Purdue's hopes for a dream season supposedly ended when star forward Robbie Hummel tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee before the season.
Conventional wisdom suggested Purdue could contend for the Final Four with Hummel in the lineup but might not even be a top-15 team without him.
It hasn't quite worked out that way.
Purdue (24-5 overall, 13-3 in the Big Ten) has won six in a row to head into the final week of the regular season sixth in the national rankings and one game behind Ohio State in the Big Ten standings. In their past three games, the Boilermakers have knocked off Ohio State at home and have won on the road against archrival Indiana and Michigan State.
That surge has helped make Purdue coach Matt Painter the new No. 1 coach in the Rivals.com College Basketball Power Rankings, which measure the nation's top performers at each position. Painter has the Boilers playing a physical brand of basketball that has allowed them to overcome the absence of their best all-around player.
"If I wasn't coaching against it, I would really enjoy the physical nature of Purdue's team," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo told reporters Sunday after the Spartans' 67-47 loss to the Boilers. "Purdue does a good job of walling people in and are just a solid team, and we need to learn from them."