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Non-Conference Opponents’ Update: November 29

Each Wednesday during the season we try to track Purdue’s 13 non-conference opponents and how they are doing.

NCAA Basketball: Louisville at Purdue Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Ed Note: I had everything up to the Louisville portion written before all hell broke loose earlier today, so my apologies if this is an abrupt shift in the day

After last night Purdue is now 8 games into its 13 game non-conference schedule and the remaining 5 are mostly easy home wins. The remaining out of conference challenge comes in a few weeks against Butler in the Crossroads Classic, and it presents another chance at a good non-conference win. The other four games are home games, two of them against in-state opponents.

Obviously it is still very early, but Purdue has done some good work for its NCAA profile. It now has three quality victories outside of the Big Ten. Last year it had only one (Notre Dame). The Tennessee and Western Kentucky losses sting, but as long as those teams do well they won’t hurt too much. Overall, the NCAA profile is off to a good start:

Purdue Boilermakers Profile

Record: 6-2, 0-0 Big Ten

RPI: 57 (It is still VERY early for RPI, however).

KenPom: 12

Top 50 RPI wins: None (Tennessee and Western Kentucky are both in the top 50 right now)

Top 50 KenPom Wins: 17 Arizona (neutral), 25 Louisville

Bad Losses (sub-100 RPI OR KenPom: 163 Western Kentucky

SIU-Edwardsville Cougars (1-4, 0-0 Ohio Valley) RPI: 103, KenPom: 309 – Edwardsville at least has a win over a Division I opponent, as it won 80-76 at Stetson. They lost to Valparaiso at home 94-69 and Western Illinois 69-67 with a road loss at Creighton 103-66. Tonight they play their parent university with a game at regular Southern Illinois.

Chicago State Cougars (2-7, 0-0 WAC) RPI: 296, KenPom: 340 – Both wins for Chicago State were over non-Division I opponents, and the closest they have come to a real win was a 75-73 loss to Presbyterian in the regional Battle 4 Atlantis. We shouldn’t expect much of anything from them the rest of the season, as they are going to struggle against any Division I teams. Their two wins are over Silver Lake and East-West University.

Marquette Golden Eagles (4-2, 0-0 Big East) RPI: 85, KenPom: 57 – Marquette is one of those teams that could hover on the Bubble all year, but they can get securely into the top 50 and be an excellent true road win with a good Big east season. They did well out in Maui, beating VCU and LSU comfortably while giving Wichita state a game. They nearly stumbled Monday night, beating Eastern Illinois 86-83 in overtime at home. Tonight they get Chicago State before hosting Georgia and a very strong Vermont team.

Fairfield Stags (3-3, 0-0 MAAC) RPI: 263, KenPom: 215 – After losing to Purdue Fairfield played in an 8-team tournament at Wright State and went 1-2. They lost to Jacksonville (92-84) and Wright State (57-56) but beat Gardner-Webb (a former Purdue nemesis). They won’t play another home game until December 17th against Old Dominion.

Tennessee Volunteers (4-1, 0-0 SEC) RPI: 32, KenPom: 33 – This is really, really close to being another very good win, as the Volunteers did a good job in the Bahamas. They pushed Villanova before losing 85-76, but rebounded for a 67-58 win over NC State. In the end this will likely turn out to not be a damaging loss. They can even play their way into the tournament and use us as a good win. That is their best-case scenario now. A December 20th home game against North Carolina is big.

