It is never too early to think NCAA Tournament
It’s back! During basketball season, usually after the non-conference season ends, I start tracking how the opponents Purdue has played outside of the Big Ten are doing. I do this as a way to see what our NCAA Tournament profile is and what strength we are getting from those wins. This year is going to be very different. First, the Big Ten is absolutely loaded, so that rising tide is going to raise everyone. Purdue is currently 33rd in the nation according to KenPom, but that is behind #3 Wisconsin, #5 Iowa, #11 Illinois, #16 Michigan, #17 Indiana, #18 Rutgers, #20 Ohio State, and #27 Michigan State. Second, there are only seven non-conference games to figure in as opposed to the usual 11.
Purdue still played three major conference teams (all ACC) outside the league, but it was originally supposed to be five as we had a Gavitt Games home contest scheduled and we were going to play West Virginia in New York in addition to our tournament in Melbourne (where we got Clemson), Miami, and Notre Dame. We probably dodged a bullet with West Virginia, but a home win over a Big East team would have been nice.
We still have a pretty good overall profile after going 5-2 against the non-conference slate. I think 11 wins in Big Ten play, getting us to 16-11 before the league tournament, will be enough to play in whatever form the NCAA Tournament takes.
Purdue Boilermakers Profile
Record: 6-3, 1-1 Big Ten
Tier 1 Wins (KenPom) Home 1-30; Neutral 1-50; Away 1-75: 20 Ohio State (home)
Tier 2 Wins (KenPom): Home 31-75 Neutral 51-100; Away 76-135: 86 Notre Dame (Neutral)
Tier 1 Wins (NET) Home 1-30; Neutral 1-50; Away 1-75: 16 Ohio State (Home)
Tier 2: Home 31-75 (NET) Neutral 51-100; Away 76-135: 52 Notre Dame (Neutral), 67 Liberty (Neutral),
Bad Losses (Sub-100 NET or KenPom): 103 NET Miami (Road)
Liberty Flames (8-3, 0-0 Atlantic Sun) – KenPom: 106, NET: 67 – Liberty can be a sneaky solid win for us since it was on a neutral floor. They have played three non-Division I teams, but they challenged themselves with five major conference teams before December 10th. They even got two of them, beating Mississippi State 84-73 (and the Bulldogs have lost just once since Melbourne) and South Carolina 78-62. They came close to two more with a four point loss to TCU and nine point loss at Missouri. They are currently off until January 1, when they begin a 16-game conference season where they will play opponents on twice on back-to-back days like a baseball series.
Clemson Tigers (6-1, 0-1 ACC) – KenPom: 21, NET: 81 – Clemson is the very definition of “not a bad loss” for a young team like Purdue. They are far and away the best team we played outside the league and given how that game went, I have no regrets. We’re helping them by being a “good” win and we should at least get a nice strength of schedule boost from them. Their lone loss was by six at Virginia Tech. They have good wins over Alabama, Maryland, and Mississippi State. There is no shame in losing this one. The one thing I can’t figure out is why their NET is so low when the RPI is wildly different at 19.
Oakland Golden Grizzlies (0-9, 0-2 Horizon League) – KenPom: 288, NET: 222 – Oakland is gettin’ those checks in a pandemic year. They have yet to play a home game and will be doing a similar style of league schedule to the Atlantic Sun. They have losses to Xavier, Michigan, Purdue, Oklahoma State, and Michigan State, with their best one in that set by 10 in overtime at Michigan.
Valparaiso Crusaders (3-5, 0-0 Missouri Valley) – KenPom: 167, NET: 222 – Purdue dodged a huge bullet with its comeback against Valpo, as a loss in that game would have been absolutely crippling. They have a pair of non D-I wins and have lost at Vanderbilt and Central Michigan. They get Indiana State on the road next week.
Miami Hurricanes (4-2, 0-1 ACC) – KenPom: 67, NET: 103 – This is one that got away and I hope it doesn’t cost us on Selection Sunday. The Hurricanes were playing short-handed without Chris Lykes and once he returns they can be a fringe tournament team. After beating Purdue they lost at home to Florida Gulf Coast 66-62 and Pittsburgh 70-55. They did beat Jacksonville on Saturday, but this should be a solid Purdue road win right now.
Indiana State Sycamores (3-2, 0-0 Missouri Valley) – KenPom: 145, NET: 105 – How well can the Trees do in the Valley? They got a pair of wins over Ball State (67-57) and SE Missouri State (72-66) after losing at Purdue. All they have left is their conference schedule and they are currently rated third in the league behind Northern Iowa and Loyola-Chicago per the NET. A good run through the Valley could make them a nice tier 2 win for us.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (2-4, 0-1 ACC) – KenPom: 86, NET: 52 – Notre Dame’s overall record is not great, but their challenging non-conference mark added to the fact that the ACC will lift them naturally will make this a fairly strong win all year. They have a pretty good win at Kentucky even if the Wildcats are 1-5. They have losses to Duke, Ohio State, Michigan State, and Purdue, so none of those are bad at all. Their ACC slate needs to keep them up.