Bubble Watch: Missed Opportunities
The Good Guys went into Columbus and came back with a moral victory, the kind that only makes contrarians happy. That was probably the least likely game to win that Purdue has left, barring a Saturday or Sunday matchup with Wisconsin in Chicago ... and you could argue, given Painter's relative success against Wisconsin, that even those games would be more winnable than this one was. Either way, it didn't hurt the Boilers' case much, if at all. Wisconsin held serve, giving Michigan State their sixth conference loss; Iowa squeaked by Penn State in OT, making it a game that RPI loves (OMG ROAD WIN) and nobody else does (OMG OT?); but the really interesting team is that one down south. Indiana hasn't played since their loss to the Wildcats - not out of shame, but simply due to scheduling. Up next for the Hoosiers is that Iowa team, a game that suddenly takes on greater importance because IU has fallen into the Last Four Byes in Lunardi's Bracketology. (Deservedly so. Last I checked, Crean was still the head coach there. Look down at the other end of the bench and see him there ...) While IU could conceivably play themselves onto the bubble, they've got games left that could keep them safely in. Granted, both Iowa and MSU visit Assembly Hall, but as mentioned before, winning both those games would give Indiana quality wins and also push them into a rather large group at 11-7.
Enough about those guys. What about the good ones?
Current Status: In
Bracket Matrix: average seed 10.67, 67 of 80 brackets. (Obvs some have been dropped.) More people have them either definitely in or out. We're starting to see a few more 9s on that line, along with a couple of other 8s. (One was even a 7 over the weekend.)
Lunardi: 11 seed play-in game against Cincinnati (lol neutral site, although in fairness that would be true for any Ohio team; I think putting that winner in Columbus is perhaps a bit much), 44th on the S curve, no change. Could ESPN make it any harder to find? Shouldn't Bracket Math be a direct link from Bracketology? Oh right, ESPN.com is designed by newts. Anyway, at least Butler's up to a 5 seed now - West Virginia is the projected 6. 7.5% to make Sweet 16, 0.2% to make Final Four.
dratings: fifth 11 seed, down 3 spots
kenpom: 50th, no change.
RPI: 58th (tied with Illinois), no change.
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- After a totally understandable loss to Wisconsin, MSU has two games left, vs. Purdue and at Indiana ... those aren't exactly must-win games, but on the other hand, they don't want to go to Chicago with an L4 and a last 12 that includes losses at home to Illinois and away to Nebraska. Sparty's strength of schedule will keep them in the dance even in that scenario, but they could easily drop to a 9, especially with a Friday (or Thursday) loss in the Big Tenteen tournament.
- Illinois crushed Northwestern in Champaign, but that was more expected than not, especially in the eyes of good old RPI. The Illini are frantically trying to scramble up the slide before Santa gives them the boot: only 25 of 80 brackets include them. Saturday's game isn't exactly single-elimination, but the loser is going to have a steeper road into the NCAAs, to be sure.
- It looks like Purdue can still finish fifth in a few scenarios, thanks in part to both OSU and Iowa having wins over Maryland. Still can't call the Friday bye yet.
Beat Illinois, lose to MSU (51.6%): 12-6
Still the 3 seed, still facing 6-seed Ohio State. I think anything other than a blowout loss would keep the Boilers in the NCAAs. A win would probably bump them one line; that plus a win over 2-seed Maryland would do wonders for their resume.
Beat MSU, lose to Illinois (7.6%): 12-6
Still the 3 against OSU, but now with two quality road wins. The home loss isn't great, but if anything, it might keep the Illini in the tournament. It's hard to say how this one would play out.
Beat MSU and Illinois (15.4%): 13-5
Still the 3, etc. etc., but with a better end-of-season record. Purdue's solidly in and even a blowout by OSU doesn't matter.
Lose to both MSU and Illinois (25.4%): 11-7
There could be as many as five teams at 11-7. Purdue would still be a 4 or a 5, as near as I can tell. If they lost the 4-5 game as the 4, that could be a problem, losing four straight to end the season (even if they're all quality losses). Losing it as the 5 might not be too bad, but I think this is not a good idea either way. Let's not think about this one.
Where's the rest of the bubble?
Observant folks have noted that with the exception of ESPN's Everyone's On The Bubble Watch, Purdue seems to be the only team actually on the bubble, while other conference mates with similar records are listed among the Comfortably In group. (We're not talking about Illinois here; focus on the group of four behind Purdue.)
We can use ESPN's Nitty Gritty Report to talk through them. I'm not necessarily agreeing with what's here, just pointing out possible strengths those teams have that Purdue doesn't.
Michigan State: 7 seed
This one's easy. MSU's RPI is 31, Purdue's is 58. Sparty's SOS is 23, Purdue's is 80. Sparty's non-conference SOS is 63, Purdue's is 228. Yeah, Michigan State lost to Texas Southern at home ... but their other losses were neutral-site or road games, to Duke, Kansas, and Notre Dame. MSU's 6-4 on the road, Purdue's 4-5.
Ohio State: 7 seed
Yeah, this one's a bit tougher. OSU's RPI is still high (33), but their SOS is lower (88). They've got one top-25 win (a blowout of Maryland), but they're only 2-6 against the top 50 (Purdue is 6-4). I guess the thing is that their worst loss is at Michigan. Without a non-conference anchor loss, they've risen maybe farther than their resume deserves, but then Vanderbilt has a lower RPI than Michigan, so Purdue's resume has some real RPI clunkers on it. (Even Kansas State is only 76th.)
Iowa: 8 seed
Strength of schedule again: 28. Two top-25 wins, Maryland and North Carolina. (Hi ACC!) A sweep of Ohio State. Worst loss: in OT at Northwestern. Iowa State and Northern Iowa are top-2o RPI teams. Once again, no anchor loss. (North Florida, by comparison, is 175.)
Indiana: 10 seed
SOS is 32. That would be good, and IU does have 3 top-25 wins, but they're 6-6 in their last 12, and with two of those wins against Rutgers and one against Michigan, RPI is thoroughly unimpressed. At 3-6 on the road, Indiana's margin for error is rapidly decreasing. Their SMU and Butler wins are holding up pretty well, but losses to Iowa or Michigan State at home might cause that last 12 to be their albatross, especially with two wins dropping off (at Illinois, home to Maryland) as the Iowa and MSU games replace them. Eastern Washington is actually at 89, which may tell you all you need to know about RPI, but it's in use for now, so we've got to talk about it.
Purdue: 11 seed
A detailed look tells us more of the same: Purdue's best win is over #33 OSU - no signature opportunities remain, short of a semifinal matchup against #6 Wisconsin or #10 Maryland, in which case Purdue would already be solidly in the field. The Boilers have just one top-100 win on the road (at #42 Indiana) and three other poor losses in addition to the December Two (#76 Kansas State, #78 Minnesota, #96 Vanderbilt). Even NC State is down to #50. All this paints an RPI picture of a mediocre team.
Yes, RPI sucks. Yes, computers like Purdue more. But Purdue's not the only team like that. BYU is #26 in kenpom and #33 in Sagarin, Stanford is #38 and #41. Changing the system might help Purdue, but they also might end up in the same relative position anyway.