A top 10 ranking is there for the taking. Purdue last reached the top 10 in the AP Poll on December 14, 2015 when it climbed to No. 9. That was the peak of our current run where we have been in every poll except one for 45 straight polls. We immediately lost to Butler that week and have only been as high as 12 (in the final 2016 poll) since. Purdue hasn’t been higher than 9th since February 28, 2011 when we reached No. 6. We had reached No. 3 on February 22, 2010 before That Night in The Barn, and our highest ranking is No. 2, last achieved on March 7, 1988. The only team with more poll appearances than Purdue’s 347 that has also never been No. 1 is Maryland at an even 400.
Yes, polls are polls. They mean nothing in March, but they are still a very nice in-season honor. Climbing into the top 10 (and staying, let’s not forget that) would be a nice little bonus to an already fun season. All we need to do is when at home over Nebraska, too. No. 12 North Carolina, No. 11 Texas A&M, No. 10 Kansas, and No. 4 Arizona State have already lost this week. No. 7 Oklahoma or No. 6 West Virginia is guaranteed to have a loss as they face each other tomorrow. No. 8 Virginia faces North Carolina tomorrow too. Our Boilers are in line for a big climb as long as we take care of business at home.
From: Lincoln, NE
Date: Saturday, January 6, 2018
Tip Time: 2:15 p.m. ET
Location: West Lafayette, Indiana
Arena: Mackey Arena (14,804)
Radio: Purdue Radio Network
SiriusXM Satellite: XM (Ch. 381); Internet (Ch. 968)
Live Stats: bit.ly/PurdueLiveStats
2016-17 Record: 12-19, 6-12 Big Ten
2017-18 Record: 11-5, 2-1 Big Ten
Opponent Blog: Corn Nation
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 13-5
Last Nebraska Win: 83-80 on 1/29/2017 at Nebraska
Last Purdue Win: 81-62 on 3/1/2016 at Purdue
NCAA Tournament History: 7 appearances, last in 2014. Only Major Conference team to never win an NCAA Tournament game.
Coach: Tim Miles (86-91 in 6th season at Nebraska, 369-311 in 23rd season overall)
Last season Nebraska was not very good. They only won 11 games against Division I competition. They had a home loss to Gardner-Webb and they are one of the very few teams to lose to Rutgers in Big Ten play. They still upset Purdue 83-80. At the time, the loss looked crippling to our Big Ten title hopes. Fortunately, we won 8 of the last 9 to win the title outright. Nebraska only won twice after that.
I say this because this year’s version of Nebraska is probably a better team and they are capable of throwing a wrench into our plans. They have athleticism that can challenge us even in the friendly confines of Mackey Arena. Are they a tournament team? Well, they have a lot of work to do. Non-conference losses to Central Florida, St. John’s, and Creighton were all against top 60 RPI teams. The one they will regret is a 73-72 home loss to Kansas. They really could have used that for their overall profile. They are currently 0-4 against tier 1 RPI teams and their best win was Tuesday night against Northwestern 70-55, and the Wildcats were without Bryant McIntosh.
Overall, they are a pretty average team, but they have the horses to compete with excellent teams as shown in the Kansas game. I am kind of glad we don’t have to go to Lincoln this year because they are a tough out at home.
The Cornhuskers are very balanced with four starters averaging in double figures. James Palmer Jr. leads them at 15.3 points and 4.3 rebounds per game as a junior in his first year after transferring from Miami (FL). With the Hurricanes he was mostly an afterthought, but in Lincoln he is shooting 36.2% from three and shooting 43.9% from the floor.
Isaac Copeland and Anton Gill are also transfers coming into their own. Copeland is a 6’9” junior that graduate from Georgetown last year and has improved to 12.1 points and 6.8 rebounds. Gill is a 6’3” senior in his second year after transferring from Louisville and he has jumped to 10.4 points per game.
The elder statesman on the team is Glynn Watson Jr. He is a solid point guard averaging 12.4 points and 3.4 assists per game. Evan Taylor is a bit of a 3-point specialist averaging only 8.3 points per game, but he is shooting 52% from long range.
It is 3-point shooting where Nebraska can be dangerous. Everyone except for 6’11” Jordy Tshimanga can shoot it, so they are going to try and spread the floor with everyone while Isaac Haas is in the game. As a team they hit at a 37.3% clip from outside, but Gill is shooting 48.5% from long range.
Nebraska ranks 12th in the league in defense, so Purdue’s No. 2 scoring offense should thrive. They are also 11th offensively at 75.8 points per game. In most statistical categories they are right in the middle of the Big Ten.
This is a game Purdue should win. I am confident in every remaining game taking place in Mackey Arena because Purdue is a really good team anywhere, but in West Lafayette we have been virtually unstoppable. Still, Nebraska sits only a couple of spots behind Western Kentucky in the KenPom rankings, and we know what happens when we take a Western Kentucky team for granted. I think Nebraska makes us work for a bit, but Purdue pulls away in the end. Purdue 84, Nebraska 68