Duke’s upset loss at the hands of Miami on Wednesday night paves the way for a new number one team to be crowned in (Division I) Men’s basketball when next week’s AP poll is compiled.
The Michigan Wolverines entered Thursday’s tilt with Purdue knowing that they were the likely heir apparent to the top spot, but didn’t crack under the pressure.
It was a shaky start for Michigan, to be sure, Purdue rode a hot stretch from beyond the arc (7-13 in the first half) to take a one point lead into the locker room, but Michigan’s defense clamped down in the second half as the team eventually coasted to a 15 point win.
So now Michigan is looking at Sunday’s contest with Illinois as the final barrier to the number one ranking in the land. Road games are always tough to win in the Big Ten, and the Fighting Illini have proven that they won’t roll over just because a Top 10 team comes into town. They beat the then-eighth ranked Ohio State Buckeyes by 19 points in Champaign earlier this month. They’ve languished in Big Ten play since then, but will play four of their next five games versus Top Fifteen programs, so they’ll be looking to jump out to a solid start.
The number one ranking obviously wouldn’t mean anything for the Michigan Wolverines in the long run – they’ll still need to prove themselves through the remainder of the Big Ten season and in the NCAA Tournament – but it would serve as a great testament to how far the program has come in the last decade and a half.