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Non-Conference Opponents’ Update: January 25

Can Purdue get to Indy for the first and second rounds? It is possible.

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Last night’s win in East Lansing has Purdue in pretty good shape with 10 games to play in the regular season. Wisconsin, Purdue, and Maryland are pulling away from the field a little bit. Northwestern is still in it with only two losses and plenty of opportunities ahead. Indiana would be the fifth team, as they have only three losses, but they have a nasty finishing schedule.

Purdue can also improve its chances for a top 3 seed and placement in Indianapolis with plenty of top 50 RPI games left. Purdue has Northwester (35) twice and Maryland (19) once. Michigan State is currently just outside at 53, so if they can get in and if Purdue beats them at home that would be two more top 50 wins. Illinois is somehow still at 46 in the RPI, but they will likely fall out soon. Indiana at 74 is also up in the air as to what they will do.

We know that barring an unexpected collapse we’re headed towards a third straight NCAA Tournament. Most people have Purdue projected in the 4-6 seed range. There is no need to be concerned about that just yet. If Purdue rips through its last 10 games at 9-1 its seed will rise accordingly because everyone in front of them won’t go 9-1. That would have Purdue at 26-5 heading into the Big Ten Tournament. The goal is to get one of those two preferred spots in Indy, and that might be tough with five teams battling for those two spots:

Kentucky – After losing last night at Tennessee the Wildcats might be off the No. 1 seed line, but not by much. Villanova, Kansas, Baylor, and Gonzaga are their top competition for a No. 1 seed, and Kentucky is going to have to falter quite a bit to fall into the 3-4 range. With Duke struggling, however, they could go to Greenville. It is 337 miles from Lexington to Greenville and 189 from Lexington to Indianapolis.

Butler – If the Bulldogs were still in the Horizon league they would be ineligible to be placed in Indy, but their move to the Big East helps them there. Since IUPUI and the Horizon league are joint hosts it is perfectly fine for Butler to come down Capitol, take a left at Maryland, and play as close to home as possible. It is only 6.4 miles from Hinkle Fieldhouse to Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Butler is currently No. 3 in the RPI and is 6-1 vs. the top 50 too, so they have the look of a 2 or 3 seed.

Louisville – Could Louisville edge Kentucky here? They have the head-to-head win over the Wildcats (and Purdue) and are just barely ahead of them in the RPI. Like Butler, they are a consensus 3 seed or so. They might need Kentucky to slip a little further, but that head-to-head win could really benefit them.

Notre Dame – The Irish were creeping towards that preferred spot recently, but they have dropped two of their last three and are currently a 4 seed by most projections. They have the fallback of Milwaukee as a first round host, too. It is 186 miles from South Bend to Milwaukee (and they have a nice alumni base even closer in Chicago). It is 147 miles from South bend to Indianapolis, so it is slightly closer, but with the Chicago factor the NCAA might prefer the Irish in Milwaukee with Wisconsin (and the Badgers are a lock for Milwaukee is they are a top 3 seed).

Purdue – Right now it looks like a long shot, but if Purdue could win the Big Ten outright in a strong finish Indianapolis is not out of reach. Louisville’s head-to-head win over Purdue is a factor for sure, but so should Purdue’s head-to-head over Notre Dame. Of course, that matters little if they want to put the Irish in Milwaukee anyway. Purdue might be able to steal that Milwaukee spot from them. It is 219 miles from West Lafayette to Milwaukee. Getting Indy or Milwaukee would be best, as otherwise we’re headed to Salt Lake City or Buffalo as the vagabond four seed.

Purdue Boilermakers Profile:

Record: 17-4, 6-2 Big Ten

RPI: 26 (33 last week)

KenPom: 11 (14 last week)

Top 50 RPI wins: 23 Notre Dame (Neutral Floor), 21 Wisconsin, 46 Illinois

Top 50 KenPom wins: 10 Wisconsin, 24 Notre Dame (Neutral Floor)

Bad Losses (sub-100 RPI OR KenPom): at Iowa (RPI: 108, KenPom: 88)

McNeese State (6-12, 3-4 Southland) – RPI: 266, KenPom: 303 – Not a whole lot to report here. The Cowboys are now 3-4 in the Southland after beating Central Arkansas 82-72, but losing to Northwestern State 78-65.

