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Purdue Basketball: Giant Expectations

We’re looking for a big year out of the big man!

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Purdue vs Iowa State James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not that Isaac Haas shrinks on the court. In his three years playing for the Purdue Boilermakers, he has led the team in percentage of possessions finished while on the court.

But there’s no arguing this fact: despite all seven feet and two inches, he has played his entire career in the shadow of someone else.

Haas has never shot less than 53% for a season. He has also never averaged 20 minutes a game.

Haas turned into a 71% free throw shooter the last two years after a freshman year of shooting 55%. He’s played in five NCAA tournament games and only recorded 2 total blocks.

Has has improved across the board in every major counting category: he averaged 12.6 points and 5 rebounds a game last year, both career highs. He’s never once played twenty minutes in an NCAA tournament game.

As giant as Haas is, he has never been the man. His freshman year saw him playing behind A. J. Hammons, de facto best big man in the Big Ten at the time. Haas’s sophomore year was something new altogether. Not only was he backing up the defensive player of the year in the Big Ten, but Caleb Swanigan was also on campus. The fit was not perfect.

And last year, Haas was the starting center, but he was forced to the bench because Caleb Swanigan transformed into the best big man in the country. Purdue needed the spacing and versatility at the four with Vincent Edwards.

But still, it was there. Haas is a monster, but skilled. He gets to his spot and there’s nothing any defender can do. He turns and splashes down a hook shot, then he does it again. He has surprisingly good turning away from the basket, but he was also inconsistent. He struggled occasionally to finish the easy looks.

Purdue twitter’s favorite catch phrase last year was: JUST DUNK THE BALL HAAS.

But Haas is an offensive plus. Probably the best post-scorer in the country. He’s an absolute mismatch. He demands a double in a basketball world that fears nothing more than an open 3-pointer. He gets fouled every possession.

But he is still not there on defense. The World University Games was a concerning look at Haas’s lack of lateral movement and timing on the defensive end. He’s huge. When you come directly at him and he holds his hands up, he’s an effective deterrent. But he has not been good stepping out against any big man who threatens with even a little bit of a jump shot. Moe Wagner torched him and Swanigan for more than twenty points in one half last year.

And there were times where Purdue looked better with Jacquil Taylor’s athleticism on the floor in the World University Games.

And now Matty Haarms is creating a cult following with his ability to do a little bit of everything, and especially move on the defensive and offensive end.

But I don’t think that’s where this story goes. Purdue has played two teams with no shot at even contending with the Boilermakers. Isaac Haas was not needed even though he has gone 7 for 9 to start the season, it will be games like tonight where Haas will finally get the chance to leave his shadow over games.

Isaac Haas is still the most important player on Purdue’s team. He is the link between the old world and the new. Purdue starts four knock-down shooters. Four guys that can space and pass, but what makes them unguardable is that they also the ability to throw it into the post and get a good look or foul every time.

Every time.

Good Haas is that good. And despite the recent Haarms explosion, despite Taylor’s possible health and athleticism, this is Isaac Haas’s senio season. It is his turn.

For the last three years, Haas has played behind the best Center in the Big Ten. This year, he gets the chance to become it.