By Max Brill
WCBN Sports is proud to announce that we are traveling to the World's Most Famous Arena to take in five action-packed days of Big Ten basketball at this year's Big Ten Tournament! While WCBN Sports is usually a blog that focuses on Michigan sports, we want to get to know the other 13 teams playing for the Big Ten Championship. This is the start of a series that will run until the first day of the tournament (Wednesday, February 28), with a new team being covered each day. Today, our focus is on the #3-seeded Purdue Boilermakers.
Record: 26-5 (15-3 in Big Ten)
Tournament Seed: 3
First Round Opponent: Winner of #14 Rutgers or #11 Minnesota vs. #6 Indiana
Season Summary: The Boilermakers followed up an impressive 2016-2017 campaign with an even more impressive 2017-2018 campaign. After losing to Tennessee and Western Kentucky in late November, Purdue rattled off a 19-game winning streak in which they defeated noteworthy opponents such as Arizona, Louisville, and Michigan twice. In that 19-game stretch, the team also notched twelve straight conference victories. They dropped three straight earlier in February to B1G opponents Ohio State, Michigan State, and Wisconsin, but finished out the regular season on a high note with wins against Penn State, Illinois, and Minnesota. The Boilermakers rank fourth in the nation in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency margin and scoring margin while also ranking third in the nation 3FG%. In short, this team is lethal from long range and when they get hot, there may not exist a team in the NCAA that is capable of shutting them down. This is a team that has the potential to go to the Final Four.
Players to Watch: The best part about this Purdue team is that they have so many options. Isaac Haas, the 7’2” center, is shooting .611 from the field which ranks in the top 20 in the nation. When he’s not doing work in the paint, the team looks to Carsen Edwards (team-high 18.2 PPG, 3.8 RPG, and 3.0 APG), or Vincent Edwards (14.7 PPG, team-high 7.6 RPG, and 3.0 APG), both of whom are shooting over 47% from the field. The team also has big man Matt Haarms doing work down low to the tune of 3.2 RPG and .606 shooting in only 16 minutes per game.
X-Factor: Dakota Mathias is a monster. He’s shooting 47.2% from beyond the arc (better than most of the NCAA is shooting from the field including all FG attempts, not just threes), and is averaging nearly three 3PM per game. Every game Mathias has scored at least 18 points in (he’s averaging a tick under 13 PPG on the season), the Boilermakers have won, and he’s reached that number on eight different occasions. He’s also 6th in the country in 3FG%. If Mathias gets hot, there’s no stopping this Purdue offense.
Verdict: Purdue is one of the best bets to take home the hardware later this week. Though Michigan State is the odds-on favorite, Purdue has shown that they can hang with Sparty in a hostile environment, so MSG should give them a boost in that sense. Don’t be shocked if the Boilermakers “upset” the Buckeyes and meet again with the Spartans in the B1G final, but even beyond that, don’t be shocked if this team makes a run to the Final Four in the Big Dance.
(Image courtesy of Purdue Sports)