Purdue is back on top of the national rankings. And while that is gratifying, being No. 1 is not an overriding factor for the Boilermakers.
All it means is that if they can maintain the top-ranked spot, good things will happen.
Purdue’s first game this season with the No. 1 label comes against Davidson on Saturday night as part of the Indy Classic in Indianapolis.
“Just happy with our players and our fans,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “You put in a lot of hard work and you’re trying to win a championship, you’re trying to put yourself in a good position for the NCAA tournament. Rankings come and go. It’s great for your program. It’s great for recruiting.”
Purdue (10-0) holds a No. 1 ranking for the second year in a row, though last season the Boilermakers didn’t stay there long. Still, it’s a level that most teams won’t reach.
“Happy for our new guys to be able to experience this,” Painter said. “Our goal is to keep getting better each week. Obviously, if you can stay No. 1 for a long time, it means that you’re having a lot of success.”
Davidson (7-3) hasn’t played since a Dec. 7 victory against visiting Western Carolina. That halted a two-game skid that included a two-point overtime loss to Charlotte and a two-point setback at Delaware.
“We made a major, major emphasis about what we can do about our (situational) defensive mentality,” first-year Davidson coach Matt McKillop said. “When you do good things on the defensive end, it gives you confidence. It gives you energy.”
The Wildcats will need that defensive attentiveness in dealing with Purdue.
Center Zach Edey of Purdue has been named the Big Ten Player of the Week for the past three weeks. He’s averaging 22.0 points per game, despite a season-low 11 in last Saturday’s overtime victory at Nebraska, to go with a nation’s-best 13.7 rebounds per outing.
“It’s a great place to start when you got a guy who can dominate,” Painter said. “His competitive spirit is coming out more. He’s more of a force when a shot goes up, whether he’s blocking a shot or getting a rebound.”
McKillop said he hopes the gap in the schedule for the Wildcats will have allowed his coaching staff to evaluate areas where the team has done well and carve out ways to improve in other areas. That could mean there might be new wrinkles when Davidson faces Purdue.
Another benefit for Davidson’s team also could come into play.
“To get healthy and to get rest,” McKillop said.
Davidson is finding increasing roles for guard Connor Kochera, a transfer from William & Mary who is averaging 9.0 points and 4.1 rebounds a game.
The Wildcats also would like to get 6-foot-10 David Skogman some good looks. He had a season-high 17 points in the Western Carolina game and is shooting 42.9 percent.
“When he gets hot, he’s tough to stop,” McKillop said.
This marks Davidson’s second-to-last game before starting Atlantic 10 conference play. The Wildcats have played only five times at home.
Purdue has won both previous meetings with Davidson, also contested at neutral sites. The December 2008 matchup was in Indianapolis as well.
–Field Level Media