Northwestern Opponent Watch, aka NCAA Tournament Resume Padding

Loretta8 or Rodger did a rundown of our non-conference opponents earlier in the season, but since we're in full NCAA Tournament (!) anticipation mode, I thought it'd be a good time to review how our foes are faring. Given that the NCAA Tournament (!) selection committee will be looking at NU's entire body of work, it goes without saying that the better they do, the better our resume looks.

Loretta8 will give you the daily bubble rooting interests, but let's take a look at what NU's opponents have done to date.

Texas-Pan American: 7-17 overall. RPI 296, KenPom 307. They're an independent, so no conference record.

LSU: 16-10 overall, 6-6 SEC, tied for 4th place. RPI 65, KenPom 71.

Tulsa: 16-11 overall, 9-4 Conference USA, 2nd place (half game out of first). RPI 105, KenPom 78

Seton Hall: 18-9 overall, 7-8 Big East, tied for 9th place. RPI 37, KenPom 47.

Stony Brook: 17-8 overall, 12-2 America East, tied for 1st. RPI 162, KenPom 129.

Georgia Tech: 9-17 overall, 2-10 ACC, last place. RPI 171, KenPom 149.

Mississippi Valley State: 16-11 overall, 15-0 SWAC, first place. RPI 147, KenPom 249

Baylor: 22-5 overall, 10-5 Big 12, third place (2 games out of first). RPI 9, KenPom 16.

Texas Southern: 10-16 overall, 9-5 SWAC, 3rd place. RPI 247, KenPom 280.

Central Connecticut: 11-15 overall, 8-8 Northeast, tied for 5th. RPI 250, KenPom 231.

Eastern Illinois: 10-15 overall, 5-9 Ohio Valley, tied for 9th. RPI 281, KenPom 297.

Creighton: 23-5 overall, 12-4 Missouri Valley, 2nd place (2 games out of first). RPI 28, KenPom 37.

Now for some commentary. Obviously, NU's two losses were to Creighton and Baylor. Those two teams kept up their general excellence, which is good, as it means NU has no resume-marring non-conference losses.

As for the teams we beat, Seton Hall is clearly the one that we are fixating on, as the Pirates have been a somewhat surprisingly good team and could definitely help our NCAA Tournament (!) cause. But as Loretta8 and commenters have noted, the Pirates are a bubble team themselves and could also bump us out of a spot, if they get too good. Seton Hall has three games left in its regular season schedule: a very tough home game against Georgetown tonight, and two very winnable games against Big East bottom feeders Rutgers (home) and DePaul (road).

Even with a loss to Georgetown, as long as Seton Hall takes care of business against Rutgers and DePaul, the Pirates will maintain a top-50 RPI. (You RPI gurus out there, correct me if I'm wrong on this assumption). Imma just gonna say that Seton Hall winning will be good for us, as long as NU keeps winning. So, let's just win, OK?

The next team we should focus on is LSU, which also is a bit tricky. Like us and Seton Hall, but to a lesser extent, LSU is also an NCAA bubble team. The Tigers have four games remaining in the regular season, all of them winnable: Georgia, at Mississippi, Tennessee and at Auburn. None of those teams are above LSU in the SEC standings. Same applies here: LSU winning is good, as long as NU keeps winning.

Tulsa isn't likely to boost our resume that much, but it would help if they could get their RPI into the top 100. The Golden Hurricane have three games left in the regular season: at Tulane (should win), at UAB (should win), and then a home showdown against Memphis (probable loss).

Mississippi Valley State is running away with the SWAC, which carries the dubious honor as the worst college basketball conference, in terms of RPI. Still, though, NU can boast of a win over a conference champ and likely NCAA Tournament (!) team, barring a loss in the SWAC tournament.

Same pretty much goes for Stony Brook, as the Northeast Conference is also among the lowest RPI conferences. If Stony Brook can beat out Vermont for the Northeast title, that gives NU another win over an NCAA Tournament (!) team.

The rest of the slate -- Texas Pan-Am, Georgia Tech, Texas Southern, Central Connecticut and Eastern Illinois -- don't offer us much help. I suppose we should just keep hoping they win, except in the case of Texas Southern, who hopefully won't derail Mississippi Valley State's road to the SWAC title.

So there you have it: our non-conference rooting allegiances. Keep cheering on Tulsa, Miss Valley State and Stony Brook. Stony Brook and LSU could go either way, but all in all, we probably want them to keep winning.

But really, the important thing is that NU takes care of its own games; otherwise all this is a moot sideshow. NCAA Tournament!

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