One of the largest complaints Purdue fans had this year is the inability of anyone to break a defense down one-on-one. This edition of Purdue was a very, very good team, but it lacked a Red Button scorer. One could argue it was A.J. Hammons in the post, but someone still needed to get him the ball. Defenses keyed on preventing that entry pass because they knew Purdue did not have a dynamic wing that could break down a defense. It has been awhile since Purdue has had a player that, with 5 seconds left in the shot clock, we can pass him the ball and say, "Eff it, do something."
Today's player might be that guy.
11.3ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.9 apg
In the last two seasons who has had the basketball with a shot to win the game at the end of overtime?
As early as last season coach Painter has trusted him as the crunch time guy. You can argue the merits of him vs. Hammons having the ball in both situations (especially this year with the ball already being in the halfcourt), but Edwards has been THE guy Purdue has turned to. Last season he missed a good look at a three as Purdue had to rush the ball up the floor. This season a poor screen doomed him into trying to score 1 on 3.
The thing is, I don't have a problem with Vince coming up short both times. Against Cincinnati he got a good look and just missed it. That happens. Against Little Rock it was a poorly designed and executed play and he was forced to basically throw the ball up as time expired. I have a larger issue with his lack of situational awareness at the end of regulation, but we can't change that now.
The truth is, Purdue is going to rely on Edwards more than ever going into 2016-17. He is going to be the veteran the Boilers turn to in almost any key situation. He is the top returning scorer, the No. 2 returning rebounder behind Caleb Swanigan (who is returning), and he already led the team in assists with 100. Edwards is a threat to get a triple double on almost any given night, and he should be one of the best players in the Big Ten going forward.
It is also hard to fault him for the Little Rock loss because of one error. He had already put the team on his back to get there. He finished with a 24-13 double-double, his first of the season. He matched his previous season high of 24 points, which came at Minnesota in a 24-8-4 game. Vince regularly stuffed the stat sheet and affected the game in ways that don't normally show up in the box score. For example, he had a quiet 11-4-6 against Wisconsin in West Lafayette. Against Lehigh he came close to a triple-double with a 9-10-7 line.
There were also several other categories in which Edwards led the team. He had the most made threes on the season with 46 and he shot 40.7% from long range. He was an 82% free throw shooter and continued to give Purdue every chance possible by going 7 of 8 at the line against Little Rock. This includes clutch free throws with 17 seconds left in regulation that gave Purdue a three point lead before Josh Hagins hit his Steph Curry shot.
Simply put, Vince Edwards needs to be The Man going forward. He already does so much, but he is going to be the focal point of the offense with Hammons gone. I can see him averaging a 15-7-4 per night while hopefully maintaining or improving his shooting percentages. Basically, he is going to be a bit of a point forward type of player, and we will look to him to be a team leader from now on. The ceiling for him is a First Team all-Big Ten type of season.