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Purdue leads Big Ten teams in ESPN’s BPI rankings

Boilemakers ranked seventh in preseason poll

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Midwest Regional-Purdue vs Kansas Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The early departure of All-American forward Caleb Swanigan will have a huge impact on Purdue this season. But the Boilermakers still have enough talent remaining to be ranked seventh in ESPN’s preseason College Baskeball Power Index (BPI) that was released on Thursday.

The BPI can put a lot of emphasis on returning players, and Purdue has plenty of those. Swanigan, former graduate transfer Spike Albrecht, and little-used guard Jon McKeeman are the only players that moved on from last year’s Big Ten championship-winning team that went 26-9 and reached the Sweet 16.

The Boilermakers are returning six of their top-seven scorers from last season, led by seniors Isaac Haas and Vincent Edwards, who each averaged 12.6 points per game in 2016-17. Sophomores Carsen Edwards is also back after averaging 10.3 points per game during a strong freshman campaign. Dakota Mathias (9.7 points per game), P.J. Thompson (7.4 ppg) and Ryan Cline (5.4 ppg) are also returning for a Purdue team that should be the most experienced in the Big Ten.

If a couple Boilermakers can take their game to the next level to help offset the loss of Swanigan, then there is no reason Purdue can’t challenge Michigan State and the other favorites in the Big Ten.

Speaking of Michigan State... they’ve been the popular choice to win the Big Ten title since Miles Bridges chose to forego the NBA Draft and return for his sophomore season. Like Purdue, the Spartans will bring back a lot of production. Eron Harris, Alvin Ellis and Matt Van Dyk have moved on, leaving Michigan State with eight of their top-10 scorers from last season’s team that went 20-15.

Bridges will be at the head of the group after averaging 16.9 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.5 blocks per game on the way to being named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year last season. Sophomore Nick Ward is also back after averaging 13.9 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in just 19.8 minutes per game. Joshua Langford (6.9 ppg) and Cassius Winston (6.7 ppg, 5.2 assists per game) will also look to take the next step after gaining a lot of experience as freshmen.

That veteran group, which also includes Matt McQuaid, Lourawls Nairn Jr. and Kenny Goins, will be bouyed by the additions of freshmen Jaren Jackson and Xavier Tillman. The Spartans will also get big men Gavin Schilling and Ben Carter back in the fold after both players were granted extra years of eligibility after missing last season due to injuries.

Iowa is ranked No. 23 in the BPI after going 19-15 last year, while Northwestern checks in at No. 25 after a breakout 2016-17 season in which the Wildcats went 24-12 and reached their first ever NCAA Tournament.

Like Purdue, Iowa lost their do-it-all player in Peter Jok, but the Hawkeyes return everyone else, a talented group that includes sophomore forward Tyler Cook (12.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg), sophomore guard Jordan Bohannon (10.9 ppg, 5.1 apg), sophomore forward Cordell Pemsl (8.9 ppg, 5.0 rpg), and junior forward Nicholas Baer (7.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.4 spg, 1.3 bpg).

Northwestern should have an another opportunity to surprise the country, as the Wildcats will only have to replace Sanjay Lumpkin and Nathan Taphorn. Second-team All-Big Ten honoree Bryant McIntosh will run the show once again, having averaged 14.8 points and 5.2 assists per game last season.

Scottie Lindsey (14.1 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.3 apg) and Vic Law (12.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.1 spg) will also be back on the wing, while Dererk Pardon (8.6 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 1.8 bpg) and Gavin Skelly (5.9 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 1.2 bpg) will be back inside. Sophomore guard Isiah Brown (6.3 ppg) is also back for a Northwestern team that is returning its top-five scorers from last season.

It’s tough to put too much stock in any preseason poll, but the BPI still gives a decent look as to which teams can expect to have successful seasons. The rankings for the rest of the Big Ten teams are Minnesota at No. 28, Ohio State at No. 29, Maryland at No. 37, Wisconsin at No. 44 and Indiana at No. 45.