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Non-Conference Opponents’ Update: March 6

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It is time to dance.

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament-Purdue vs Michigan Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

Purdue is in the clubhouse with a 28-6 record. That is a good place to be. We’re a defensive rebound vs. Ohio State and a defended 3-pointer against Tennessee away from a No. 1 seed and a Big Ten title. Bracket Matrix remains confident we will be a 2 seed in the NCAAs. Out of its projected 68 teams it has us as the 6th seed overall. Of their 3 seeds that could catch us, Auburn and Tennessee would cannibalize each other in the SEC tournament and Michigan State and Michigan are already done (and we did go 2-2 head-to-head against them). We’re in a very good place.

So what should the expectations be? So many things can happen in the NCAAs. That’s why it is so fun, but also nerve-racking as a fan. As a two seed Purdue is going to be favored in its first two games and the expectation is at least the Elite 8. Yes, 2 seeds have lost to 15s before, but those 8 wins still only account for 6.06% of 2 vs. 15 games. Most likely we’re fine in round 1. We would likely play a team like Lipscomb (currently projected as the highest 16 seed, so it is easy to see them as a 15) and we beat them by more than 30.

The 7/10 winner is always tricky because you’re either getting a very good mid-major or a decent high-major. The closest analog we have played, according to Bracket Matrix, is Butler, their last 9 seed. We beat the Bulldogs, but it was in a competitive game. A team to watch out for here is Nevada and Kendall Stephens.

It is harder to predict round 3 because it could be a 3, 6, 11, or 14 seed. Only two 14 seeds have ever made it that far, and none since 1997. A 14 has beaten a 3 in round one 21 times, however, so that can cause plenty of bracket chaos. Round 3 for us could be anyone. We happened to have played five games against the current projected 3 seeds and went 2-3, with two of the losses coming down to the final possession. You could get a 6 or an 11 quite easily, too. Round 3 is where matchups start to play a much bigger role.

Then you have the regional final. This would be the only round where, by seed, we’d be an underdog before San Antonio. You could also play just about anyone. Arizona is in the 4/5 range right now and we blasted them by 25. Ohio State is there and we lost to them by a point. Chances are you’re getting the No. 1 seed, but with no truly dominant team this year I don’t think anyone is a guarantee to make it that far. Arizona is also a team with 1 seed talent that has played like a 4 all year.

So if you were to tell me that we would get Lipscomb, Butler, Michigan, and Arizona as our definite path and we get “good Purdue” (i.e., the Edwardi give their 33 ppg combined average and not the 16 they gave us on Sunday) in those four don’t you like our odds? How about with some rest to recharge a team that has looked drained the last month?

We’ll see what happens. Too many people have already given up because our comments and Twitter mentions are RIFE with “No way we make it past the Sweet 16”. It is a good thing our games aren’t played on Twitter, because some people are acting like we should turn down an NCAA bid because we’re certain to lose in round 1. My message to these people is: Go away. Seriously. If you’re already giving up and convinced we’re not making it past the Sweet 16 we don’t want you here. We don’t want you here if they do lose in the Sweet 16 or earlier so you can crow about being right about Painter (because there are fans of ours that would rather be right about Painter than see this team succeed) and we don’t want you here for the celebration if we do go further. You do not celebrate your Purdue fandom. you mourn it. If that is me being a prick, well, I am a prick. I am just tired of hearing this after every loss regardless of opponent. It has made running this site exhausting because we get it in the comments, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

I am going to believe this team has a chance to go far until it is officially eliminated and not one second before. This is the best chance we have had to go far in decades (the last time we had a 2 seed or higher was 1998). Let’s enjoy it for what it is: an excellent opportunity to erase years of baggage, rather than lament the “here we go again.” It is time for this team to prove it. If it succeeds, fantastic. If it does not, well, we’ve dealt with disappointment before. It is only basketball.

In the meantime, here is a final look at our profile:

Purdue Boilermakers Profile

Record: 28-6, 15-3 Big Ten

RPI: 10 (Down 1 from last week)

KenPom: 5 (Down 1 from last week)

Tier 1 Wins (KenPom) Home 1-30; Neutral 1-50; Away 1-75: 9 Michigan (home), 9 Michigan (away), 24 Butler (neutral), 25 Arizona (neutral), 30 Penn State (home), 30 Penn State (neutral), 47 Maryland (away), 50 Marquette (away),

Tier 2 Wins (KenPom): Home 31-75 Neutral 51-100; Away 76-135: 34 Louisville (home), 47 Maryland (home), 56 Nebraska (home), 75 Wisconsin (home), 76 Indiana (away), 91 Iowa (away), 103 Illinois (away), 115 Minnesota (away), 135 Rutgers (away)

Tier 1 Wins (RPI) Home 1-30; Neutral 1-50; Away 1-75: 13 Michigan (home), 13 Michigan (away), 16 Arizona (neutral), 45 Butler (neutral), 57 Marquette (away), 73 Maryland (away)

Tier 2: Home 31-75 (RPI) Neutral 51-100; Away 76-135: 46 Louisville (home), 64 Nebraska (home), 73 Maryland (home), 77 Penn State (neutral), 120 Indiana (away)

Bad Losses (sub-100 RPI OR KenPom): at Wisconsin (110 RPI, 75 KenPom) – Because of the expanded RPI the road loss is considered only a tier 2 loss, so it is not as bad as we had thought, but it still cost us the Big Ten title.

