WEST LAFAYETTE – When The Associated Press men's basketball poll was released Monday, Purdue was among the Top 25 for the 381st time in the poll's history.
Unlike any of the first 380 times, this week's rankings featured the Boilermakers at No. 1.
Purdue ascended from No. 2 after previously top-ranked Duke lost to Ohio State on Nov. 30. Only Maryland had been in the poll more times, 423, without achieving a No. 1 ranking.
All 61 voters gave Purdue their first-place votes.
“It's definitely an accomplishment for us,” big man Trevion Williams said after the Boilermakers beat Iowa on Friday to all-but-clinch the top spot. “This is history, it's special, it shows that we're special, but we don't want to settle for that. We want to build off that. Once we become No. 1, we want to stay No. 1.”
That's the message coming from West Lafayette: celebrate the moment, but make it a beginning rather than an end.
“It's great to be No. 1, but we want to win championships,” forward Mason Gillis said.
Purdue (8-0, 1-0 Big Ten) reached No. 1 after a flying start to the season that included victories over No. 6 Villanova, North Carolina and the Hawkeyes. It's Purdue's best start since the 11-0 beginning of 2015-16.
The Boilermakers have built an unblemished mark largely on the strength of an offense that is among the best in the country. The Boilermakers are second in Ken Pomeroy's offensive efficiency, second in 3-point percentage, third in field-goal percentage and rebound margin, fifth in scoring offense and sixth in scoring margin and assists per game.
Those marks, along with three “Quadrant One” victories over the Wildcats, Hawkeyes and Tar Heels have also propelled the Boilermakers to No. 1 in the first NET rankings of the season, the primary sorting tool for the NCAA Tournament's selection committee. Only Xavier has matched Purdue's three Quadrant One wins.
Boilermakers coach Matt Painter was not impressed with his team's performance in the win over the Hawkeyes, noting Iowa was the tougher team and Purdue was “just OK” on defense. He emphasized the relative unimportance of holding the No. 1 ranking in December.
“It's happened to a lot of people who have been ranked high early in the season, it doesn't mean they end there,” Painter said. “Our goal is to end there. We want to be one of the better teams going into the NCAA Tournament and then make a long run in the tournament, but we know how tough that is. That's your job as a coach is to continue to be process-based.”
The Boilermakers will get their first chance to defend the top spot when they meet Rutgers (4-4, 0-1) on Thursday, Purdue's first true road game of the season. To hold the top spot for a second straight week, the Boilers will have to beat the Scarlet Knights and NC State on Sunday in the Basketball Hall of Fame Invitational in Brooklyn, New York.
“We always want to be the No. 1 team,” guard Jaden Ivey said. “We wanted to be the No. 1 team last year when we were ranked super low, so it's on our minds, but we have to focus on what we can focus on. ... If we focus on what we focus on, playing for each other, the rest will take care of itself.”
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
Where: Rutgers Athletic Center, Piscataway, N.J.
Records: No. 1 Purdue (8-0, 1-0 Big Ten), Rutgers (4-4, 0-1)
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: 1380 AM, 100.9 FM