Season Preview: Purdue
Last Season: 27-8, NCAA Sweet 16
Key Losses: Caleb Swanigan
Key Additions: Nojel Eastern, Aaron Wheeler, Eden Ewing
2016-2017 was definitely a big one for Matt Painter. After losing to Arkansas-Little Rock in the first round of the previous NCAA Tournament, Painter came into this past season feeling the heat a little bit. Led by an absolute monster season from Caleb “Biggie” Swanigan, Purdue won the Big Ten title outright. Even though I’m not fond of the Boilers, I have to take my hat off to Swanigan because he was just outright impressive. Solid contributions were made all year from the Vince Edwards and Dakota Mathias, helping lead the Boilers to a Sweet 16 appearance where they lost to Kansas. Even with the loss of Biggie Swanigan, there is optimism in the air up in West Lafayette.
Yes, Caleb Swanigan’s production will likely not be matched by his replacement, Isaac Haas, but the Boilers return a whole lot of experience with Mathias, Thompson, and Edwards. Dakota, The Midwestern Cowboy, Mathias is one of the conferences best defenders and is a great shooter from deep. Edwards is extremely versatile on both sides of the ball and will likely be one of Purdue’s top scorers. PJ thompson, although minute in stature, is a guy that just makes winning plays. I believe this is a really good core. Add in rising Sophomore Carsen Edwards and you have some guys who will be able to make plays all over the court. After three consecutive seasons bringing in a grad transfer PG, Coach Painter finally picked one up in recruiting, 6’6” CG Nojel Eastern. He will provide valuable depth to what appears to be an underrated Purdue backcourt. For those who follow the Big Ten closely, we know that Painter always preaches defense and I expect that trend to continue this year while Purdue finds a new offensive identity. Looking at this roster, there is no reason they can’t be top 5 in the Big Ten.
Clearly, losing 18 ppg and 12 rpg from Biggie is a massive gap to fill. Therefore, Purdue’s ceiling as a basketball team will rely heavily on the progression of 7’2” C Isaac Haas. Haas is an absolute load of a human being, but he often times looks completely lost on the court. He has shown flashes of dominance in the post (Villanova game last year), but his good moments seem to be too few and far between. If he is able to average just 8 ppg and 7 rpg and limits his fouls, there is no reason he can’t be a solid contributor on both ends of the floor.
Projected Starting Lineup
PG: PJ Thompson
SG: Carsen Edwards
SF: Dakota Mathias
PF: Vince Edwards
C: Isaac Haas