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Non-Conference Opponents’ Update: January 18

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Purdue’s victory over Notre Dame looks excellent right now.

NCAA Basketball: Crossroads Classic-Purdue at Notre Dame Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Is the Big Ten a mess, or is it a war of attrition among teams that are relatively equal? It might be both. Last night Purdue dominated Illinois, a team that was on the fringe of tournament consideration. Wisconsin survived Michigan in a game that was borderline unwatchable for 35 minutes. For now, the Badgers are in the driver’s seat for the conference title because of Purdue’s two stumbles, but they have 13 games to navigate.

What is hurting the league’s perception is the non-conference performance, as noted by Crimson Quarry yesterday:

Perennial powerhouses Gonzaga and Kentucky are also ranked ahead of the highest B1G team. To make matters worse, the conference does not have a great non-conference resume either. The B1G only has three victories against teams in the current top 16, one from Purdue (against Notre Dame), and the other two from Indiana (against Kansas and UNC). That’s right - despite all of their many struggles this season, the Hoosiers still arguably have the two best wins in the conference.

Purdue had its own struggles there. The win over Notre Dame was one of the best the league has, but the Boilers still dropped chances against Villanova and Louisville. If Purdue had one of those games in the win column it is probably a lock 3 seed right now. As it is, the overall crapiness of the league is dragging Purdue (and everyone else) down.

There is still hope Purdue can move up on the seed line. Most people have Purdue as a 5 or 6 seed right now, but I think a 3 seed can still happen. If Purdue wins out (unlikely, but possible) a 2 seed might even happen, because then Purdue would enter the Big Ten Tournament on a 15 game winning streak at 27-4. That’s hard to ignore. The overall profile will also rise because the Big Ten has a bunch of tightly packed teams in terms of RPI. There are still 8 teams in the top 50 of the RPI and 12 in the top 100. That tells me the crapiness is limited to perspective. There isn’t an elite team, but there are 13 teams that are all pretty good.

In short, the easiest solution is to keep winning. Right now Purdue might be a 6 seed, but a hot streak of 7-8 wins will pull it up into the 3 seed range just fine. I also think that when Purdue is on (as it was last night) the only team that has a higher offensive ceiling is Indiana. Purdue gets there more often than Indiana, too, as the Hoosiers are much worse defensively and have major turnover issues.

As you can see here too, the non-conference profile isn’t totally awful, either. The Notre Dame win is excellent. Neither loss is bad at all. Georgia State, Auburn, and Arizona State are all decent wins that could easily be top 100 by the end of the year. If we keep winning we will be fine in the long run.

Purdue Boilermakers Profile:

Record: 15-4, 4-2 Big Ten

RPI: 33 (31 last week)

KenPom: 14 (13 last week)

Top 50 RPI wins: 20 Notre Dame (Neutral Floor), 34 Wisconsin, 45 Illinois

Top 50 KenPom wins: 10 Wisconsin, 22 Notre Dame (Neutral Floor)

Bad Losses (sub-100 RPI OR KenPom): at Iowa (RPI:118, KenPom: 86)

McNeese State (5-11, 2-3 Southland) – RPI: 244, KenPom: 303 – McNeese State only played once this past week, losing at Southeastern Louisiana 79-75. There is not really going to be a lot here going forward.

Villanova (18-1, 6-1 Big East) – RPI: 1, KenPom: 3 – Villanova keeps rolling even after the loss at Butler. This week they beat St. John’s 70-57 and crushed Seton Hall 76-46. They are pretty easily the top RPI team with a 6-1 record against the top 50, including two of those on the road at Creighton and Purdue.

Georgia State (10-7, 3-2 Sun Belt) – RPI: 110, KenPom: 147 – A couple of wins this week has Georgia State on the verge of “good win” territory. They could climb into the top 100, which would be very nice. This week they beat Louisiana-Monroe 73-65 and Louisiana-Lafayette 101-86. There is even some hope for good wins later against Texas-Arlington, Arkansas State, and Georgia Southern.

Utah State (9-9, 2-4 Mountain West) – RPI: 196, KenPom: 172 – I still wish we had played Texas Tech instead. Utah State is not doing much of anything, really. They lost 95-87 at Wyoming and 74-55 at San Diego State last week. This weekend they host Colorado State.

Auburn (11-6, 1-4 SEC) – RPI: 79, KenPom: 98 – I had hoped that Auburn would play its way into being a tournament team, but after a 1-4 SEC start it looks like that won’t happen. The Tigers got a big boost by merely playing at Kentucky, but they lost 92-72 on Saturday. Tonight they host LSU before getting Alabama this weekend. A pair of wins likely moves them into the top 70.

NJIT (9-10, 1-2 Atlantic Sun) – RPI: 231, KenPom: 235 – The Highlanders had a home split with the Jacksonville schools within their conference. They lost 82-81 to Jacksonville last Thursday but beat North Florida 84-78 on Saturday. They head to Florida for games against Stetson and Florida-Gulf Coast, with FGCU being a good opportunity since they are No. 71 in the RPI.

Louisville (15-3, 3-2 ACC) – RPI: 8, KenPom: 9 – The Cardinals had a great week, notching home wins over Pittsburgh (85-80) and Duke (78-69). Where they hurt Purdue the most is that the win over us gives them a de facto tiebreaker when it comes to preferred placement in Indianapolis in March.

Morehead State (7-11, 3-2 OVC) – RPI: 249, KenPom: 212 – Morehead State had a split and their computer numbers stay exactly the same this week. They lost 84-78 at home to Belmont but beat Tennessee State 87-85. Tomorrow night they travel to Austin Peay.

Arizona State (9-9, 2-3 Pac-12) – RPI: 111, KenPom: 124 – Arizona State did not do well in the first game of a three game road trip. They lost 91-75 at Arizona last Thursday, This week they travel to the Los Angeles schools, playing at UCLA tomorrow night. A win over either on the road lifts them into the top 100.

Cleveland State (6-13, 2-5 Horizon League) – RPI: 210, KenPom: 230– Because of a Monday game this week Cleveland State has played three times since the last update. They had a bad loss at home against Illinois-Chicago 59-54 on Thursday, then lost to league favorite Valparaiso 78-67 on Saturday. They went on the road Monday for a 76-65 win over Oakland.

Notre Dame (16-2, 5-0 ACC) – RPI: 20, KenPom: 22 – Purdue’s win over the Fighting Irish looks fantastic right now. Notre Dame is the only undefeated team in ACC play, and the ACC is the No. 1 RPI conference. Last week they got a good road win at Miami 67-62 before winning at Virginia Tech 76-71. Tonight they are at Florida State, so a win would make Purdue’s win over them even more valuable.

Western Illinois (6-11, 3-3 Summit League) – RPI: 322, KenPom 273 – So much for the Leathernecks being the surprise team in the Summit League. They lost at Denver 84-70 and at Nebraska-Omaha 86-72 to fall to 3-3 in the league.

Norfolk State (4-13, 1-2 MEAC) – RPI: 305, KenPom: 314 – At least Norfolk State won a game this week. They lost at home to North Carolina Central 72-57, but came back to get a 75-70 win at Delaware State.