Basketball power rankings: Purdue is clearly the Big Ten’s second-best team

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Purdue basketball started off this season in a favorable place despite losing Caleb Swanigan, one of its biggest stars in years, to the NBA draft. So far, Matt Painter’s coaching a team that might be even better than the 2016 version.

Advanced stats love the Boilermakers so far. KenPom ranks Purdue at No. 6, ahead of North Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky and far ahead of almost every other team in the Big Ten. Michigan State is still the class of the conference, but Purdue has emerged as the clear No. 2. With Swanigan gone, sophomore Carsen Edwards has stepped up to fill in some of the scoring. Center Isaac Haas being more effective and is able to stay on the court longer. Vince Edwards is handling a leadership role. Dakota Mathias is even more efficient than last season with a team-high offensive rating of 135, per KenPom (he was around 121 during his first two seasons).

This balanced attack was in full effect against Butler. P.J. Thompson had 12 points on two made field goals thanks to a 7-for-7 performance at the line, and everyone who took more than one shot was at least .500 from the field in an 82-67 victory. Purdue plays Tennessee State and Lipscomb before starting conference play back up at Rutgers, and a 14-2 record could get the Boilermakers some national attention come midseason.

Anyway, on to the rankings!

1. Michigan State

9-1, 2-0 Big Ten
KenPom ranking: No. 2

Michigan State is still great. An 86-73 win over Oakland on Saturday was the only update we got on the Spartans this week. Tom Izzo’s team plays Houston Baptist (KenPom No. 268), Long Beach State (No. 237), Cleveland State (No. 280) and Savannah State (No. 331) before starting conference play against Maryland on Jan. 4. Get ready for some lopsided scores.

2. Purdue

11-2, 2-0 Big Ten
KenPom ranking: No. 6

3. Michigan

10-3, 1-1 Big Ten
KenPom: 35

Michigan beat Texas on Tuesday, which is a fine win over a brand-name program that has been fine this season. Beating UCLA and Texas in consecutive games is still better that anything any other Big Ten team has done in nonconference play. It’s still not as great as you might think, but it’s fine.

4. Minnesota

9-3, 1-1 Big Ten
KenPom ranking: No. 41

Minnesota narrowly avoided its third straight loss with a 68-67 win over Drake on Monday. Not great. Richard Pitino’s team still seems promising thanks to a well-rounded group of starters and continued strong performances down low from Jordan Murphy. The Gophers don’t turn the ball over and they rebound well, but their defense is a bit lacking. That’ll have to be better if the Gophers are to survive nights when they aren’t on from deep.

5. Maryland

10-3, 1-1 Big Ten
KenPom: 37

Maryland only played one game last week and it was against Catholic, which isn’t even in Division I. The Terps have some problems to fix, namely on an offense that lacks a go-to scorer. But for now, No. 4 feels right.

6. Ohio State

9-3, 2-0 Big Ten
KenPom: 48

Ohio State beat Appalachian State last week. That’s fine. Doesn’t move you up, but it’s a win.

7. Penn State

9-3, 1-1 Big Ten
KenPom: 38

Had an 18-point win over George Mason. That’s fine.

8. Northwestern

8-4 (1-1 Big Ten)
KenPom: 46

Northwestern has a little bit of distance from its horrid start. After some perspective, I think it’s a stretch to say a 4-point loss to Creighton and a 5-point loss to Purdue are cause for concern. Those are fine. Losing to a Georgia Tech team KenPom ranks No. 91 and a 36-point loss to an admittedly good Texas Tech team still are bad, though.

9. Indiana

6-5 (1-1 Big Ten)
KenPom: 74

Losing by 21 to Indiana State and beating Notre Dame in the same season? Well, Indiana’s done that. Beating Notre Dame is more impressive than almost anything any other Big Ten team has done this season. Maybe the Hoosiers will end up as more of a middle-of-the-pack team in the conference, seeing as they don’t have a “bad” loss since the Indiana State game. Still, they’re 6-5 and lost by 21 to Indiana State. It’ll take a while for that to wear off.

10. Wisconsin

5-7, (1-1 Big Ten)
KenPom: 63

The Badgers won last week, but not really because it was only thanks to this charge call. It was total crap.

This was dumb.

11. Nebraska

7-5 (1-1 Big Ten)
KenPom: 85

The Huskers looked solid in a one-point loss to Kansas. That’s good, but a one-point loss still won’t move you up much.

12 Rutgers

10-3 (0-2 Big Ten)
KenPom: 90

Rutgers did a good thing last week! Steve Pikiell’s Scarlet Knights upset Seton Hall, a good team, 71-65 at home. Social media praise poured in for Pikiell, who’s in his second season with the program. Corey Sanders led the way for Rutgers with 22 points. Rutgers has leaned on Sanders each season he’s been there, so it’s nice to see him shine in his program’s biggest moment in a while.

13. Iowa

6-6 (0-2 Big Ten)
KenPom: 73

The Hawkeyes beat Drake, a school that is not particularly good at basketball, 90-64. Minnesota only beat Drake by one point though, if you recall. Fun to think about, even if it’s likely meaningless.

14. Illinois

8-5 (0-2)
KenPom: 97

Last week: Beat Longwood 92-45, lost to New Mexico State 74-69. Doesn’t make you think any worse of Illinois, but doesn’t exactly make you think anything better of the Illini since last week. Next!

Big Ten basketball play of the week

Zach McRoberts hauled in this offensive rebound off a free throw, then deftly passed to Juwan Morgan for the deciding bucket in Indiana’s win over Notre Dame.

Game to watch for Week 7

It’s a slate that’s light on games you’ll actually want to watch. I’m going with Ohio State vs. North Carolina at 1:30 p.m. ET Saturday on CBS.

See you next Monday.

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