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Purdue Basketball: Legacy Time for Jaden Ivey

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Ivey’s spot in Purdue basketball history will be decided in March and April.

NCAA Basketball: Rutgers at Purdue Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

March (now extending into April) is where legacies and legends are made. There is no doubt that in terms of pure talent, Jaden Ivey is one of the best to ever lace them up at Purdue, but thus far, the return on that talent has been limited, in terms of hardware. Let’s face it, the regular season, while not bad, didn’t live up to expectations. Granted, expectations were through the roof, but that’s understandable with a pure talent like Jaden Ivey leading the way with a bunch of experienced and talented guys surrounding him. Any disappointment from an uneven regular season can be washed away in the Big10 tournament, and more importantly, the NCAA tournament.

I first want to acknowledge that this is a fan specific article. I don’t think Jaden is sitting in his hotel room pondering his legacy at Purdue. I doubt that even crosses his mind. He’s focused on going out and putting on a show over the next month, and he’s more than capable of being the main event.

In fan world, we can sit back and think about these things. It might not be important to everyone, but for someone who has religiously followed Purdue basketball his entire life (namely me), the question of legacy is important. I’ve seen some incredible players come through West Lafayette, and Jaden, in terms of ability, is only second to Glenn Robinson.

In terms of legacy though...I don’t have him in the top 10, probably not even the top 20 in my lifetime. Right now he’s sitting at 0-2 in post season play and doesn’t have a Big10 Championship ring. The chance to get a Big10 Championship has slipped through his hands, but I don’t think anyone will care if he leads Purdue to the promised land of a Final 4. I don’t put much stake in the Big10 Tournament, but if Purdue can pull it off this season, it would certainly move him up the list.

If we’re talking top 5 Matt Painter era players (to keep things simple), in terms of legacy, I think it probably shakes out something like this:

  1. Carsen Edwards: Big10 Championship, Elite 8, 2nd Team All-American
  2. JaJuan Johnson: Big10 Championship, Big 10 Tournament Championship, Sweet 16, Consensus 1st Team All-American
  3. Biggie Swanigan: Big10 Championship, Sweet 16, Consensus 1st team All-American
  4. Robbie Hummel: Big10 Championship, Big10 Tournament Championship, Big10 Tournament M.V.P., Sweet 16, 2nd Team All-American
  5. E’Twuan Moore: Big 10 Championship, Big10 Tournament Championship, 3rd Team All-American

You can obviously shuffle these around a bit. I gave the nod to JaJuan out of the “Baby Boilers” because he was a Consensus 1st Team All-American. I moved Robbie down the list farther than most because, well, unfortunately, he didn’t get his chance to shine, while healthy, on the March stage. Honestly, E’Twuan is probably getting disrespected at 5, but I gave Robbie the nod because of his Big10 Tournament M.V.P.

In terms of talent, Jayden is at the top of the above list, but at the moment, I feel like he’s more of an interesting footnote at Purdue than “a legend” like the above 5 players. At the same time, he’s got an opportunity to move to the top of the list with a breakout in March (and April). I’ve got Carsen at the top of the list, but he would have been 5th if not for his tournament run.

I’ll go ahead and expand my list to 6 if Ivey helps carry Purdue to a Big10 Tournament title. If he takes Purdue to the Elite 8, I’ll move him up to second. If he takes Purdue to the Final 4, he will have the greatest legacy of any modern era Purdue basketball player, including Glenn Robinson and Joe Barry Carroll.

Carsen saved his best for last at Purdue. I don’t think most of us remember some of the ugly basketball Purdue played in 2019 because that team managed to pull a Big10 Championship out of thin air after getting beaten down by the likes of Maryland, Michigan, and Michigan State at different points in the season. I don’t even recall Purdue getting knocked off by Minnesota in the Big10 tournament on a 4-17 shooting night by Carsen because March wiped that memory from my circuits. Jaden has the same opportunity this year.

Don’t get me wrong, this would be a good Purdue team without Jaden. In many ways, Carsen was more important to the 2019 team than Jaden is to the 2022 team. Take Jaden off this team and it’s still a tournament team. Take Carsen off the 2019 team and they might average 50 points a game. This isn’t all on Jaden. Purdue can deal with a sub-par Ivey game and still win, but if they get Ivey at his locked in best, they can beat any team in the nation. In a fit of basketball ecstasy after the Villanova game I texted my brother-in-law and said it was Final 4 or bust for this Purdue squad. I backed away from that statement a little bit during the regular season, as things tightened up in the Big10 and a few of Purdue’s more obvious flaws (cough...defense and turnovers...cough) were exploited, but I’m back on it now.

It’s Final 4 or bust for Purdue this season. Anything less, without any Big10 hardware, would be a disappointing season. It all comes down to Jaden, and I think we’re going to see something truly spectacular over the next month. I’m going to try and sit back and enjoy the show.

It’s time for the young man from South Bend to put make his mark in Purdue history and cement his Purdue legacy.