By Arnie Leshin
Kudos to Purdue University’s men’s basketball. It currently rests on top of the top 25 national standings.
One loss in 22 starts, a 65-64 cliff-hanger at Rutgers after winning its first 12, and can’t forget those Scarlet Knights, who the previous year also defeated the Boilermakers, and at Purdue.
Now for now, Purdue has size towered by 7-foot-4 junior Zach Edey, who happens to hail from Toronto, Ontario.
After him, the height continues, 7-2, 6-10, 6-9, 6-8, 6-8, 6-7, a combination of a sophomore and five freshmen followed by some talented backcourt players.
Yes, looking good, with some tight tussles attached. For instance, 75-70 over Marquette in the third game of the season, 65-62 over Nebraska in game number 11, 69-61 over Davidson came next, 71-69 over Ohio State after the Rutgers setback, 59-55 over Maryland, and 72-70 over Michigan.
The thriller over the Wolverines came on buzzer basket by Edey, who in his last start versus Michigan State tossed in a career-high 38 points, brought down 13 rebounds, blocked six shots and dished out four assists.
And the Boilermakers drew well.
Saturday’s Big Ten contest at No. 21 Indian is charging a ticket-high of $1,334 and will be shown on ESPN, but the two Mackey Arena home games before that will be far less expensive, with ticket highs of $75 for the Wednesday visit from Penn State, and up to $140 when Iowa pays a call on Feb. 9.
Everything working well for the program? Well, right now it is except for one thing, it has never won a national championship after appearing in 33 NCAA tournaments.
It has played in one final that resulted in a 1969 loss to UCLA after getting past North Carolina in the semis.
So that’s what the West Lafayette, Indiana school is striving for. It has in fact 10 players representing that state on its roster.
But Edey is a Canadian, the main man averaging 22.1 points per game, 13.3 boards, 6.7 blocks, and 4.2 assists. He has done most of the damage.
For added size under Matt Painter, head coach since April 1, 2005, there’s 7-2 freshman Will Berg, 6-10 sophomore Caleb Furst, 6-9 freshman Trey Kantnan, 6-8 freshman Brian Waddell, 6-8 freshman Sam King, and 6-7 freshman Camden Heide.
The guard play is run by 6-foot freshman Branden Smith, 6-4 freshman Loyer Fletcher, and 6-5 junior Brian Newman.
There’s plenty of depth, with Painter usually going with about 10 players. It’s a young lineup that claims seven freshmen, and with that, unless the well-prepared Edey decides to turn to the NBA college draft, could have another big time year after this.
Former star players? There have been many that include former UCLA legendary head coach John Wooden, Rick Mount, Joe Barry Carroll, Glenn Robinson, Terry Dischinger, Caleb Swanigan, Carl Mcnulty, and Carson Edwards, the latest in 2019.
All were All-Americas, either 1st, 2nd or 3rd teams.
But as the stretch run rolls in, the quest is simple — win a national championship.