Team: Purdue Boilermakers
Location: West Lafayette, Ind.
Conference: Big Ten
Head coach: Matt Painter (16 seasons, 355-184)
2020-2021 record: 18-10 overall, 13-6 B1G
Top returning players: 6-foot-10, C, Trevion Williams (15.5 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 2.3 apg); 6-foot-4, G, Jade Ivey (11.1 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 1.9 apg); 7-foot-4, C, Zach Edey (8.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 59.7 FG%); 6-foot-5, G, Sasha Stefanovic (9.3 ppg, 2.6, rpg, 2.6 apg, 40.0 3P%)
Top newcomers: 6-foot-9, F, 4-star Trey Kaufman-Renn (Sellersburg, Ind.) rated No. 43 player in nation by 247 Composite; 6-foot-10, C, 4-star Caleb Furst (Fort Wayne, Ind.) rated No. 64 player in nation by 247 Composite
2020-2021 review: The Boilermakers entered last season with zero seniors on their roster and had a few early growing pains. They lost to Clemson, Miami (Fla.) and Rutgers while starting off the season 7-5 and 2-3 in the Big Ten, but as the season progressed you could see Purdue gaining confidence and getting better.
Purdue ended the regular season on a five game winning streak before falling to Ohio State (in overtime) in the Big Ten Tournament and then being upset by North Texas (in overtime) in the NCAA Tournament.
Big man Trevion Williams was one of the best players in the nation and a stellar four man freshman class gained invaluable experience while proving to be up to the challenges of the Big Ten already. While the Boilermakers were a middling shooting team, they were a dominant rebounding team and led the conference in offensive rebounding percentage and were third in rebounding margin.
After the season, Williams had a decision to make and, much to the chagrin of the rest of the conference, he decided to come back to West Lafayette for one more go around with Purdue.
2021-2022 preview: Purdue is returning 90.9% of their minutes played, 94.6% of their scoring and 88.2% of their rebounding from last season. For those interested, the only player they lost was forward Aaron Wheeler (3.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg) who transferred to St. John’s. Long story short, the Boilermakers are stacked this season.
They are preseason No. 7 in the AP Poll, one spot behind Michigan, and are a popular pick to both win the Big Ten and make it to the Final Four.
While losing Wheeler isn’t a huge deal, he was still a good rebounder and shot blocker for the bench unit. However, Matt Painter mined the local talent in Indiana and got two 4-star players (Caleb Furst and Trey Kaufman-Renn) who will more than make up for whatever production Purdue lost with Wheeler moving on.
What is really going to propel Purdue to a Final Four is how much sophomore Jaden Ivey has improved. Ivey played on the USA U19 team this summer (with Badgers wing Jonathan Davis) and played quite well there. He scored 26 points in the NCAA Tournament loss to North Texas and seems poised to take a leap into a first team all-Big Ten player.
I haven’t even mentioned sophomore wing Brandon Newman (8.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 37.9 3P%) who started 23 games last season as a freshman and was outplaying Ivey at the beginning of the season. Then there are senior guards, steady PG Eric Hunter, Jr. and sharpshooting Sasha Stefanovic, and 7-foot-4 monster Zach Edey and...well, you get the point.
The Badgers, and the rest of the country, are going to struggle against Purdue this season but the Boilermakers, from a purely basketball viewing sense, should be a joy to watch this year.
Games vs. Wisconsin:
Game One: Monday, Jan. 3, West Lafayette, Ind., Mackey Arena, BTN, 6 p.m. CT
Game Two: Tuesday, Mar. 1, Madison, Wis., Kohl Center, ESPN/ESPN2, 8 p.m. CT