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The Scholarly Spotlight: Purdue Boilermakers

When history is made in sports, especially historic upsets, there are different perspectives from the both sides. In the 2023 NCAA Tournament, the Purdue Boilermakers became just the second number 1 seed ever to fall to a 16 seed. They fell to Fairleigh Dickenson 63-58, and they ended up on the wrong side of history. This year Purdue finished as the regular season Big Ten Champions with a 17-3 conference record and 28-3 overall. As they look to solidify a number one seed in the Big Dance, the Boilermakers want to put a traumatic past behind them.

Purdue is led by head coach Matt Painter, who is in his 18th season with the team. He has established a foundation in the program that has produced tremendous talent. Painter has proven his value as a coach after winning the 2024 Big 10 Coach Of The year award, voted on by the coaches and media. The Boilermakers have a talent pool led by the 2023 Wooden Award Winner Center Zach Edey (E-Dee). The 7'4" senior is currently averaging 24.1 points (2nd in the country), 11.7 rebounds (3rd in the country), and 2.2 blocks per game (3rd in the conference). Edey has once again been honored by the conference after winning back-to-back Big 10 Player Of The Year awards. Last season he blossomed onto the national spotlight, and he is once again the favorite to win the Wooden Award this year. Edey is not only the best player for the Boilermakers, but he is also the most important. He has 8.0 Win shares this season, which is almost two times more than the next highest Purdue player. Edey also leads the team in usage rate at 32.3%. This means the Boilermakers run nearly a third of their plays for him whether he scores or not. Edey is also the only player in Big Ten history to have a 700-point, 350-rebound season, doing it the last two years. Opponents can theoretically focus on just him, but Purdue has talent around him that has excelled as well.

Braden Smith has also been important to Purdue's success. He is averaging 13.0 points, 7.2 assists, and 1.7 steals per game. He leads the team in both assists and steals, and ranks second in the Big Ten in assists. The sophomore point guard has improved his ability to get a basket, and has thrived after being given a starting role. His three-point ability has improved the most as he is shooting 7% better from his freshman year. That is one of the characteristics that separates the Boilermakers from the rest of the field. In their win against Michigan State, Smith had his best game of the season at just the right time. He scored 23 points, while grabbing 9 rebounds and dishing out 3 assists. Smith also hit four threes, at 100% efficiency from that range. Fletcher Loyer has been the definition of "efficient" as the shooting guard next to Smith. He averages 10.6 points, 2.1 rebounds, and has shooting splits of 42.1/43.3/84.3% this season. Loyer has improved tremendously from the three point line as well, even more than Smith. In their latest game against Wisconsin, he scored 15 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and didn't miss a shot. Smith went 5/5 from the field, including 2/2 from three, and 3/3 from the line in the win. The efficiency the guard tandem brings along with the elite play from Edey shows Purdue is out for revenge after last year's premature exit. Heading into the Big Ten tournament, they look to state their case as a legitimate title contender and # 1 seed.

The Boilermakers Quad records are quite impressive this season. If wins are home games vs. teams RPI ranked 1-30, neutral games vs. 1-50, and away games vs. 1–75, they are classified as Quad one. Purdue's latest win against Wisconsin qualifies as a Quad one win for their resume. A Quadrant 2 victory would be at Home against the RPI 31–75, neutral 51–100, and away wins over the RPI 76–135. Their quad one record is 11-3, and they are undefeated in every other quadrant (17-0). Purdue's most notable win is against then ranked # 1 Arizona 92-84. The trio of Loyer, Edey, and Smith combined for 75 points, including a career-high 27 points from Loyer in the much needed non-conference matchup. The Boilermakers KenPom ranking further validates their near perfect resume. They rank third in the country, and their strength of schedule is the 5th hardest when adjusted per 100 possessions. Purdue's opponents rank fifth in offense (114.4 points per 100 possessions), and eighth in defense (101.1 points per 100 possessions). In NCAA Tournament history, Purdue joined the the 2018 Virginia Cavaliers on the wrong side. In 2019, the Cavaliers won the National Championship, and the Boilermakers aim to do the same this season.


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