In a year in which nothing was promised, little was expected, and rebuilding was the prevailing belief Purdue nevertheless found a way to win the Big Ten conference crown for the 25th time. Did they back into it following a recent skid thanks to a victory by Maryland over Northwestern? Absolutely they did. Will you remember that in 10 years? Likely no. Will you remember if this championship turns out to be outright or shared? Probably not. I certainly can’t tell you how many of Purdue’s prior 24 conference championships were shared or outright.
Purdue had a made in Hollywood opportunity to clinch the title yesterday against their in state rivals but alas they fell short. Ultimately though, that doesn’t matter. A title is a title. To win the title with two games remaining in the conference season is a luxury that a lot of teams don’t have. Purdue has remaining games against Wisconsin on the road and at home against Illinois. Winning just one of those games will make this 25th title an outright Big Ten title for those curious.
This season has been an interesting one with Purdue starting the season unranked before going out West and putting on a show at the Phil Knight tournament. Then, rocketing up the rankings all the way to #1 before ultimately losing to Rutgers. After that Rutgers loss though Purdue rattled off nine straight conference wins. Let’s not forget that things really could’ve gone sideways as Purdue found themselves in a number of close games including on the road at Ohio State where Purdue ultimately prevailed 71-69. Then there was a one point victory on the road in East Lansing, a three point home win against Maryland, and a five point road win at Michigan. For as difficult as this most recent 2-4 stretch has been the early conference slate showed Purdue having both toughness and luck.
This team of course has been led by future All-American and frontrunner for National Player of the Year Zach Edey who continues to prove himself each and every day. As of this writing Edey is averaging 22 ppg, 12.9 rebounds per game, and an incredible 31 minutes per game. The man has stepped up to every challenge from every big man throughout the country this year.
Of course this season wouldn’t be complete without the emergence of two freshman guards. Fletcher Loyer and Braden Smith have played above their class and shown Painter’s ability to recruit both a highly touted shooter in Loyer and under the radar players in Smith. Without either one of these guys Purdue would find themselves in a much different position.
Game in and game out new people have stepped up for Purdue whether that’s Mason Gillis, Caleb Furst, David Jenkins Jr., Trey Kaufman-Renn, Ethan Morton, or Brian Waddell. Each of these players has been critical in getting Purdue to this point and they all deserve their kudos.
A Big Ten title of course takes contributions from everyone up to and including the bench mob, the walk-ons, and the managers. Kudos to every single one of them who can now, forever, call themselves a Big Ten Champion.