For much of the 2022-23 college basketball season, the Purdue Boilermakers looked like the premier program in the land. Led by center Zach Edey, the Boilermakers seemed unbeatable…until they went to Assembly Hall to take on the Indiana Hoosiers, where they lost, 79-74. They bounced back with a 14-point win over Iowa, but then they lost three of four, falling at Northwestern and Maryland. They rebounded to rout Ohio State at home, but then they lost at home to Indiana in the rematch, 79-71, and their wins since, over Wisconsin and Illinois, have looked shaky. Can this onetime shoo-in regather itself and roll to a national title?
For those of you including March Madness in your online betting, read on to find our thoughts about Purdue.
NCAA Basketball Betting: Can Purdue Win the National Championship?
Purdue Boilermakers Info | Updated NCAA Basketball Odds
26-5 overall and 15-5 in Big Ten play – 5th
Conference: Big Ten
Venue: Mackey Arena, West Lafayette, Indiana
Back when the Boilermakers were 21-1, leading the AP Top 25 and the USA Today Coaches’ Poll, they looked like a shoo-in to win. Zach Edey was the favorite to win the Wooden Award, given to the best player in the nation. At 7’4” and 290 pounds, Edey still looks ready to revolutionize the sport. However, it’s not just Edey that makes Purdue dangerous. Caleb Furst and Trey Kaufman-Renn also dominate the frontcourt – blue-chip recruits who are willing to let Edey get the press. Point guard Braden Smith and shooting guard Fletcher Loyer, both true freshmen, emerged as quality playmakers. Loyer has shown that he can nail shots from different level.
But then came those losses to Northwestern and Maryland. In the last 20 seasons, only five teams ranked in the top three have lost back-to-back games against teams outside the Top 25. Three of those teams did not make it out of the first round of the NCAA tournament, according to ESPN Stats & Info. Against Maryland, Purdue only made 44% of their shots overall and clanked 11 of their 13 three-balls. Edey went 8 of 16 overall, finishing with 18 points, and Smith went 8 of 12 overall to score 18 points. After that, though, the offensive production was poor.
Then came the big home win over Ohio State…and the home loss to Indiana. The Hoosiers had not swept Purdue in a decade. The Boilermakers went into the locker room up by four at halftime, but Indiana dropped 45 on Purdue in the second half on the way to a 79-71 win. Jalen Hood-Schifino set a career mark for Indiana with 35 points, and Trey Galloway spurred a 12-0 run in the second half. Zach Edey had 26 points and 16 boards for Indiana, but that was about it as far as consistent offense for the Boilermakers. It could be that the true freshmen in the backcourt are running into fatigue during their first long collegiate season. It could also be that Purdue will turn things around in the Big Ten Tournament.
Normally, the regular-season champion of a conference doesn’t have much to worry about from the results of the conference tournament because of the resume it established along the way. In the case of Purdue, though, a quick exit could mean problems. The 14-team bracket has Purdue starting after a double-bye; they will play the winner of Rutgers and Michigan. Rutgers has already beaten Purdue once this season, back near the start of Big Ten play. Rutgers likes to play a slow, grinding style that can frustrate teams that are looking to break out on offense – and Purdue is that kind of team.
If Purdue can win their three games in the conference tournament and take the title, I’ll be a little more sold on them as potential national champions. That will mean that their backcourt figured things out and got back to their early-season success in terms of ball security, ball distribution and shotmaking at key moments. If they crash out against Michigan or Rutgers, they could also crash out in the second round of the Big Dance.
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