Last weekend Purdue won the Boiler Box Challenge beating Ball State, South Dakota, and Notre Dame to finish non-conference play with a 9-2 record. As conference play begins Purdue is the best serving team in the B1G with 1.65 aces/set and the 5th best hitting team with 14.19 k/s. Brooke Peters leads Purdue and the Big Ten at the service line with .51 aces/set, good for 16th in the country. Faye Adelaja is third in B1G and 11th in the country with a .438 hitting percentage to go with 2.27 k/s and .88 b/s. Danielle Cuttino boasts the B1G's third best blocking average 1.38 b/s, 26th in the country, and hits .350. Annie Drews is third in the B1G and 24th in the country with 4.32 k/s. Rounding out top performers is Amanda Neill who is sixth in the Big Ten with 4.16 d/s.
Purdue's first conference match will be tonight at 7:00 versus Michigan (10-1). #22 Michigan's only loss came at the hands of North Carolina who received votes in this week's rankings. The Wolverines are led by Abby Cole who boasts 3.11 kills/set, .394 hitting percentage, and 1.18 blocks/set. Diminutive, 5'8 outside hitter Caroline Knop averages 2.87 k/s and 2.9 digs/set. Michigan boasts the B1G's best backcourt with 16.77 d/s, 20th in the country. Tiffany Morales averages 3.81 d/s and setter Carly Warner posts 3.33 d/s.
On Saturday night Purdue will square off against Michigan State (8-3) at 7:00 P.M. Opposite of Michigan, State has an imposing front line which puts down 15.13 kills a set second best in the country, first in the B1G. Defensively State's height helps them put up 2.54 blocks per set. The Spartan hitters range from 6'2 to 6'6. They're led by Brooke Kranda's 3.33 k/s and .77 b/s, Allyssah Fitterer hits 2.95 k/s, and .317, Allyssa Garvelink posts 2.77 k/s and 1.1 b/s, and Megan Tompkins averages 1.2 b/s. Kristen Muir leads the Spartan backcourt with 3.41 d/s followed by Abby Monson's 3.33 d/s.
Around the B1G
Six teams started conference play on Wednesday night. Penn State swept Wisconsin (8-3) to move to 12-0; the Nittany Lions have yet to drop a set. Minnesota (9-2) outlasted Ohio State (11-2) in five set victory and Nebraska (10-1) dispatched Iowa (10-4) in a three set win. The remaining teams starting their conference slates this weekend are Michigan (10-1), IU (10-2), Illinois (9-2), Michigan State (8-3), Northwestern (8-3), Maryland (10-4), and Rutgers (3-9).
Penn State remains in 1st this week garnering all the first place votes. Next are #2 Texas, #3 USC, #4 Nebraska, and #5 Florida. Six other Big Ten teams are ranked; #9 Illinois, #12 Ohio State, #16 Wisconsin, #20 Purdue, #21 Minnesota, and #22 Michigan. Michigan State and Iowa received votes.
Around the Country
There are six teams who are undefeated so far this season: #1 Penn State, #3 USC, #6 Washington, #7 Arizona State, #15 Kansas, and vote-getting San Francisco.
NCAA Tournament Profile
Purdue's strength of schedule this season is 157th , second weakest in the B1G. In non-conference play Purdue only faced one ranked team, current #10 BYU. Similar to last season Purdue has not proved much yet, they've beat most of the teams they're supposed to beat, but haven't upset anyone. Looking at the current rankings, Purdue only plays the top four teams in the league once each; Penn State on the road, Ohio State on the road, Illinois at home, and Nebraska at home. Even if Purdue drops those four matches they should be alright. Purdue will play nine matches against ranked teams. In my opinion Purdue can go 4-5 against ranked conference teams and still make the tournament so long as they beat the teams in the basement of B1G and only drop a couple to middle of the pack teams. Upsets at home against Illinois, Nebraska, and Wisconsin could really boost the team's profile. Last year Purdue had no marquee wins to hang their hat on, most times they were on the receiving end of upsets. If Purdue posts a few upsets and takes care of business they should be still playing in December.