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Non-Conference Opponents’ Update: February 19

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Purdue’s window for the postseason is narrowing, but still there.

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Wisconsin Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Purdue is up against it now. After three straight losses all the goodwill from the wins over Indiana and Iowa is gone. Ironically, Purdue’s loss last night ended up helping Purdue in an odd way. Wisconsin went from 31 to 28 in the NET rankings, crossing the magical 30 threshold and giving us a fourth Tier 1 win.

Of course, last night was also a tier 1 loss and a missed opportunity. Had one of the late threes by Sasha Stefanovic gone down it would have marked the third time this season he has saved us with a critical late three, and a road win to make a sweep of a good Wisconsin team would have done wonders. Instead, Purdue has now lost three straight. Sure, they were all tier 1 games, but three straight losses are three straight losses.

There are now four games left and Purdue is barely over .500 at 14-13, it is under .500 in the Big Ten at 7-9, and against tier 1 on the NET it is 4-10. The good news is that three of the final four games are against tier 1 teams, so we can improve that record in a hurry. Michigan is at 26 and Rutgers is at 28, so any home win over those two would count on tier 1. Iowa is at 29, so a road win would be tier 1, but could knock our home win over them down to tier 2. Indiana, at 63, would currently be on tier 2 and if they continue to struggle they could fall to tier 3 for the home win (under 75) and tier 2 in our road win (also under 75). It should also be noted that any Big Ten Tournament game not against Indiana, Nebraska, or Northwestern would also be on tier one since everyone else is comfortably above the 50 line and it would be on a neutral floor.

So opportunity is there, and that is also why the NIT talk might be moot. Simply put, there is a very narrow window for Purdue make the NIT. Texas made last year’s NIT at 16-16 and ended up winning all five games, so at minimum Purdue must win two more games to even be considered for the NIT. To get to 16-16 or 17-17 Purdue would either have to go 2-2 in these last four and lose in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament or go 1-3, then 2-1 in Indy (with one of those two games likely coming in the dreaded Wednesday game against Nebraska or Northwestern). Any losing record means game over (and don’t come at me with the CBI. We should never play in that again). Where we are is that Purdue’s computer numbers are so good that any winning record overall might be enough for the NCAAs, while anything less is a losing record and no NIT.

So that leaves the following:

Go 4-0 in final four – 18-13, 11-9 entering B1G Tournament – Purdue would be an NCAA lock before even taking the court in Indy. There is no way a team with a winning Big Ten record this season is getting left out, and we wouldn’t even have to worry about Dayton. It would also mark a strong finish and, as I said above, three more tier 1 victories. It would make Purdue 11-11 overall against the top two NET tiers, which is actually quite good (Virginia, VCU, the home Wisconsin win, and home Iowa wins are going to fluctuate between the top two tiers). That would have wins over Michigan State, Iowa x2, Wisconsin, Indiana x2, Minnesota, Virginia, VCU, Michigan, and Rutgers. Only Indiana among those would not really be an NCAA team (and they could fall out of the top 75 by then). Purdue’s own NET ranking would likely be in the top 30 as well, so regardless of what happens in Indy we would be good, probably in the 7-9 seed range.

Go 3-1 in final four – 17-14, 10-10 entering B1G Tournament – The most likely path to this is home wins over Indiana, Michigan, and Rutgers and a loss at Iowa. Things could get a little hairy if you trade a win at Iowa with a loss to Indiana, but this probably has Purdue in Dayton barring a win or two in Indianapolis. Again, we cannot get three wins here without getting at least two more tier 1 wins, so that alone will help. Would a NET in the high 20s/low 30s be enough should Purdue lose its first Big Ten Tournament game? It also depends on who Purdue would play in that first game. A loss to Nebraska or Northwestern would obviously be disastrous, but a win would at least pad the win total slightly. I cannot say Purdue is a lock at 17-14, 10-10, but winning a Big Ten Tournament game or two would be a very good idea. Getting here, the worst case scenario is an opening B1G tournament loss and 17-15, which would be a very bubbly profile. I can’t say we would make it with that mark, but I also cannot say with 100% certainty we would not make it. Again, an opening win in Indy would be a huge help.

Go 2-2 in final four – 16-15, 9-11 entering B1G Tournament – This is your narrow NIT window. I still believe no team with a losing conference record deserves an at large bid, but we have gotten in before with one (1999). I can’t see us being on the good side of the Bubble if we head to Indy at 16-15, so you’re likely looking at 2-3 wins needed to crawl onto the right side. This would also likely mean a Wednesday game against Northwestern or Nebraska, which would hopefully at least clinch a winning overall record, but those would not help any NCAA profile. If Purdue goes to Indy at 16-15 it will likely have to win its way from Wednesday to Saturday’s Semifinals just to have any viable NCAA chance. The good news is, at worst, it would finish at .500 overall and be an NIT lock.

