Get ready for the Carsen Edwards show at Purdue. Last season, the 6'1" combo guard led the Boilermakers with 18.5 points per game on the way to earning All-America honors from the AP and NABC.
With his speed, playmaking ability and gunner’s mentality, Edwards can take over a game — and the Boilers might need him to do so considering what they lost. Purdue graduated four senior starters who won the Big Ten title in 2016-17 and made back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances. The departures open the door for Edwards to carry an even heavier scoring load and take on a leadership role, which is especially important considering that he’ll be surrounded by four new starters and six freshmen (two redshirt, four true).
At a Glance
HEAD COACH: Matt Painter
2017-18 RECORD (BIG TEN): 30-7 (15-3)
2017-18 POSTSEASON: NCAA: Lost to Texas Tech 78-65 in the Sweet 16
F Vincent Edwards (14.6 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 2.9 apg)
C Isaac Haas (14.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg)
G Dakota Mathias (12.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 3.9 apg)
G P.J. Thompson (7.5 ppg)
No team fed the ball into the post as much as Purdue over the least two years, with an efficient offense built around dominant low-post threats such as Caleb Swanigan and Isaac Haas. This year, Purdue will feature big men with versatility and mobility. It should lead to more ball-screen action and points in transition.
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Starting center Matt Haarms is a nimble, modern big man. The 7'3" Dutchman made an immediate impact on the defensive end of the floor as a freshman, blocking 2.1 shots per game. He’ll need to continue to develop offensively in Year 2.
Purdue answered some major questions at the 4 by adding Dartmouth transfer Evan Boudreaux, a two-time All-Ivy League player. The 6'8", 220-pound forward brings experience, physicality and the ability to shoot from the perimeter. The Boilers could also slide Boudreaux to the 5 and play a small-ball lineup.
Senior Grady Eifert, brother of NFL tight end Tyler Eifert, is a gritty hustle player who has been a walk-on for parts of his Purdue career. He’ll play a more prominent role in his final season. Redshirt freshman Aaron Wheeler has a chance to be one of the best newcomers in the Big Ten this year. The 6'9" forward shot the ball well from the perimeter in practice last year and gives the Boilers another athletic body who plays above the rim.
One question is how quickly a pair of true freshmen can contribute. Trevion Williams needs to improve his conditioning and physique. But once he does, he’ll become an interesting prospect because of his ability to handle the basketball, pass and rebound. Fellow freshman Emmanuel Dowuona is a raw athlete who has potential to become a true rim protector, though his offense needs polishing.
Edwards will need some scoring help from his backcourt mates if the Boilers are going to continue to be an elite offense.
Nojel Eastern gives Purdue a rare breed of point guard at 6'6" and 220 pounds. His length and athleticism show up most on defense, where he can guard 1 through 4. He can also play the 4 in some offensive lineups.
Senior Ryan Cline was a role player his first three years but will finally have a chance to start full time. He’s a catch-and-shoot threat who needs to take advantage of the increased minutes with increased production. Redshirt freshman Sasha Stefanovic gives Purdue another shooter in a similar mold.
True freshman Eric Hunter is a crafty left-handed scorer who finished his high school career with 2,583 points, seventh most in Indiana high school history. He should have a chance to show that scoring punch in his first year at Purdue.
Edwards alone should give the Boilermakers a chance to contend for the Big Ten title — and more. Purdue will be young in places, but it will be a team that gets better as the season progresses. The Boilers should be playing important games in March.
Postseason Prediction: Two & Out
Big Ten Prediction: 5th