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Non-Conference Opponents’ Update: February 22

Purdue is still a top 20 team, but it feels like it could be so much more.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

What do we make of this Purdue team? With three games left in the season there is plenty of good:

  • There is absolutely no question the Boilers will make the NCAA Tournament.
  • They are excellent at home (15-1).
  • They have four top 50 RPI wins and 7 top 100 RPIS wins for a respectable 7-6 record there)
  • KenPom still loves them at 16, ahead of Indiana, Maryland, and everyone else in the Big Ten except Iowa and Michigan State.
  • It hasn't really been blown out except the bizarre outlier of the Illinois game.

There is also a lot of bad:

  • Purdue has struggled away from Mackey Arena since winning at Wisconsin on December 22.
  • Against the top three in the Big Ten Purdue is 0-4.
  • The second half has cost Purdue at least three games.
  • Strangely, Purdue is 7-7 in games played on Saturday or Sunday, but 14-0 on weekday games. Unfortunately, the NCAA tournament is played on Saturdays and Sundays.
  • In Big Ten Play Purdue is 1-7 on the weekend, only beating Nebraska at home on January 30th.

After 28 games and now a rough loss to a bitter rival we know that Purdue is still a good team. There is the potential to be great and we have seen flashes of greatness. For whatever reason, it cannot always get there. We know it won't get there unless we have attacking/aggressive Vince Edwards and Rapheal Davis. We know that Purdue is probably going to be in the 4-6 range when it comes to a seed and, because of how crazy this season has been everywhere in the country, it is just as likely to put it all together and make a deep run as be the victim of a 5/12 upset in round 1.

We also know this team is a disappointment. This was supposed to be a year for a Big Ten championship and now, barring a collapse by Indiana and Iowa where they lose every game left except Iowa beating Indiana, plus a lot of other hell breaking lose, that won't happen. The best Purdue can do is exactly what it did last year with a worse team. Matt Painter has not had his best season, the three shooters that were supposed to be snipes have largely disappointed, and this team is secretly soft and cannot handle adversity (or even success when you look at the Iowa and Michigan State games).

It is a disappointment because it should be so much better. Painter got wildly outcoached by Tom Crean on Saturday. When is the last time you could say that? Purdue is a matchup nightmare for a lot of teams, but it was a matchup nightmare for Indiana and fell behind by 19 before making a big comeback. It is sad to say that in late February that we're down to hop. We are hoping that the good, and even transcendent Purdue we have seen for flashes appears for four games and the Boilers make a big run in March. The thing about hope is that it is a vapor. It quickly disappears and reality says this team is inconsistent and will ultimately falter when it matters most in March.

And that is what is so frustrating. There is not a doubt in my mind that this team is fully capable of catching fire and erasing a lot of this disappointment with a good run in March. It could even get a rematch with Indiana in Indianapolis and beat the Hoosiers along the way because we all want a rematch. I just lack the faith they will actually do it. We're asking a team that historically chokes in agonizing fashion in March to not only go against that history, but to also magically find consistency that has been missing since the start of Big Ten play.

Color me skeptical.

RPI: 24 (Down 4 from last week)

KenPom: 16 (Up 1 from last week)

RPI top 50 wins: 32 Florida (neutral floor), at 36 Pittsburgh, at 45 Wisconsin, 16 Michigan State.

KenPom top 50 wins: 3 Michigan State, 29 Vanderbilt, 36 Florida (neutral floor), at 37 Wisconsin, 48 Michigan

Bad losses: at Illinois (RPI 153, KenPom 127)

North Carolina A&T (RPI: 339, KenPom: 332) - 8-19, 5-7MEAC - After just one game last week, an 83-77 loss to Bethune-Cookman, the Aggies continue to creep toward the very bottom of Division I. the RPI of 339 has them in the bottom 15 of 351 Division I teams. For the curious, Central Connecticut State is the worst team, as even Chicago State with just one Division I victory, is higher.

Vermont (RPI: 167, KenPom: 175) - 17-12, 9-5 America East - The Catamounts have now won three in a row after beating Binghampton 78-64 and Maryland-Baltimore County 99-54. They sit in fourth place in the America East, which is basically a two-team race for the auto-bid between Albany and Stony Brook. Vermont will have to beat one of those two to win the autobid, and they are 0-3 against them so far.

Incarnate Word (RPI: 197, KenPom: 245) 13-11, 8-5 Southland - The Cardinals were sent back to earth after they were close to first place in the Southland. This week they dropped two games to conference leaders Stephen F. Austin (84-46) and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (90-69).

Old Dominion (RPI: 174, KenPom: 146) - 15-12, 8-6 Conference USA - The Monarchs earned another split this week. They beat Western Kentucky 59-56 on Thursday but lost at Marshall 82-65 on Saturday.

Florida (RPI: 32, KenPom: 36) - 17-10, 8-6 SEC - Florida had two road games in league play this week and earned a split. They beat Georgia 57-53, but could not pull off the better win at South Carolina, losing 73-69.

Lehigh (RPI: 189, KenPom: 184) - 12-14, 11-5 Patriot League - Here come the Mountain Hawks! First, they give Purdue a boost by moving into the top 200 for the first time this year. Second, they have now won seven in a row after beating Navy 77-74 and Lafayette 73-61. At 11-5 they are a game behind Bucknell for the regular season title in the Patriot League with two to play, and they already won at Bucknell by 15 during this run.

Pittsburgh (RPI: 36, KenPom: 47) - 20-7, 9-6 ACC - A 2-0 week moves Pitt back into the top 50 of the KenPom. They survived Wake Forest 101-96 in double overtime on Tuesday night as they tried to give that game to the Demon Deacons in every way possible. They followed that with an impressive 66-52 win at Syracuse.

New Mexico (RPI: 117, KenPom: 111) - 16-11, 9-5 Mountain West - New Mexico doesn't want to be a top 100 team. They beat Boise State for a season sweep of the Broncos 80-78, but lost at lowly Air Force 76-72 on Saturday. They are still tied for second in the Mountain West with Fresno State.

IUPUI (RPI: 180, KenPom 199) - 12-17, 8-6 Summit League - The Jaguars also split their games this week. They beat Nebraska-Omaha 88-76 at home, but lost at North Dakota State 63-69. IPFW can clinch their league by beating Western Illinois this week.

Howard (RPI: 331, KenPom: 330) - 11-16, 4-7 MEAC - Like many other teams, Howard got a split this week. They beat Maryland-Eastern Shore 77-74 but lost to Savannah State 66-56.

Youngstown State (RPI: 270, KenPom: 276) - 10-18, 5-10 Horizon League - The Penguins beat one of the worst teams in America by beating Illinois-Chicago 92-91, but lost to Green Bay 107-90.

Butler (RPI: 63, KenPom: 42) - 18-9, 7-8 Big East - The Bulldogs are on the Bubble with no consistency. They beat Creighton 88-75 at home, but lost at No. 1 Villanova over the weekend 77-67. They are now 0-6 against the top three of the Big East.

Vanderbilt (RPI: 65, KenPom: 29) - 16-11, 8-6 SEC - The Commodores also cannot handle success. They fell on a last second three-pointer at Mississippi State 75-74, but they did recover to beat Georgia 8-67 at home. Tuesday night we get the double Purdue bonus game as they go to Florida. They also host Kentucky on Saturday, so a 2-0 week for the Commodores would be huge.

Possible NCAA at large teams: Vanderbilt, Florida, Pittsburgh, Butler

Possible auto-bid winners: New Mexico, Lehigh