The Purdue Boilermakers came into the 2017-18 season with four senior starters, but one giant question: How would they replace the Big Ten Player of the Year, National Player of the Year Finalist, and All-American sophomore Caleb Swanigan who was drafted 26th in the first round of the NBA draft by the Portland Trail Blazers.
The answer was matching those four seniors with another All-American sophomore, guard Carsen Edwards. He was named a second-team All-American by USA Today and third-team by The Sporting News. He won one National Player of the Week honor by scoring 27 points against Penn State and following it up with a career-high 40 points against Illinois on February 22nd. He is a finalist for the Jerry West Award for best shooting guard in the country and a finalist for the John Wooden Award.
The Boilermaker season started roughly, after an early four game winning streak, they headed into the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas and lost their first two matchups against Tennessee and Western Kentucky. It was those two surprising losses coupled with Arizona’s similar early tail spin in the Bahamas led to one of Purdue’s signature wins on the season. Their 25 point win against Arizona kick-started a run of 19 straight wins, the longest winning streak for any team this season.
The run culminated with Purdue’s highest ranking in more than a decade as they reached #3 in the nation and preparing for their toughest stretch of the season. They were 12-0 in the B10 when they played host to 1 loss in the Big Ten Ohio State and a 20-game win streak on the line. With a win Purdue would hold all the cards in the B10 to win their second straight B10 regular season title, and they looked well on their way to doing it with a double-digit lead with just over 10 minutes left against the Buckeyes. But Purdue lost the lead on a last-second tip-in by Keita Bates-Diop that gave Purdue it’s first conference loss of the year.
It would start a 3-game losing streak. Purdue would go into East Lansing as part of a top-five match-up on the road. Purdue kept it close with the Spartans but a last-second three-pointer by Miles Bridges gave Michigan St. a 3-point win.
Purdue would follow that trip to East Lansin with a stunning upset in Madison, where the Badgers fans stormed the court against Purdue, an ugly 57-53 loss, the lone blemish on Purdue’s record.
Purdue would win out the rest of the regular season, but their early dominance turned to hard-fought and close victories. Purdue would finish behind Michigan St. in the B10 race.
As part of the B10’s expansion into the New York market, the Big Ten played their conference tournament a week early in Madison Square Garden. Purdue would defeat a hot Rutgers team and a dangerous Penn State to reach the finals against Michigan.
The first two match-ups against Michigan were close games, with Purdue getting the edge late on free throws by Isaac Haas at Michigan, and then pulling away against Michigan in a beautiful offensive explosion in Mackey Arena. But Purdue could not beat Michigan a third time. On a neutral and in front of a raucous NYC crowd, Michigan took it to Purdue, and claimed their second straight B10 tournament title.
Purdue would finish the season with a 28-6 (15-3) record and one of the nation’s best offenses. Kenpom has Purdue’s offense ranked as 2nd best in the country and the 28th best defense.
Purdue’s offense exploded this year by mixing senior leadership, four scorers in double-figures, three-point shooting, and the big man Isaac Haas on the inside.
Carsen Edwards had an incredible season, scoring 18.5 points a game while shooting better than 40% from 3 to go along with 3.9 rebounds per game and 3 assists. He was also one of the best perimeter defenders in the B10.
Isaac Haas remains one of the best post-players in the country, and probably the best scorer in the post. He averaged 14.9 points a game in just 23.9 minutes a game. The big man shot 62% from the field.
Vincent Edwards struggled with an ankle injury late in the season but continued to be Purdue’s most versatile player averaging 14.5 points, 7.3 rebounds per game (leads team), and 3 assists.
Dakota Mathias is Purdue’s best perimeter defender, a two-time all B10 defensive team selection. He also averaged 12.4 points, shooting 46% from three (22nd best in the country), while leading the team with 4.1 assisters per game and grabbing 4.1 rebounds per game.
PJ Thompson is the fourth starting senior for Purdue and averaged 7.1 points a game while shooting better than 40% from three despite going cold towards the end of the season. Matt Haarms will come off the bench as a 7’2” defensive specialist off the bench. Ryan Cline continues to be a dangerous shooter off the bench, and true freshman Nojel Eastern supplies Purdue with a versatile 6’6” point guard capable of guarding 1 thru 4 on the court. Grady Eifert, the former walk-on, provides Purdue with energy and defense in small stretches.