After going 4-1 during the most difficult stretch of the season Purdue gets a much-deserved weekend off. The Boilers had a dreaded four-road-games-in-five-games stretch with the one home game coming against a ranked team. It went 4-1, ironically losing to the worst team of the five (Nebraska). After Wisconsin won last night in overtime in Lincoln that loss particularly stings, but there is nothing we can do about it now.
What we can do is enjoy some college basketball and cheer for some results that will help us the most. This includes games where non-conference opponents can get some big wins to help our overall profile. Here are the games to watch this weekend:
Minnesota at Rutgers, Noon, ESPNU
After losing five in a row Minnesota appears to have righted things with wins over Illinois and Iowa. Now we need them to avoid the bad loss at Rutgers. As long as the Gophers stay on the board as an NCAA team the home loss to them won’t hurt as much in terms of NCAA seeding purposes. In fact, their victory in West Lafayette is the crown jewel of the NCAA Tournament resume right now.
Penn State at Illinois, 2pm, BTN
Illinois is closer to the top 50 and Purdue already has a win over them, so getting them into said top 50 would help. Purdue also plays Penn State twice, and you want the teams you play (and hopefully beat) twice to be as strong as possible for maximum NCAA effectiveness. I think I will go with Illinois here. They are more likely to get into the top 50 and give us that top 50 bonus since they are currently at No. 54 in the RPI.
Georgia State at Appalachian State, 3:30pm ESPN3
Waaaaaay back on November 18th Purdue’s third game of the season looked like it was going to be an ugly hangover loss following the Villanova game. With 7:16 left Georgia State led Purdue 56-44 after an offensive rebound putback by Malik Benlevi. The Panthers would not score again, and Purdue finished the game on a 20-0 run thanks to a key and-1 dunk by Basil Smotherman (remember him?). Purdue played poorly, but overcame a big deficit against a Sun Belt team, so the exact opposite of the Little Rock game.
Well, since then the Panthers have done well and are at 16-7 overall and 9-2 in the Sun Belt. They are currently in a three-way tie for the conference lead and a win can move them into the RPI top 100. Sure, it is not a make-or-break type of win, but it is more one of those nice little bonus wins over a solid mid-major and possible NCAA Tournament team.
Ohio State at Maryland, 4pm, ESPN
Purdue beat both of them on the road by a point on a late free throw. Maryland is still battling us for the Big Ten title and will stay in the top 50 regardless. Ohio State has some fringe NCAA hopes and could move into the top 50 of both the RPI and KenPom if they win this. That makes me want the Buckeyes to win, as it would increase the value of Purdue’s win in Columbus.
Auburn at Ole Miss, 6pm, SEC Network
Purdue’s best out of conference win is over Notre Dame, but the second best win is over an Auburn team that has a great chance to climb into the NCAA at large discussion with a couple more wins. Auburn currently sits at 58 in the RPI, and a win might move them into the top 50 and give us a pretty good non-conference victory. They already lost at home to Ole Miss 88-85, but have won 3 of 4. If they can beat Ole Miss, then upset Florida at home on Tuesday, the Tigers will vault into the realm of at large teams. All they need to do is play with some consistency. They are 1-5 against the RPI top 50, however, with the only win coming on the road at TCU.
Florida State at Notre Dame, 6pm, ESPN
The Fighting Irish are in the middle of a very rough stretch right now where they have played a ton of ranked teams in a row. Florida State beat them in Tallahassee 83-80 a few weeks ago, and this week’s win over wake Forest broke a four game losing streak for Notre Dame. The Irish are still fine in terms of making the tournament, but the value of our victory over them has been slipping. They could use a win over a quality team like Florida State, who is in the top 15 of both the RPI and KenPom.
Iowa at Michigan State, 6pm, BTN
Iowa is hovering on the edge of bad loss territory at No. 99 in the RPI. Michigan State is hovering on top 50 win territory at No. 50 in the RPI and 58 in KenPom. Purdue has beaten both, but does have that loss to Iowa. I think as long as Michigan State winning keeps Iowa above that 100 line I am fine with it.
Michigan at Indiana, 1pm, CBS
Just a few days ago Michigan kicked the living crap out of IU in Ann Arbor. A win here moves their RPI (currently 74) and KenPom (currently 30) even higher and is good for their NCAA chances. The Boilers still have to go to Ann Arbor too, so it would be nice to have a chance at another really good true road win. Also, it is Indiana. They are reeling and another home loss, knocking them to 4-4 at home in conference play, would all but end their NCAA Tournament hopes since they finish with four road games in five and they are 1-5 on the road. Their RPI is 81 and they have a steeper climb to the tournament than Michigan.
Northwestern at Wisconsin, 6pm, BTN
After the midweek home loss to Illinois the Wildcats are in a bit of a funk. They need a big win to recharge their first ever NCAA campaign, so why not knock off the league leaders at home? For Purdue’s seeding it helps as we already have one win over Northwestern and a game in hand to go against them. We also need two Wisconsin losses for a shot at the B1G title. The Badgers have Houdini’d wins over Rutgers, Minnesota, and Nebraska in overtime on the road. Sure, they play well at home, but Michigan and a weakened Indiana have pushed them of late. I think Northwestern needs either this game, their home game against Maryland, or their home game against Purdue to feel safe on Selection Sunday. Why not get that big win out of the way early?