Purdue Preview Capsule
Last season: 30-7, lost to Texas Tech in regional semifinals of the NCAA Tournament.
Coach: Matt Painter
Conference: Big Ten
Who’s back: Guard Carsen Edwards (18.5 points per game) was the leading scorer on a senior-dominated team and became the lead vote-getter on the preseason All-American team after withdrawing from the NBA draft. Guard Nojel Eastern (2.9 points, 2.5 rebounds) showed steady improvement as a freshman and will try to fill the void left by Vince Edwards. Energetic forward Matt Haarms played dominant defense last season (3.2 rebounds, 2.1 blocks in 17.1 minutes) and has spent the summer refining his offensive moves. Guard Ryan Cline (4.0 ppg) has primarily been used as a 3-point specialist off the bench but should play a bigger role in his final college season.
Who’s new: Freshman Eric Hunter Jr. and redshirt freshman Aaron Wheeler are expected to make the biggest impact. Hunter, a 6-foot-3 guard, scored nearly 2,600 points in high school, finished his career as the career scoring leader in Marion County (Indianapolis) and should help add the scoring punch Purdue needs. Wheeler is not the Boilermakers prototypical 6-9 forward. Long and slender, he uses length to his advantage and is more athletic than some of his predecessors.
The Skinny: It won’t be the same without the four seniors, but the Boilermakers still have scorers, size, depth and defenders. Painter is too good of a coach to accept a significant drop-off, even after losing so many key players. And with Edwards, perhaps the best player in the Big Ten, leading the way, steady improvement could keep Purdue in the Big Ten title mix again.
Expectations: Las Vegas doesn’t expect the Boilermakers to be the same. But they’re not completely off the bandwagon, either. They’ve installed Purdue as a 60-1 shot to win the national title, fourth among conference teams behind only the two Michigan schools and rival Indiana.