Louisville – These losses do not hurt the Boilers in anyway, but if Purdue had been able to grab even one of them it likely raises us a seed line or two in March.
Auburn, Arizona State – These teams may or may not make the NCAA Tournament, but since they play in a major conference they will have relatively high RPI and KenPom numbers as long as they stay competitive and don’t fall into a Rutgers-like funk. Auburn looks much stronger right now than Arizona State.
Strong mid-major wins:
Georgia State, Utah State – The Panthers are currently 4-3, but they pushed Purdue pretty hard and have a strong RPI of 39. They can win the Sun Belt and give Purdue a boost by being an NCAA team. Utah State is at 200 in the RPI after losing four in a row, but they should be a decent Mountain West team in the end and may challenge for the autobid.
Notre Dame – Purdue needs to beat the Fighting Irish in Indianapolis. They are undefeated, ranked, and if Purdue does not win it will likely go 10-0 against the easier teams on its non-conference slate, but 0-3 against the real teams, thus raising a lot of questions.
McNeese State, NJIT, Morehead State, Cleveland State, Western Illinois, Norfolk State – These teams are not going anywhere unless they win their respective conference tournaments, and even that seems unlikely. Three of them are currently winless vs. Division I competition.
Purdue Boilermakers Profile:
Top 50 RPI wins: Georgia State, Auburn (neutral floor)
Top 50 KenPom wins: None
Bad Losses: None
McNeese State (2-5, 0-0 Southland) – RPI: 281, KenPom: 327 – McNeese State has only played four Division I opponents and has lost all four games by at least 12 points. It gave up 100+ to Purdue and Memphis. It even has a 10 point loss to non-Division I team Louisiana College and barely beat LSU-Alexandria by 2. The good news is that their check for coming to play Purdue cleared.
Villanova (9-0, 0-0 Big East) – RPI: 3, KenPom: 2 – Definitely a missed opportunity here. Purdue is the only team that has played them within 10 points so far and they have a pair of other good wins over Central Florida and Wake Forest. They are currently ranked No. 1 in the polls and last night held off a game LaSalle team in one of their Philly Big 5 contests. They have only played 3 home games so far, too. If Purdue had beaten them it is probably looking at a top 10 ranking and a 2 seed at the moment.
Georgia State (4-3, 0-0 Sun Belt) – RPI: 39, KenPom: 134 – So far the RPI really likes the Panthers, who have played some pretty good basketball. They should have beaten Purdue if not for a late comeback. The other losses are at the hands of Auburn and Mississippi State. They have a chance for a really good win at Middle Tennessee State on December 21 (MTSU is currently No. 6 in the RPI). This is a team that could win the Sun Belt and be a dangerous first round opponent for someone (not that we know anything about dangerous Sun Belt teams in the first round).
Utah State (5-4, 0-0 Mountain West) – RPI: 200, KenPom: 131 – After a 4-0 start the Aggies lost both games in Cancun to Purdue and Texas Tech. They then came home and lost to BYU and Indiana State before defeating Great Falls, a non-D1 team. The only games they have left against a top 50 team are a home and home in conference play with Nevada, so an at large bid for the Aggies is unlikely.
Auburn (7-1, 0-0 SEC) – RPI: 20, KenPom: 106 – The RPI loves Auburn, but KenPom doesn’t yet. That is probably because Auburn has a bunch of “meh” wins and a loss to Purdue in the best team it has played. The Tigers have an 18-point win over Georgia State to buoy the RPI, but can get a few more decent wins in their non-con with games left against Boston College, Oklahoma, and UConn. If they get out of the non-conference at 11-2 this will grow into a good win for Purdue, especially if they can contend for an NCAA bid.
NJIT (5-5, 0-0 Atlantic Sun) – RPI: 231, KenPom: 207 – NJIT is playing a bizarro Purdue schedule. They have played Utah State, Georgia State, Purdue, and Minnesota, losing all four. They did push Minnesota to the brink last night though. They had a second half lead and missed two three-pointers for the lead inside the last 3 minutes before falling 74-68. They are certainly a feisty team. Only Georgia State has blown them out. They could win the Atlantic Sun title and be an autobid threat.
Louisville (7-1, 0-0 ACC) – RPI: 14, KenPom: 7 – the Cardinals just got back from an odd road trip where they played at Grand Canyon in Phoenix. Their only loss is by three points to the No. 1 RPI team (Baylor) and Purdue’s awful first half cost the Boilers a chance at a huge true road victory. This is a top 10 team and Purdue absolutely could have beaten them.
Morehead State (2-5, 0-0 OVC) – RPI: 285, KenPom: 215 – Morehead has not played this week and they are currently on a five game losing streak after opening the season with two straight wins. They have not played since losing at Purdue on Saturday, but they go to Eastern Washington this Saturday night.
Arizona State (5-4, 0-0 Pac-12) – RPI: 142, KenPom: 101 – When the Sun Devils have lost this year, they have lost big. They have losses to Northern Iowa (19), Kentucky (46), and Purdue (33). They are 0-4 against top 100 teams and 5-0 against sub.-200 teams. Either last night was just a bad night or this team is not very good because outside of the first 10 minutes Purdue just whipped them. We will know more on Saturday when they play at San Diego State. They also host undefeated Creighton on December 20. Our best hope is that they are at least competitive in the Pac-12 and that drags them into the top 100 as a result.
Cleveland State (2-5, 0-0 Horizon League) – RPI: 210, KenPom: 246 – The Vikings have only two wins: over Canisius and Bethune-Cookman. Tonight they play Western Michigan. They actually played Kentucky better than Arizona State, losing by only 31. Aside from that, there is not a lot else to their resume.
Notre Dame (9-0, 0-0 ACC) – RPI: 32, KenPom: 25 – Yes, this is a must-win to get much of anything out of our tougher non-conference schedule. The Irish have played only two games away from home and they were in Brooklyn against Colorado and Northwestern. They have two Big Ten wins (Northwestern and Iowa) as well as a 15 point win last night over Fort Wayne (just the team that beat the Big Ten favorites is all). On Saturday they get Villanova in a nice neutral court game in Newark before playing Purdue a week later.
Western Illinois (2-6, 0-0 Summit League) – RPI: 349, KenPom 313 – Western Illinois is one of the worst teams in the country per the computers. Both of their wins are against non-D1 competition and their only power conference game was a 27 point loss at Kansas State. They also lost a home game to Chicago State, a team that hasn’t won a true road game in over two years.
Norfolk State (2-7, 0-0 MEAC) – RPI: 265, KenPom: 316 – Purdue’s final non-conference game should be a very easy one much like Western Illinois. Norfolk also lacks a Division I win. They have lost road games at Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, and Butler as they travel the country in search of paychecks. By the time they play Purdue they will only have played four home games. By comparison, that will be their third trip to Indiana after going to Butler and Evansville.