With the start of college basketball season on the horizon, we’ll be taking a long look at the conference at large as well as Indiana’s roster over the next month. Today, our Big Ten team previews continue with a look at Purdue. (Previously: Rutgers, Minnesota, Northwestern, Illinois, Penn State, Iowa, Maryland, Ohio State, Nebraska)
As the Boilermakers enter the 2018-2019 season, gone are starters Vincent Edwards, Issac Haas, PJ Thompson and Dakota Mathias. Those four were an integral part of one of Purdue’s best teams in recent memory, one that set a school record for wins (30), earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament and save for some losses down the stretch, had a shot at a Big Ten championship. Purdue eventually settled for third place.
The Boilermakers bowed out in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA tournament to Texas Tech after Haas sustained a serious elbow injury in the first round. They finished the 2018-2019 season ranked No. 2 in offensive efficiency and No. 5 overall, per KenPom.
That stellar offense of a season ago was predicated on Haas’s size, efficiency and ability to draw fouls down low coupled with some seriously deadly shooters from distance (No. 2 in country, 40.2 percent). But with Haas, Edwards (39.2 percent on 3s), Thompson (44.1 percent on 3s) and Mathias (46.6 percent on 3s) departed, the Boilermakers will have to re-tool.
The good news for Matt Painter is he has a strong foundation to start with in the form of Carson Edwards. Edwards decided to return for his junior season after testing the NBA waters and participating in the draft combine.
The Texas native took on a heavy load offensively as a sophomore and was efficient in doing so. Edwards used just over 28 percent of Purdue’s possessions and took nearly a third of its shots while on the floor while sporting an effective field goal percentage of 54.4 percent. Edwards was also a low turnover (9.0 turnover rate) and high assist (22.7 ) guard. But as we noted when we ranked Edwards the No. 2 player in the Big Ten heading into the season, he’s sure to see more defensive attention with Purdue’s four other starters gone.
Beyond Edwards, Purdue still has a strong 3-pointer shooter in senior Ryan Cline (39.6 percent last season). Point guard Nojel Eastern shot 50 percent on 2s last season and returns for his sophomore campaign after entering his name in the NBA draft.
Matt Haarms shot 61.2 percent on 2s as a freshman last year. At 7-3, he should step into Haas’ role down low. Dartmouth transfer Evan Boudreaux is eligible to play this season and was a big time scorer (17.6 points per game) during his time in the Ivy League. Senior Grady Eifert will likely be asked to step into a bigger role after averaging 1.6 points and 1.7 rebounds last season. Freshmen Eric Hunter, Trevion Williams and Emmanuel Dowuona are likely reserves.
Bottom Line: While Purdue lost a ton of talent off last year’s impressive squad, Edwards’ presence makes the Boilermakers a contender in the top half of the league. If Purdue is to get there, improvement from Eastern and Haarms — along with strong play from Boudreaux — will be key. Depth could be an issue for the Boilermakers this season, as could attempting to re-tool on the fly.
Quotable: “We have to get on the same page to figure out who’s going to play and a couple of them where they’re going to play. Obviously we have some holdovers that are pretty experienced and are pretty good players so that’s where your start is. Just trying to figure out who’s going to be able to mesh with those guys and be able to raise their value.” – Painter after his team’s first practice.