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (4-2, 0-0 Conference USA) RPI: 28, KenPom: 163 – Here is where the debate will lie all season long. The RPI loves WKU for beating Purdue and SMU in the Bahamas. KenPom is still not sold on them. They opened with a home loss to Missouri State and would have a lot of work to do (with Purdue as their huge non-conference win) to reach the NCAAs. They have several beatable opponents in a row and we want them to win on December 13th at Wisconsin. If they can get their KenPom numbers into the top 100 that helps us a lot. Where the debate comes is this: If Purdue does beat them, does a game against SMU (currently 30th in KenPom) outweigh a 25 point win over an Arizona team that might be a whole lot better? That is the trade-off. The Western Kentucky loss might have set up a much, MUCH better win over Arizona. As long as WKU can get into the top 100 it can be looked at as an off night in a ballroom. Of course, if Purdue plays 5 more seconds of defense and beats Tennessee it might have a win over Villanova right now, or it would have a loss to Villanova, a win over NC State, and nothing as close as good as the Arizona win could be.

Arizona Wildcats (3-3, 0-0 Pac-12) RPI: 187, KenPom: 17 – Arizona has the opposite problem of WKU right now. KenPom loves them, but the RPI took a huge hit in the Bahamas. As things look right now out blowout win over Arizona State last season would look a little better since the Sun Devils are currently ranked. Purdue’s strength of schedule relies heavily on Arizona getting its shit together and playing like the No. 2 team they were in the preseason. They have chances to undo their Bahamas trip coming up with a neutral site game against Texas A&M and a home game against Alabama next week. They need to get both of those.

Louisville Cardinals (4-1, 0-0 ACC) RPI: 125, KenPom: 25 – How much do we know about Louisville? Well, if they go out and in the ACC, along with Arizona winning the Pac-12, it will be an excellent win. They didn’t really play anyone before Purdue, but they have a home game against Seton Hall on Sunday and still have Indiana, Memphis, and Kentucky in the non-conference season. Oh, and they have the ACC itself, which is currently kicking the crap out of the Big Ten. Ideally Arizona and Louisville look like great wins in March and Marquette and Butler become good ones. Also, Tennessee and Western Kentucky play their way into the tournament.

Valparaiso Crusaders (8-0, 0-0 MVC) RPI: 52, KenPom: 82 – Do not sleep on this game a week from Thursday. It practically SCREAMS trap game (in-state opponent, sleepy midweek game before Finals, not much of a crowd, comes after a brutal 6 game stretch). Valparaiso moved up this year into the Missouri Valley Conference from the Horizon League to take Wichita State’s place. They haven’t played anyone yet, including two non-D1 teams, but they also haven’t really been challenged. They won the Savannah Invitational and have an entire week off before facing Purdue. With a better conference now in the MVC they could think about an at large bid, especially if they upset Purdue or Northwestern on December 14th.

IUPUI Jaguars (2-3, 0-0 Horizon League) RPI: 289, KenPom: 242 – The Wichita State move even affected IUPUI, as they took Valparaiso’s place in the Horizon League, moving a team from Indianapolis back near the league headquarters. The only Division I win they have is 67-61 over Morehead State though. Ron Patterson is STILL somehow playing college basketball as the last member of the fame Movement. Also, Grant Weatherford is no longer on the roster for unknown reasons.

Butler Bulldogs (5-2, 0-0 Big East) RPI: 51, KenPom: 56 – If Purdue beats Butler it will be a very similar win to Marquette. The Bulldogs have been good, but not excellent to start the year. They got a pair of wins out at the PK80 tournament including a last second one over Ohio State. They lost by 14 at Maryland though in the Gavitt Games. They have a home game coming up against Utah and, of course, Purdue in the Crossroads.

Tennessee St.Tigers (4-2, 0-0 Ohio Valley) RPI: 123, KenPom: 219 – Tennessee State started off with a 36 point loss at Kansas, then lost to Middle Tennessee before getting wins over Canisius, Kennesaw State, and two non-D1 schools. They play Lipscomb on Saturday in a preview of Purdue’s last two non-conference games.

Lipscomb Bisons (4-2, 0-0 Atlantic Sun) RPI: 53, KenPom: 133 – The only two losses the Bisons have are at Texas and Alabama, so there is no shame in that. On December 9th we get a nice little preview as they go to Tennessee and try to do what we couldn’t. Right now their best win is over crosstown rival Belmont.