With two-straight winnable road games ahead of Matty's squad, a 12-3 record, and an RPI that leaves much to be desired (43), the post-season forecast for our favorite squad is murky right now. And last night's upsets had an effect on our Boilers.
-Beating Temple has been viewed as a quality win since it happened, but their win against Duke helps their RPI and in turn, helps Purdue's. Temple is 9-3 and 27th.
-Like Temple, Iona only has three losses. Also like them, they're in the top-30, but barely...at 30. I think we all had a hard time watching Purdue allow Iona score 90 points, but this season, they've scored over 100 twice, and have scored 89 or more points four times. As of now, they look to be the favorite in the MAAC.
-We thought High Point and Western Carolina were not good when Purdue squeaked by versus both...turns out, that's exactly right. High Point has won three games and Western Carolina, five.
-When it happened, losing to X seemed like a case of a very talented, solid team beating a team that wasn't quite ready for primetime. Let's remember, this was a Xavier team that was highly ranked that hadn't yet decided to go gangsta. After the suspensions, Xavier can't find its rhythm or chemistry and stands at 9-5. They're no 54th...they're not receiving any votes from the coaches and are a paltry two votes ahead of Purdue in the AP. Losing to a 10-4 LaSalle team doesn't sound bad at first blush...but LaSalle has consistently been in the 100s all season.
-Purdue gave the nation's reigning runner up a gift prior to the Christmas season at Conseco...and I for one saw this game as a massive indictment on Purdue's inability to finish games and play on a bigger stage. Butler's gone from a sub-.500 team to a .500 team and has two relatively easy games coming up before facing Cleveland State. They've broken the top-100 in the RPI and sit at 91st.
-Alabama is the only decisive loss for Purdue this season...and all Purdue fans agree that Purdue just wasn't as good as that team at that point. With 'Bama in the teens consistently for a few weeks coming into that game, it didn't seem like a bad one to drop. But after the Purdue win, Alabama lost three in a two week period and it looked like they were in the midst of a free fall. The ship has been righted in Tuscaloosa and Alabama, while not ranked, is barely receiving votes in both polls...but the RPI calculation loves them and they stand at 17th. The problem for them is their conference is 6th in total RPI...the good news for them is their conference is filled with cream puffs and patsies, so they'll only have to play 5 more top-50 games.
-The importance of the Illinois game might get larger as the weeks go on. Illinois is 22nd in the RPI...sure, they've been on a bit of a slide as they dropped from the teens to receiving no votes (other than Weber's) in the human polls in a matter of two weeks. But, their losses all come to quality opponents (UNLV, Mizzou & Purdue). Who knows if their dramatic road win over Northwestern means the Mildcats are on the express train to the NIT or that Illinois is back on track.
I know, I know, the RPI is a very flawed barometer of the quality of a team, especially before February. But, averages and equations limit a rocket ascent or rock-like plunge. While Purdue has been consistently un-noteworthy this year in that poll, hanging around in the 40s-60s, their stock has risen the last few games and they now are #43. That equation predicts Purdue going 21-10...which is exactly where we at BS saw the Boilers finishing (between 20-22 wins was my prediction). And I believe that record would get Purdue in the dance at a six seed. Not great...not bad.
I'm a bigger fan of Ken Pom's equation. It's had Purdue a bit higher all season. Currently the Forces of Good are 21st their...and 24th on the Sagarin Poll. But the tourney committee doesn't bring anything but the RPI and the team's resume into their room, I'm told. Still, I think the Composite Computer Ranking that we at BS bring you regularly might be the best sign of where a team truly is.
Right now, like much of the season, Purdue is hovering around 30 and the CCR is 29.3...probably exactly where my eyes tell me they should be. Like all of you, we see that this team has a ton of potential and a pretty high ceiling if Hummel gets hot, LewJack can mend a bit, TJohn can hit 50% of his FTs, Lawson and Carroll continue to improve, Barlow plays to potential, Byrd plays solid, etc...but a key injury that hurts the rotation could do the opposite. And, as we saw last night, anyone can beat anyone on a given night. This is why as it gets colder outside, the warmest, most-welcoming place in the world is a college basketball arena.
Tonight, Purdue travels to the loneliest valley in the nation during basketball season to play PSU at 8:00. They'll be greeted by hundreds of fans at the BJC who kind of care what happens on the court...but that won't stop the Lions from putting up a fight as two of the best PGs in America square off in Jackson and Frazier.