Villanova (19-2, 7-2 Big East) – RPI: 2, KenPom: 5 – The Wildcats were bitten by another midweek game. This time Marquette got them with a furious comeback last night to win 74-72 in Milwaukee. It still won’t take away from them being a No. 1 seed. A 78-68 win over Providence gave them yet more ammo, as they are 7-2 against the top 50 with wins at Purdue and Creighton.

Georgia State (12-7, 5-2 Sun Belt) – RPI: 119, KenPom: 139 – Georgia State is on a bit of a hot streak with four straight wins, so if they keep it going this might turn in to a top 100 victory. They beat Coastal Carolina 76-56 on Saturday and Appalachian State 83-72 to move to 12-7 overall. They are two games behind Georgia Southern in the Sun Belt.

Utah State (9-11, 2-6 Mountain West) – RPI: 203, KenPom: 181 – The difference between drawing Utah State and Texas Tech in Cancun is staggering. Utah State is now under the 200 line in the RPI after losses to Colorado State (64-56) and at New Mexico (74-61). Meanwhile, Texas Tech is at 83 in the RPI and is 14-5.

Auburn (13-7, 3-5 SEC) – RPI: 70, KenPom: 90 – Auburn has played three times and won twice since the last update. They aren’t a tournament team yet, but if they can start winning more regularly they could become one. Last week they handled home wins over LSU (78-74) and Alabama (84-64) to get some momentum. That ended last night with a 98-69 loss at South Carolina. This weekend they are at TCU against blog favorite Desmond Bane.

NJIT (9-12, 1-4 Atlantic Sun) – RPI: 241, KenPom: 245 – I thought NJIT would be much better in conference this year, but I was wrong. They lost 82-76 at Stetson and 84-71 at Florida Gulf Coast to fall to 1-4 in the Atlantic Sun.

Louisville (17-4, 5-3 ACC) – RPI: 5, KenPom: 6 – When your two non-conference losses are to top 6 teams it is not a bad thing at all. The Cardinals were not off to the best start in ACC play after beating Clemson 92-60 and losing at Florida State 73-68, but my goodness did they unleash hell last night. They went to Pittsburgh and delivered the worst ass-kicking of a home team in ACC history with a 106-51 win over the Panthers.

Morehead State (9-11, 5-2 OVC) – RPI: 229, KenPom: 193 – The Eagles are now on a modest hot streak of five wins in six games and are 5-2 in their conference. They won at Austin Peay 89-82 and beat Eastern Kentucky at home 80-54. That makes them a possible contender for the autobid.

Arizona State (9-11, 2-5 Pac-12) – RPI: 110, KenPom: 125 – The Sun Devils are about one good win from climbing into the top 100. They had a chance this weekend by visiting the LA schools, but lost to UCLA 102-80 and USC 82-79. They still got a major RPI boost for playing two top 30 teams on the road. This week they host the Washington schools.

Cleveland State (6-15, 2-7 Horizon League) – RPI: 239, KenPom: 230– We’re not going to get much from Cleveland State. They lost 63-62 at Milwaukee and 83-73 at Green bay this past week to fall to 2-7 in the Horizon League.

Notre Dame (17-4, 6-2 ACC) – RPI: 23, KenPom: 24 – The Irish have cooled off a little after a great ACC start, but part of that is from a brutal schedule. They got their first conference loss in an 83-80 defeat at Florida State last Wednesday. They beat Syracuse 84-66 over the weekend, but lost at home 71-54 to Virginia last night. They now trail Florida State and North Carolina by half a game.

Western Illinois (6-12, 3-4 Summit League) – RPI: 319, KenPom 297 – The Leathernecks only played once last week, losing at home to North Dakota State 89-57. NDSU is leading that conference 6-1 because Fort Wayne has stumbled to a 3-4 start.

Norfolk State (7-13, 4-2 MEAC) – RPI: 288, KenPom: 302 – Norfolk is making a move in the MEAC with three straight wins this week. They beat Hampton 79-62 and Coppin State 74-64 to move in to second place behind Morgan State.