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Non-Conference Opponents’ Update: February 2

A bad loss and a good win keeps Purdue pretty steady.

NCAA Basketball: Northwestern at Purdue Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

Because of Signing Day yesterday I decided to delay our usual non-conference update until today. It ended up being a good thing, too. Purdue picked up its fourth top 50 win yesterday, helping offset the pair of non-top 50 losses it has on its resume. This weekend brings an excellent opportunity to grab a true road win over a top 25 RPI team. That would be huge on Purdue’s resume and likely push it up a seed line or two in the latest bracket projections.

The game at Maryland is also the largest roadblock to a 9-0 run through the second half of the season. Nothing is guaranteed, of course, but on paper Maryland is the best team Purdue has left on its schedule. The season finale at Northwestern would be the next hardest game, which is still very odd to say. We cannot discount Indiana, but the Hoosiers are clearly not the same team if James Blackmon and OG Anunoby out. Blackmon might be back for next Thursday’s game, but if he is not Purdue really has no valid excuse to lose in Bloomington.

In some good news, Iowa is creeping towards the top 100. This week they are at 104 in the RPI. If they can climb into the top 100 that gives Purdue zero losses against teams in the bottom 251, which is good for the committee. They would neutrally view losses at Nebraska and Iowa as tough losses in a conference where 13 of 14 teams are in the top 100 nationally (only Iowa and Rutgers are below 100). Yeah, those losses sucked for the Big Ten title chase, but in terms of the NCAA profile they don’t hurt that much. By comparison, Purdue’s worst loss last season was at Illinois (151 in the RPI) by 14 points and the Boilers still got a 5 seed. Purdue also had only 5 top 50 RPI wins, and it already has 4 this year. The only non-conference loss was to Butler (53 in the RPI) which hurts a lot more than two losses to teams in the top 5 of the RPI.

Purdue is probably in the 5-6 range right now in terms of its seed. The Bracket Matrix site has Purdue as a consensus 6, with a couple of 4’s scattered in. There is plenty of opportunity to improve that too. Beating Maryland Saturday would provide a huge boost. Purdue also has top 50 games against Michigan State at home and Northwestern on the road. Indiana, Michigan, and Penn State are also in the top 80, so those would help too. Right now, if Purdue wins the last 8 games it would be 26-5 overall, 15-3 in the Big Ten, and have at least 7 wins against the top 50. It would be hard to keep Purdue out of a 3 seed at that point.

Purdue Boilermakers Profile:

Record: 18-5, 7-3 Big Ten

RPI: 26 (26 last week)

KenPom: 12 (11 last week)

Top 50 RPI wins: 21 Wisconsin, 29 Notre Dame (Neutral Floor), 35 Northwestern, at 46 Michigan State

Top 50 KenPom wins: 9 Wisconsin, 26 Notre Dame (Neutral Floor), 30 Northwestern

Bad Losses (sub-100 RPI OR KenPom): at Iowa (RPI: 104, KenPom: 73)

McNeese State (6-14, 3-6 Southland) – RPI: 285, KenPom: 308 – The Cowboys lost a pair of games since last week’s update and are well off the pace in the Southland Conference. They fell at New Orleans 75-56 and at Nicholls State 78-74. They have now lost six of their last seven.

Villanova (21-2, 8-2 Big East) – RPI: 3, KenPom: 6 – Villanova continues to play like a No. 1 seed. They lead the Big East by themselves and picked up yet another quality non-conference win with a 61-59 win over Virginia this weekend. Last night they won at Providence 66-57. This team is an impressive 7-1 against the top 50, beating Purdue, Notre Dame, Virginia, and Wake Forest out of conference.

Georgia State (14-7, 7-2 Sun Belt) – RPI: 107, KenPom: 128 – With a bit more of a push Georgia State will jump into the top 100 and be a really good home non-conference win over a random team. This week they beat Troy 78-72 and South Alabama 83-80, both on the road. They have now won six in a row and are tied with Arkansas State and Georgia Southern at 7-2 atop the Sun Belt. The win over Troy reversed an earlier home loss.

Utah State (11-11, 4-6 Mountain West) – RPI: 185, KenPom: 158 – The Aggies did a good basketball thing! Two of them, in fact. They beat Fresno State 78-65 then stunned league leader Nevada 74-57 at home. Nevada is playing like a 12 seed and some bracket projections have had Purdue as their first round opponent, so it is interesting that Utah State beat them by 17 and Purdue beat Utah State by 19.

Auburn (14-8, 3-6 SEC) – RPI: 77, KenPom: 83 – Auburn is being stubborn and simply refuses to go on a run and become a top 50 team. They won 88-80 at TCU in the Big 12-SEC challenge on Saturday, but came home and lost to Tennessee 87-77. On Saturday they travel to Alabama. This is still a decent, but not great win.

NJIT (9-15, 1-7 Atlantic Sun) – RPI: 288, KenPom: 247 – The Highlanders are now at the bottom of their conference standings. They lost to Kennesaw State twice in 5 days, 71-65 on the road and 54-53 at home. Sandwiched in the middle was a 66-62 loss at home to Lipscomb, giving them three losses by 11 points total in a 5 day span.

Louisville (18-4, 6-3 ACC) – RPI: 4, KenPom: 4 – When your two non-conference losses are to top 4 teams it is not a bad thing at all. It was a pretty pedestrian week for the Cardinals with an 85-60 win at home against NC State on Sunday. They have now won 6 of 7 games.

Morehead State (10-12, 6-3 OVC) – RPI: 218, KenPom: 184 – The Eagles are in second place in their division of the Ohio Valley Conference behind Belmont, who is undefeated in league play. They suffered a bad loss to a sub-300 team at Tennessee Tech 76-73, but recovered to win at Jacksonville State 72-69 this week.

Arizona State (10-12, 3-6 Pac-12) – RPI: 124, KenPom: 130 – Like Auburn, the Sun Devils refuse to play with any consistency. Last week they beat Washington at home 86-75, easily handling the wildly overrated Markelle Fultz. They then had a horrible 91-83 home loss to Washington State. They are tied for 8th in the Pac-12.

Cleveland State (6-16, 2-8 Horizon League) – RPI: 256, KenPom: 231– the Vikings finished a four-game road trip with a 67-64 loss at Youngstown State in the Northeast Ohio Derby. They have now lost 7 of 8 games.

Notre Dame (17-6, 6-4 ACC) – RPI: 29, KenPom: 26 – It was not the best week for Notre Dame. The Irish have now lost three in a row overall after losing 62-60 at Georgia Tech and 84-74 at home to Duke on Monday. It does not get any easier with a trip to North Carolina on Saturday.

Western Illinois (7-14, 4-6 Summit League) – RPI: 320, KenPom 299 – The Leathernecks win the award for lowest rated RPI team we have played. They lost at South Dakota 62-55 last Wednesday before beating IUPUI at home 78-69 on the weekend. Last night they lost at South Dakota State 98-65.

Norfolk State (9-13, 6-2 MEAC) – RPI: 301, KenPom: 304 – Break up the Spartans! They have now won five in a row after beating Bethune-Cookman 73-66 and North Carolina A&T 83-69. It should be noted that all five wins are against teams under 330 in the RPI, including the NC A&T win over a program winless against Division I. Still, they are a game out of first place in the MEAC and the automatic NIT bid that comes with a regular season title.