Since 1948 there has always been an undefeated team in college basketball heading into the new year. Luckily for Michigan State, 2018 has broken the 70 year mold as they claimed the nation’s top spot, despite it’s one loss, in both the AP and USA Today coaches’ poll.
Week Nine Ap Poll:
- No. 1 Michigan State
- No. 13 Purdue
Receiving votes: None
Week Nine Coaches Poll:
- No. 1 Michigan State
- No. 14 Purdue
Receiving votes: Michigan (1)
Thanks to the defeats of Villanova and Arizona State, the Spartans were able to take the top spot in both polls despite their early loss to Duke. Miles Bridges and Cassius Winston both put up double doubles, including 21 boards from Bridges, in their latest blowout win. The Spartans head into conference play with easy wins, but they are red hot nonetheless, having won their last three game by an average of over 50 points per contest.
Although the Spartans have the preseason Big Ten player of the year leading their squad in Miles Bridges, it has been Nick Ward as of late, who has been remarkably efficient in the last few games. How remarkable? Ward has missed two shots in his last four games. And it’s not like he isn’t shooting. He’s made 32 of 34 shots against those opponents. With this type of efficiency from arguably their third best player, it is no wonder why the Spartans hold the nations number one ranking.
As the Big Ten’s only other ranked team, the Purdue was able to increase their position in both polls, going from 14 to 13 in the AP poll, and from 13 to 12 in the Coaches’ poll.
The Boilermakers handled both of their last opponents easily, winning both games by over 20 points. Purdue opens up conference play on Wednesday when they host the Scarlet Knights.
Purdue has a relatively balanced attack with four players averaging more than 13 points per game. They are led by sophomore Carsen Edwards who has 17.7 points along with four rebounds. What makes Purdue such a scary team going forward is their experience, having two very talented seniors leading their front court in Isaac Haas and Vincent Edwards.
Purdue’s two losses came against Tennessee - now ranked 23rd - in overtime, and an embarrassing four point loss to Western Kentucky. They did rebound from those quickly, blowing the doors off then ranked number two Arizona.
Purdue and Michigan State were the only conference representatives to be ranked in both polls, however the Wolverines were able to etch out one measly vote in the coaches poll.
Michigan pulled out its sixth straight victory on the road against Iowa last night thanks to a big performance from Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman. The big man led the team with 15 points and seven rebounds in a relatively stress-less win against a team that was also riding in on a five game win streak.
The Wolverine’s appear to be finding their identity at just the right time as they begin conference play. Although they are emerging as the conference's third best team, they still have a lot to prove if they want to be contend with Purdue and Michigan State. They have a deep rotation which may help them over the course of the season, but maybe some of their better players would benefit from seeing more action.