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Non-Conference Opponents’ Update: February 8

Auburn, Georgia State, and even Norfolk State are playing some good basketball right now.

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Maryland Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

It has been a good week for teams Purdue has played outside the Big Ten. While Louisville and Villanova continue to look like missed opportunities, there are some teams starting to look like NCAA sleepers. Georgia State and Auburn are beginning to look like a pair of really good wins from way back in November.

Also, in good news, Purdue no longer has what the committee would view as a “bad loss” at least in terms of the computer numbers. Iowa has moved into the top 100 of the RPI. Not only does that become a more respectable win, the loss in Iowa City doesn’t hurt as much from a seeding perspective.

What does hurt is the missed opportunities out there. Iowa and Nebraska could cost Purdue a Big Ten title. The narrow home loss to Villanova is also the difference between a ceiling of a 3 seed and a 2 seed. Losing at a good team like Louisville can be forgiven quite easily. The Cardinals are a top 5 team by both the RPI and KenPom. Losing to Villanova and Minnesota at home, while both have good computer numbers, are missed chances to turn a solid profile into a great one.

Purdue has not been blown out, but all five losses are of the “what might have been” variety. Fortunately, there is still time to show improvement. Right now we’re hovering in the 3-4 seed range. If we keep winning a three seed and a spot in Indianapolis is very attainable. If Purdue wins out it would enter the Big Ten Tournament on a nine-game winning streak and possibly be a major conference champion. Those are hard to ignore. We would have to push Kentucky or Louisville out of one of the two preferred spots, but with Kentucky slipping a little of late they can be caught and passed.

Purdue Boilermakers Profile:

Record: 19-5, 8-3 Big Ten

RPI: 20 (26 last week)

KenPom: 12 (12 last week)

Top 50 RPI wins: 17 Wisconsin, at 22 Maryland, 27 Notre Dame (Neutral Floor), 43 Northwestern, at 48 Michigan State

Note: Keep an eye on Illinois (53) and Auburn (57) here to move into the top 50.

Top 50 KenPom wins: 11 Wisconsin, 25 Notre Dame (Neutral Floor), 31 Northwestern, at 37 Maryland

Note: Keep an eye on Michigan State (57) and Ohio State (60) here to move into the top 50.

Bad Losses (sub-100 RPI OR KenPom): None

McNeese State (7-15, 4-7 Southland) – RPI: 271, KenPom: 309 – McNeese actually won a game! They beat Incarnate Word on the road last week 87-79 before losing at Lamar 77-57. As usual, don’t expect much here.

Villanova (23-2, 10-2 Big East) – RPI: 2, KenPom: 5 – With an impressive 8-1 record against the top 50 the Wildcats keep rolling to a No. 1 seed. This week it was two easy home wins over St. John’s (92-79) and Georgetown (75-64). A fun one to keep an eye on for Saturday afternoon is at Xavier with some major Big East implications.

Georgia State (16-7, 9-2 Sun Belt) – RPI: 104, KenPom: 129 – For a short time this weekend Georgia State had popped into the top 100 of the RPI, which would be a nice little bonus. They are on fire right now, having won eight in a row after beating The Louisianas (Lafayette 85-82 and Monroe 69-55). They sit in a three-way tie for the Sun Belt lead with Arkansas State and Georgia Southern at 9-2, while Texas-Arlington is just behind them at 7-3. The Panthers still get UTA and Georgia Southern at home.

Utah State (11-13, 4-8 Mountain West) – RPI: 187, KenPom: 167 – The Mountain West is not nearly as strong this year and the Aggies are one of its weaker teams. They lost 72-70 at league leading Boise State on Saturday before losing 69-52 at Colorado State last night.

Auburn (16-8, 5-6 SEC) – RPI: 57, KenPom: 80 – With wins at Alabama (82-77) and at home over Mississippi State (98-92) the Tigers jumped 20 spots in the RPI this past week. That has them creeping ever so close to at large NCAA consideration. This week they go to Mississippi and host Florida in two very big games. If they can win both not only will they jump into the top 50 to help us, they would suddenly be an NCAA bubble team. What hurts for them is that in any other year beating Oklahoma at a neutral site and winning at Connecticut would be fantastic, but both teams really suck this season.

NJIT (9-16, 1-8 Atlantic Sun) – RPI: 283, KenPom: 259 – Speaking of suck, the Highlanders are in last place in the Atlantic Sun. Their 87-63 loss at Lipscomb was their sixth straight defeat and 8th in 9 games.

Louisville (19-5, 7-4 ACC) – RPI: 5, KenPom: 3 – The Cardinals easily handled Boston College on Saturday 90-67, but with a pair of players suspended for curfew violations they lost Monday night at Virginia 71-55. This weekend they host an enigmatic Miami team.

Morehead State (11-12, 7-3 OVC) – RPI: 196, KenPom: 178 – Belmont is the class of the Ohio Valley Conference at 11-0 in league play, but Morehead State is in second place in their division after a Saturday win at SE Missouri State 89-81. Tonight they host Murray State.

Arizona State (11-13, 4-7 Pac-12) – RPI: 124, KenPom: 113 – The Sun Devils almost gave us a huge boost last Thursday. They lost a heartbreaker 71-70 at league leading Oregon, a win that would have made them a top 100 team by both computers. They did win at deplorable Oregon State 81-68 though. This week they host the Bay Area schools with another chance to move into the top 100.

Cleveland State (7-17, 3-9 Horizon League) – RPI: 251, KenPom: 220– Cleveland State won a home game over Detroit 90-73 on Thursday to break a three game losing streak, but the winning streak did not last. They lost 53-50 on Saturday to Oakland. Tomorrow night they travel to league leading Valparaiso.

Notre Dame (18-7, 7-5 ACC) – RPI: 27, KenPom: 25 – North Carolina handed the Irish a fourth straight loss 83-76 on Sunday, but that closed a brutal stretch of five games in six against top 25 opponents. They recovered to beat Wake Forest 88-81 last night. This weekend the Irish host Florida State, a top 10 RPI team.

Western Illinois (7-15, 4-7 Summit League) – RPI: 327, KenPom 306 – The Leathernecks have now lost 6 of 7 after dropping a 79-67 home game to Nebraska-Omaha on Saturday. Tonight they are at Oral Roberts.

Norfolk State (11-13, 8-2 MEAC) – RPI: 254, KenPom: 298 – Like Georgia State, Norfolk is on a bit of a roll. They beat South Carolina State 65-62 and Savannah State 92-87 on the road this week and are close to getting their overall record above .500 after seven straight wins. They are still doing this in the worst-rated league in the country, but they are a half game out of first place behind North Carolina Central. They are well positioned to win the league tourney, but they would almost certainly be sent to Dayton for a First Four game.