1. Purdue (14-2, 3-2)
Everyone knows the story with Purdue. Zach Edey was named National Player of the Year and the team looked unstoppable, but 16-seed Fairleigh Dickinson had other ideas last March. Months later, Edey and company are back in West Lafayette and looking to have a season that ends much differently, but will it happen?
Early returns were phenomenal, as the Boilermakers won a loaded Maui Invitational with wins over Gonzaga, Tennessee, and Marquette. They’ve also knocked out Alabama, Arizona, and Illinois, but it hasn’t all been good for the Boilermakers. Purdue was shocked on the road in overtime against Northwestern back in early December and fell short again this week, losing by 16 points at Nebraska. Pairing all of these resume-building wins against those two losses looks almost crazy but that’s where we are.
Regardless, Purdue is the best program in the Big Ten right now, especially with how Edey and these guards like Braden Smith and Fletcher Loyer have been playing this season. This team knows that mistakes can happen and everyone is gunning for them, evident by dropping two of their first three true road games on the season. No matter the losses, past or present, Matt Painter’s squad knows how to win games and should be a threat for a top-seed in the next NCAA Tournament while maintain their footing as the conference’s favorites.
We’re only just beginning Big Ten play; there are weeks of games ahead that will give us a clearer picture. Still, we’ve taken what we know and have seen from these fourteen teams and ranked them. Do you agree with the order given or have some teams been better or worse than expected? One thing is for sure: it’s going to be a wild ride seeing if anyone can topple the Boilermakers.