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Non-Conference Opponents’ Update: January 5, 2022

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NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Purdue Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve had a couple days to cool off, so I hope the sky is no longer falling on Purdue basketball. We can agree Monday was bad. I did not expect to lose a game in Mackey Arena this season. Unfortunately, that happened. Purdue played a terrible game overall. It got lulled into an offensive trap and completely abandoned any offensive gameplan other than “Go to the bigs at the basket” in the final 10 minutes, attempting just one three-pointer in that span (the heave at the buzzer by Hunter). Defensively, Purdue was also bad, giving up 37 points to one player. It was the second straight game someone went for 30+ in Mackey. Even then, I feel there is no excuse for this team not score 80+ per game, especially at home, and a better offensive game negates the bad defense and vice versa.

As coach Painter often says: It is never as good as it seems or as bad as it seems. Just a few weeks ago Purdue was No. 1 in the nation, looking great, and fans were beginning to openly wonder about an undefeated season. Then Monday night I saw some fans on Twitter actually wonder if we would be over .500 in the league.

Yes, Purdue looks bad right now on both ends of the floor, but I trust coach Painter. In 2009-10 Purdue lost three straight league games in January to Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Northwestern, knocking it to 2-3 in the league (with two fewer scheduled games). It won the Big Ten. In 2016-17 Purdue lost a New Year’s Day game to Minnesota then a week later at Iowa to fall to 3-2 (with two fewer scheduled games). It won the Big Ten. In 2018-19 Purdue was 6-5 after the Crossroads, already had a conference loss, and went to 2-2 after a January 8 loss at Michigan State. It won the Big Ten.

My point is that in all three Big Ten title seasons under coach Painter, Purdue lost two of the first five league games, but recovered. Right now we’re a terrible performance at home and a miracle heave at Rutgers from being undefeated. We are still going to be in the top 10 nationally next week barring a loss at Penn State, and we have a profile good enough to be a top 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Yes, Purdue is up against it early (again) in the league, but there are still 17 games to go. We probably have to go, at minimum, 14-3 in them, and history shows that 15-2 is more likely needed. It can be done though.

Purdue has four of its next five games away from Mackey, and that will likely define the rest of the season. It will likely be favored in four of those five, but it was a double-digit favorite on Monday and look what happened. To have any chance at the league we probably need four of the next five, minimum. What makes Monday so frustrating is that we know this team is capable of playing so much better. We’ve seen it this year. We’ve beaten better teams than Wisconsin and Rutgers, quite handily too. That is why I also have confidence. We have seen time and again coach Painter can turn this around. All the season’s goals are on the table still. The next five games over two weeks will decide if they stay on the table.

As I have said many times, you can piss and moan about it or you can get better. Until such time as the Big Ten championship is mathematically no longer possible and we are officially eliminated from the NCAA Tournament I am going to believe winning both is possible. Coach Painter knows this team can be better, so I trust him.

Purdue Boilermakers Profile

Record: 12-2, 1-2 Big Ten

NET: 13 (down 7 from last week)

KenPom: 5 (down 2 from last week)

Tier 1 Wins (KenPom) Home 1-30; Neutral 1-50; Away 1 75: 13 Villanova (Neutral), 23 Iowa (Home), 31 North Carolina (Neutral)

Tier 2 Wins (KenPom): Home 31-75 Neutral 51-100; Away 76-135: 46 Florida State (Home), 11 Villanova (Neutral), 25 Iowa (Home), 35 North Carolina (Neutral)

Tier 1 Wins (NET) Home 1-30; Neutral 1-50; Away 1 75: 11 Villanova (Neutral), 25 Iowa (Home), 35 North Carolina (Neutral)

Tier 2: Home 31-75 (NET) Neutral 51-100; Away 76-135: None

Bad Losses (Sub-100 NET or KenPom): at Rutgers (122 NET, 96 KenPom) (Rutgers has climbed high enough to be a tier 2 loss now on NET, so that helps).

Bellarmine Knights (6-8, 0-0 Atlantic Sun) – NET 253, KenPom 219– Bellarmine has not played since December 21 due to a COVID pause.

Indiana State Sycamores (8-6, 1-1 Missouri Valley) – NET 164, KenPom 165 – Indiana State easily beat non-D1 Midway 107-51, then got their first Missouri Valley win over Bradley 76-71 on Sunday. They host rival Evansville tonight.

Wright State Raiders (6-7, 3-1 Horizon League) – NET 270, KenPom 191– The Raiders got a pair of wins to start off Horizon League play strong. They beat Milwaukee 8-75 and Green Bay 72-69. They host Illinois-Chicago tomorrow night hoping to stay on pace.

North Carolina Tar Heels (10-3, 2-0 ACC) – NET 35, KenPom 31 – At least Purdue leads the ACC at 3-0. The Tar Heels blasted Boston College on the road 91-65 and they go to Notre Dame tonight. As long as they keep winning in the ACC this will be a very good victory.

Villanova Wildcats (9-4, 2-1 Big East) – NET 11, KenPom 13 – Villanova is starting to look like Villanova again with a very good 73-67 win at Seton Hall on Saturday. Their own computer numbers are very good, so a good Big East run makes them an excellent non-conference win.

Omaha Mavericks (2-12, 1-2 Summit League) – NET 348, KenPom 343 – Only one game in the last week for Omaha, and it was a 107-62 loss at 2021 NCAA Tournament darling Oral Roberts. They host North Dakota tomorrow night.

Florida State Seminoles (7-5, 1-2 ACC) – NET 78, KenPom 46 –The Seminoles came off of a COVID pause with an 83-81 win at North Carolina State, but lost at Wake Forest 76-54 last night. Right now they are hovering near the NCAA bubble, so home games against Louisville and Miami in the next week are big.

North Carolina State Wolfpack - (8-7, 1-3 ACC) – NET 143, KenPom 110 – I thought we had broken the Wolfpack, as losses at Miami (91-83) and to Florida State gave them five straight losses. They recovered to win at Virginia Tech last night 68-63.

Butler Bulldogs – (8-5, 1-1 Big East) – NET 139, KenPom 115 – The Bulldogs got a good home win over DePaul 63-59 and their New Year’s Day game with UConn was postponed They lost at home to Seton Hall last night though 71-56.

Incarnate Word Cardinals – (3-11, 0-0 Southland) – NET 347, KenPom 354– The Cardinals got a non-D1 win over Dallas Christian 9045, but that doesn’t mean a whole lot, really. They open conference play tomorrow vs. Nicholls.

Nicholls Colonels – (8-6, 0-0 Southland) – NET 150, KenPom 210 – Nicholls is 8-6 overall, but they are likely the league favorite in their conference after their showings against Purdue and Wisconsin. They have not played since losing at Purdue.