Week 4 B1G basketball power rankings: A surge for the Boilermakers
Purdue might have turned in one of the best weekend performances by a Big Ten team in recent memory, when it not only beat 2 top-10 teams — Gonzaga and Duke — in a 3-day span, but dominated them.
Will the outburst, in combination with a win over West Virginia on Thursday and a previous victory over Marquette, be enough to move the Boilermakers to No. 1 in our power rankings?
Only one way to find out. Let’s take a look at our Week 4 list:
Record: 4-2 | Last week: 14
Jamison Battle made his season-debut for the Golden Gophers over the weekend at the SoCal Challenge, helping Minnesota to earn a split there, winning by 1 vs. California Baptist — Who? … Exactly. — and losing to UNLV. The veteran forward’s presence will help an otherwise young Minnesota team, but not enough to make a dent in the Big Ten. In fact, where will wins come in conference play? Right now, set the over/under at 2.5 conference victories this season.
Record: 4-3 | Last week: 13
On Sunday, Nebraska picked up an impressive win against Florida State, beating the Seminoles by 17 in Orlando. Of course, it’s an FSU that might be the worst team in major conference basketball this season, having won only 1 of its 8 games. Derrick Walker’s return to the lineup has been a big boost for the Cornhuskers, as the forward had 20 points on 10-of-12 shooting, with 13 rebounds and 4 assists vs. FSU. But Nebraska had lost, by double-digits, in its 1st 2 games of the ESPN Events Invitational, to Oklahoma and Memphis.
Record: 5-1 | Last week: 12
Northwestern missed out on a signature non-conference win in a slugfest against Auburn in the championship game of the Cancun Challenge. The final? 43-42, Tigers. The Wildcats’ veteran, guard-heavy squad might be a pain for some opponents in the Big Ten, but can Northwestern shoot the ball well enough from the perimeter to be consistent — and score upsets — once conference play rolls around? That’ll be the big question.
Record: 5-1 | Last week: 11
Michigan is probably better than its current ranking, but with a lot of others in the Big Ten racking up big non-conference victories, it’s hard to put the Wolverines much higher. That and it’s been a topsy-turvy start, with the last win being by only 10 points vs. Jackson State. The Wolverines played well for stretches, including a burst early in the 2nd half to go up 19, but like the 1st half-dozen games of the season, it was short-lived. Michigan has talent, but has to find a way to gel quickly.
Record: 5-1 | Last week: 9
Rutgers nuked a winless opponent on Saturday, but that wasn’t the storyline. Instead, it was the anticipated season debut of Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Caleb McConnell. He played 25 minutes against Central Connecticut, as 1 of the 2 injured Scarlet Knights made his return to the lineup. Rutgers is still hoping to get Paul Mulcahy (shoulder) back as soon as possible. Now would be a good time, considering Rutgers’ next 5 opponents: Miami, Indiana, Ohio State, Seton Hall and Wake Forest.
Record: 5-1 | Last week: 10
The Badgers had a solid run at the Battle4Atlantis, nearly sweeping the tournament but falling to No. 3 Kansas. The 1-point overtime loss — on an incredible game-ending play by the Jayhawks — was Wisconsin’s only blemish, as the Badgers picked up nice victories against Dayton and USC. Maybe Chucky Hepburn is starting to round into form, as the sophomore point scored 6 points in a game-deciding 10-2 run late vs. the Trojans.
8. Penn State
Record: 6-1 | Last week: 7
Penn State will show who it is in the next 3 games: at Clemson for the B1G/ACC Challenge, then Michigan State and at Illinois to open the early portion of the conference schedule. PSU has had a solid start to the season — boy, can the Lions shoot the ball — but the 3-game stretch represents a major step up in competition. Will the Nittany Lions’ shooters get as many open looks? Probably not.
Record: 5-1 | Last week: 6
The path to beating Iowa, as it frequently has been, is to be physical with the Hawkeyes on the interior. TCU did so in handing Iowa its 1st loss of the season in the championship game of the Emerald Coast Classic Saturday. The Horned Frogs had 58 points in the paint, held a 13-rebound advantage and kept the Hawkeyes from establishing any consistent interior scoring presence. After the game, Fran McCaffery knew his team going forward will have to match opponents’ physicality; that’ll definitely be true in the Big Ten.
6. Michigan State
Record: 5-2 | Last week: 3
Michigan State is trying to survive right now without Malik Hall and Jaden Atkins, who are both going to miss time with foot injuries. It left the Spartans to try to survive the Phil Knight Invitational in Portland, and they did, earning wins against Oregon and Portland after dropping their opener vs. Alabama. Until the duo return, MSU will have to rely on others to pick up scoring, like point guard AJ Hoggard, who got hot at the end of the game vs. the Pilots.
5. Ohio State
Record: 5-1 | Last week: 4
After its 1st loss of the season, Ohio State bounced back with a pair of wins in the Maui Invitational, including over then-No. 21 Texas Tech in the 5th-place game. Justice Sueing’s return to the Buckeyes’ lineup, after he had missed most of last season with injuries, has been a bit up and down, but it was up in his home state. Against the Red Raiders, he had 33 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals. He and Brice Sensabaugh, who scored in double-figures in all 3 Maui games, can give the Buckeyes a nice 1-2 scoring punch.
Record: 6-0 | Last week: 8
Julian Reese has taken a big step forward as a sophomore, highlighted by the big man’s performance in a win over Coppin State, when he finished with a double-double, including a career-high 24 points. Maryland is undefeated to start the season in large part because it has multiple scoring options in its starting 5, any one of whom is capable of going off for a big night. But Reese’s improvement from Year 1 to Year 2 gives the Terrapins a consistent interior presence.
Record: 5-1 | Last week: 2
Point guard Skyy Clark had a breakout game offensively in Illinois’ last outing, a convincing win over over-matched Lindenwood, when he scored 19 points on only 9 shot attempts. If Clark continues to develop and gain confidence — and one would think the former top-40 recruit would do so — then it gives Illinois yet another scoring option on the perimeter. Sophomore forward Luke Goode will also return from injury soon, adding another shooter.
Record: 6-0 | Last week: 1
Indiana is markedly better than last season in large part because it now has a bench, guys like forward Malik Reneau and guard Tamar Bates, who poured in 22 in Indiana’s last win over Jackson State. It’s taken pressure off the starters to be at 100 percent every single night. IU drops to No. 2 this week because of Purdue’s impressive résumé, but the Hoosiers will get a chance to pad theirs in the coming weeks, with dates vs. North Carolina (Wednesday) and Arizona and Kansas next month.
Record: 6-0 | Last week: 5
Very few teams have turned in the kind of weekend the Boilermakers just did in Portland, as Purdue won the Phil Knight Legacy with wins over West Virginia, then-No. 6 Gonzaga and then-No. 8 Duke. Add in a previous win over Marquette, and it’s likely that the Boilermakers have the country’s best résumé right now. The pieces all work right now for Matt Painter’s crew, with center Zach Edey, who is in the national Player of the Year conversation, surrounded by a bunch of players who can pass and shoot.