Go 1-3 in final four – 15-16, 8-12 entering B1G Tournament – Now you have to win two games just to get into the NIT conversation (remember, you have to finish at .500 or better). Beating Nebraska/Northwestern and any potential Thursday opponent gets the NIT back on the table because it means at worst a .500 overall record, but the only way you’re looking at an NCAA berth then is if you make Sunday’s final. Even then, you had better win it and just take the auto bid.

Go 0-4 in final four – 14-17, 7-13 entering B1G Tournament – Let’s face it: This is on the table and everyone is thinking it. If this happens the season is pretty much over. Purdue would need to win four Big Ten Tournament games (starting on Wednesday) and reach the final just to even be in the NIT conversation. Again, if you make the final you might as well win it and steal the autobid. Since the league expanded we have seen a few teams make it from Wednesday to Friday, but none have made it all the way to Saturday, let alone Sunday.

Bracket Matrix Consensus: 11 seed

Record: 14-13, 7-9 Big Ten

NET: 33 (down 2 from last week)

KenPom: 25 (Down 6 from last week)

Tier 1 Wins (KenPom) Home 1-30; Neutral 1-50; Away 1-75: 10 Michigan State (Home), 22 Iowa (Home), 28 Wisconsin (Home), 47 Indiana (Away).

Tier 2 Wins (KenPom): Home 31-75 Neutral 51-100; Away 76-135: 32 Minnesota (home), 52 Virginia (home), 53 VCU (Neutral), 124 Northwestern (Away)

Tier 1 Wins (NET) Home 1-30; Neutral 1-50; Away 1-75: 14 Michigan State (Home), 29 Iowa (Home), 30 Wisconsin (home), 63 Indiana (Away)

Tier 2: Home 31-75 (NET) Neutral 51-100; Away 76-135: 44 Minnesota (home), 52 VCU (neutral), 54 Virginia (home)

Bad Losses (sub-100 NET OR KenPom): at Nebraska (175 NET, 136 KenPom)

Green Bay Phoenix (13-14, 8-6 Horizon League) – NET: 233, KenPom: 235 – A 94-90 win at Milwaukee on Saturday has the Phoenix in the upper half of their league, but Wright State is still the class of their conference. Green Bay is currently tied with Youngstown State for third behind Wright State and Northern Kentucky.

Texas Longhorns (14-11, 4-8 Big 12) – NET: 84, KenPom: 83 – Talk about a disappointing team. Purdue’s home loss to the Longhorns is the worst of our three home losses. After an 81-52 loss at Iowa State they have lost four in a row and are far from the NCAAs. The way Purdue lost this game was a canary in the coal mine.

Marquette Golden Eagles (17-8, 7-8 Big East) – NET: 23, KenPom: 26 – Marquette lost 73-65 at home to Creighton last night, but is still solidly in the NCAA Tournament right now. This was also a canary in the coal mine because Purdue looked excellent for 20 minutes, then horrible for 20 minutes.

Chicago State Cougars (4-23, 0-12 WAC) – NET: 353, KenPom: 353 – Two more losses for the nation’s worst team. They lost at Cal Bakersfield 64-54 and at Grand Canyon 71-47. They are unlikely to win again this year.

Jacksonville St. Gamecocks (10-17, 5-9 Ohio Valley) – NET: 282, KenPom: 266 – Jacksonville State dropped a narrow 75-74 game to Tennessee State, then lost to Belmont 101-84. They are not helping us at all.

Virginia Commonwealth Rams (17-9, 7-6 Atlantic 10) – NET: 52, KenPom: 53 – The Rams have now lost 4 of 5 and have fallen out of tier one for us (top 50 since it was on a neutral floor). There exists a world where we get a rematch with them in Dayton, too. They lost 77-59 at Richmond and dropped a close home a game against Dayton 66-61 in a game that would have been a huge boost for them.

Florida State Seminoles (22-4, 12-3 ACC) – NET: 13, KenPom: 21– FSU is playing like a top 3 seed. They beat Syracuse 80-77 and Pittsburgh 82-67 to stay as one of the best teams in the country. Really, they could be 24-2 if not for head scratching losses to Pittsburgh and Indiana early on.

Virginia Cavaliers (17-7, 9-5 ACC) – NET: 54, KenPom: 52 – Can the Cavaliers play their way into the top 30 and help us? The Champs are at least probably on the Bubble’s good side after beating North Carolina 64-62 in Chapel Hill. They have won five of six and should make it six of seven tonight at home against Boston College.

Ohio Bobcats (13-13, 5-8 MAC) – NET: 184, KenPom: 191 – I wish Ohio was a little better so their game could get on tier 2. This week they lost at Kent State 87-72, but beat Central Michigan 77-69.

Butler Bulldogs (19-7, 7-6 Big East) – NET: 19, KenPom: 27 – Butler has cooled off considerably from December when they were looking like a No. 1 seed, but they are a solid NCAA team. They lost 73-66 at home to Georgetown on Saturday.

Central Michigan Chippewas (13-12, 6-6 MAC) – NET: 185, KenPom: 195 – The Chips have now lost four in a row after losing 80-67 to Akron and the above mentioned Ohio loss. Akron is at least the best MAC team at 19-6.