SIU-Edwardsville Cougars (9-21, 5-13 Ohio Valley) RPI: 290, KenPom: 317 – The Cougars were 1 and done in the Ohio Valley Tournament, losing to Tennessee Tech 60-51. SEASON COMPLETE

Chicago State Cougars (3-28, 1-13 WAC) RPI: 339, KenPom: 346 – CHICAGO STATE BEAT A DIVISION I TEAM! After 40 straight losses vs. D-1 opponents Chicago State beat Missouri-Kansas City 96-82 on Saturday. They play Thursday night in the WAC tournament against league favorite New Mexico State, who is 22-5 and beat them by 37 and 11 in the season.

Marquette Golden Eagles (18-12, 9-9 Big East) RPI: 57, KenPom: 50 – The Golden Eagles are balanced right on the Bubble after beating Creighton 85-81to finish 9-9 in the Big East. Bracket Matrix has them as a “First Four Out” team right now, so a decent showing in the Big East Tourney is needed. First up is beating last place DePaul tomorrow, and the Blue Demons beat them on February 24. They would then have a huge opportunity on Thursday against Villanova.

Fairfield Stags (17-16, 9-9 MAAC) RPI: 180, KenPom: 210 – The Stags came very close to stealing their conference’s autobid. They beat Marist (71-57), Niagara (90-77), and Quinnipiac (74-64) to reach the tournament final, but lost to Iona last night 83-71. SEASON COMPLETE

Tennessee Volunteers (23-7, 13-5 SEC) RPI: 9, KenPom: 14 – Tennessee shared the SEC regular season title with Auburn after beating Georgia 66-61 on Saturday. They are a projected 3 seed and some bracketologies have us getting a rematch with them in the Sweet 16. It is certainly possible, especially if Michigan and Michigan State stay as 3 seeds and the committee keep the four Big Ten teams in four separate regions. Personally, I would love a rematch. We gave this game away and beating a team that beat us to breakthrough to the Elite 8 would be a very good narrative.

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (22-9, 14-4 Conference USA) RPI: 55, KenPom: 70 – WKU may have had its at large bubble burst with an 82-64 loss at Middle Tennessee and a 101-73 loss at UAB. Their own loss at Wisconsin is also a factor too. Right now they are close, but likely need the Conference USA autobid to reach the NCAAs.

Arizona Wildcats (24-7, 14-4 Pac-12) RPI: 18, KenPom: 25 – The Wildcats finished as the Pac-12 regular season champion after beating Stanford 75-67 and California 66-54. They have the No. 1 seed in the Pac-12 tournament and they are going to be one of the most interesting teams in the NCAAs. It is hard to tell if this or the win in Ann Arbor is Purdue’s best win, but all three are among the best in the country.

Louisville Cardinals (19-12, 9-9 ACC) RPI: 46, KenPom: 34 – Louisville, Louisville, Louisville… they had the No.1 team in America beaten, but somehow blew a 4 point lead with less than a second left to lose to Virginia 67-66. All they had to do was inbound the ball or even throw it off of any one of 9 players on the floor. They followed it with a 76-69 loss at NC State and now have a possible NCAA play-in game tomorrow against Florida State in the ACC Tournament. Had they beaten Virginia they are a tier 1 win right now.

Valparaiso Crusaders (15-17, 6-12 MVC) RPI: 188, KenPom: 151 – Valparaiso was one and done at Arch madness, losing to Missouri State 83-79. SEASON COMPLETE

IUPUI Jaguars (11-19, 8-10 Horizon League) RPI: 290, KenPom: 288 – IUPUI was one and done in their league tournament too. They lost to Oakland 62-55. SEASON COMPLETE

Butler Bulldogs (19-12, 9-9 Big East) RPI: 45, KenPom: 24 – The Bulldogs closed with a 75-68 loss at St. John’s and a 77-70 loss at Seton Hall, but they are still a probable NCAA team. They get Seton Hall again Thursday in the Big East quarters.

Tennessee St. Tigers (15-14, 10-8 Ohio Valley) RPI: 190, KenPom: 203 – Tennessee State was also one and done in the Ohio Valley, losing to Eastern Illinois 73-71. SEASON COMPLETE

Lipscomb Bisons (23-9, 10-4 Atlantic Sun) RPI: 104, KenPom: 165 – For the first time ever Lipscomb is in the NCAA Tournament. They beat Jacksonville 77-62, then upset Florida Gulf Coast 108-96 on the road to lock up their first ever bid. It is the first time Purdue has a win over a small conference automatic qualifier since beating Oakland in the 2010-11 season. The Bisons will likely be a 15 or 16 seed, but they are in.

Wins over likely NCAA teams: Butler, Louisville, Arizona, Michigan x2, Lipscomb

Wins over NCAA Bubble teams: Marquette, Penn State x2, Nebraska