The Purdue women’s basketball team is having a comeback season, but most people aren’t paying attention.
The Boilermakers (14-6, 5-2 Big Ten) sit at second in conference standings, tied with Iowa and Maryland. This season, they have beaten the No. 17 Iowa Hawkeyes as well as Miami, who received six votes in this week’s AP top-25 poll, and barely lost to No. 14 Rutgers and No. 19 South Carolina by two points each.
So why is Purdue not receiving any votes in the AP poll?
According to a Purdue Athletics release, the team pulls an average attendance of 6,433 per game, the ninth-best in the nation, and pulled a crowd of 10,000+ on the first day of winter break when South Carolina came to town. But crowd size doesn’t matter, statistics do. That’s where Purdue makes it count.
As the saying goes, numbers never lie.
Purdue has three of the top 15 individual scorers in the league, the only team to have that many. Junior Dominique Oden, sophomore Karissa McLaughlin and junior Ae’Rianna Harris have been the scoring trifecta for the team this year with averages of 15.5, 15.4 and 13.2 points per game, respectively.
Harris, the reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, is a force to be reckoned with underneath the hoop. She leads the NCAA in blocked shots with 67 and is fourth overall — first in the Big Ten — in blocked shots per game at 3.35. In conference play, the forward has the fifth-highest rebounds with 186 and the sixth-highest rebounds per game at 9.3.
“I think we’re a very good defensive team,” head coach Sharon Versyp said following Purdue’s win over Indiana.
What Versyp calls “team defense” has been a major focus this season for the Boilermakers.
McLaughlin is having a phenomenal year at the point, hitting 92.5 percent from the line, sixth-highest in the nation and second in conference. From deep, she is a lethal threat, hitting 37.6 percent.
When a team has to defend against McLaughlin and the Boilers, they’re spread out not only because of Purdue’s high scoring from the paint but also because of McLaughlin’s ability to score from deep. Opponents have to worry about her almost every minute of the game. McLaughlin leads the nation in total minutes played: 742.
With so much talent and such a formidable record, it’s hard to understand why the team hasn’t received a single vote in the AP poll.
Minnesota (13-5, 2-5) received 21 votes in this week’s AP poll. The Golden Gophers’ low conference record is made worse with losses to Nebraska, Michigan and Illinois, who are currently last in conference standings.
How is a team with just two conference wins over Wisconsin, which is 13th in conference standings, and no wins over ranked opponents receiving more votes than a Purdue team with two ranked wins and a much better conference record?
Take out fan bias, take out home court advantage; take out any other external factor that has the slightest impact on a game. The Boilermakers deserve votes in the AP top-25 poll. They have a ways to go until they’re ranked, but a win over a ranked conference opponent could change that.
Even so, at this point in the season with the resume the team has built, it deserves more than zero votes.