Under The Microscope: Indiana, Purdue, and Valparaiso

We have entered that crucial point in the college basketball season as schools jockey for positioning in the hopes of not just getting a good seed, but just to have their name mentioned by Greg Gumbel of CBS Sports on Selection Sunday.

The fact is–that day is a little over six weeks away.

Periodically during this time, I plan to focus on a few schools (no more than four per blog) and put them under my proverbial ‘microscope’ to examine  a decent chunk in what the Selection Committee terms as their overall “body of work”.

In the final analysis, you will see my general ranking in terms of what percentage chance they could reach the field of 68.

The first grouping that I have chosen to put the spotlight is in the basketball crazy heartland in the Hoosier State known as Indiana.

The first school won five national championships in the 20th century, but has fallen on hard times since 2000 when legendary coach and three time champion coach in Bobby Knight did that infamous choking incident during a practice against Neil Reed:

Indiana Hoosiers, Big Ten Conference

15-6 overall, 5-3 Big Ten play (5th place)

Good wins:  November 20 vs. SMU, January 10 vs. Ohio State, January 22 vs. Maryland

Bad losses:  December 9, neutral court vs. Louisville, January 28 at Purdue

RPI Breakdown:  40 overall, but a meager 101 in non-conference play.

All six of their losses have come to teams that were listed in the Top 100 of the RPI at the time those games were played.  The only under .500 record has the Hoosiers pegged at 1-2 against teams seeded 26-50, but over .500 in every other statistical category.

Games that could help or hurt their Tournament resume:

Tuesday, Feb. 3 at Wisconsin 7 p.m. Eastern on ESPN

Sunday, Feb. 8 vs. Michigan, 1 p.m. Eastern on CBS

Wed. Feb. 11 at Maryland, 9 p.m. Eastern on ESPN

Chance that they could reach the Big Dance:  55%

They would have to win those three games to have a realistic chance.  Otherwise, they would have to win the Big Ten post-season tournament come the middle of March to secure one of the final automatic qualifying berths.

Purdue Boilermakers, Big Ten Conference

13-8 overall, 5-3 in conference play (7th place)

Good wins:  December 2 vs. North Carolina State and January 28 vs. Indiana.

Bad losses:  December 6 vs. North Florida, December 20 on neutral court vs. Notre Dame, and December 22 vs. Gardner-Webb.

RPI Breakdown:  88 overall, 178 in non-conference play.

Purdue has lost to 2 schools ranked in the RPI’s Top 25, but are a stellar 2-1 in the 26-50 range and 5-2 with schools ranked between 51 to 100.  All of those victories came at Keady Court/Mackey Arena.

Key game to watch:

February 19 at Indiana, otherwise mostly middle of the road games to determine seeding for Big Ten Tournament.  Definitely a make-or-break year for former player turned coach Matt Painter.  Winning the post-season berth would be nice, but reaching the final game come March 15 would be a nice perk as Mackey Arena continues its’ multi-year refurbishing project.

Chance to reach the Big Dance:   50%.  The Boilers would really have to hope some of the schools in either the ACC, SEC, or Big East fall apart in the final six weeks to maybe have a slight chance on reaching Dayton and the First Four grouping of games starting on St. Patrick’s Day.

Valparaiso Crusaders, Horizon League

19-4 overall, 6-2 in conference play (2nd place)

Quality wins:  November 29 on neutral court vs. Murray State.

Bad losses:  November 16 at Missouri and January 2 at Oakland (Michigan).

RPI Breakdown:  Most of their wins have come from schools whose RPI was 101 and worse, the lowest of the bunch being 328 of the Maine Black Bears early on in the season.

Key game to watch:  The rematch with Wisconsin-Green Bay on Friday, February 13 will be hopefully something famous alma mater and new resident food critic Ginger Zee of GMA/Worst Cooks In America fame might gravitate towards.  Five nights before that at the ARC will be the other chance to get revenge against Oakland of Michigan as Bryce Drew’s squad tries to gain firm hold on the number one seed with UWGB going into the Horizon League Tournament which starts during the first full week of March.

Chance on reaching the Big Dance:  70%.  I think overall with Valpo being the highest scoring team and the way they play defense in crucial situations should be enough to get them the automatic bid from the Horizon League.  If not, the resume would be decent to get them possible NIT or CIT consideration.

More updates to come involving schools on the fringe of tournament play when time permits.  Enjoy your weekend.

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