The Big Ten Champion Purdue Boilermakers are playing some of the nation’s best basketball right now, heading into this year’s NCAA Men’s Tournament. Head coach Matt Painter has his team firing on all cylinders, as they displayed by dominating their conference tourney.
This team has positioned itself well, and it’s been done in a traditional hoops kind of way. Big Ten basketball has seemingly been all about the halfcourt offense and a controlled pace, and this Purdue team fits that classic mold. While they certainly have plenty of individual talent, the Boilermakers focus on motion, a lot of passing, and a team-first mentality. It’s what helped carry them through early postseason play.
This team is not without weaknesses, but they enter play with an impressive 29-5 record. They’re a rugged team that plays good defense and has a star player who is on fire right now. It’s quite possible they could do a little dancing when Final Four time comes rolling around.
Here’s a look at five reasons why the Purdue Boilermakers could win the 2023 NCAA National Title
#1 – Coach Matt Painter has laid out the principles for success
Purdue has plenty of weapons, starting with all-everything center Zach Edey. But it’s the coaching of Matt Painter that’s really brought this team together. Now approaching 20 years in West Lafayette, he’s become a fixture at the school and at the university. The fact that he’s a loyal disciple of legendary coach Gene Keady, and follows many of his mentor’s principles, doesn’t hurt either.
When you look at this team beyond Edey, they have plenty of scoring an average of 73.1 points per outing. Fletcher Loyer is a willing warrior alongside Eadey and averaged 10.9 ppg.
The quarterback on offense is Braden Smith, who dished off 147 assists on the year. He facilitates the ball to a long list of talented ballers. This team has plenty of contributors, with Mason Gillis, Caleb Furst, Ethan Morton, and Brandon Newman all getting significant minutes.
Obviously, the team has depth, and Painter uses his bench accordingly. His body of work shows that he’s a proven winner. He’s 413-197 (.677 winning percentage) at Purdue but has yet to win an NCAA title. This might be the year that the old ball coach finally masters the Madness.
#2 – Edey, Edey & More Edey
Zach Edey has really blossomed for the Boilermakers, and he’s looking like one of those players who could go on a magical run and lead his team to the title. We’ve seen great players in the past, like Danny Manning and Carmelo Anthony, who took an already sensational squad and made it truly special.
Edey could be one of those players. He’s the first Purdue player since Glenn Robinson who comes off as a menacing, scoring presence. At a monstrous 7’4″ and 300 pounds, the Toronto native commands the court. He’s big, strong, and versatile. He creates a mismatch every single time he steps on the floor, and although he’s versatile, Edey is reminiscent of classic, old-school post players.
The Biggest Boilermaker of The All goes into March Madness as a double-double machine, averaging 22.3 ppg and 12.9 rebounds. A she goes, this team goes. Expect him to be a major force and a big story in the tournament, if his team makes a deep run.
#3 – Purdue plays with a warrior-like mentality that will carry them through the challenges of Tournament play
Every year, the NCAA field represents a war of attrition. With all the buzzer beaters, bad breaks, and barn burners, it often feels more like a hardcore war than hardwood hoops.
The Big Ten Conference schedule is similar in that regard. The teams are usually closely matched, and you will always have to go through traditional powers like Purdue or Michigan State if you plan on making it to the top. Their contest can sometimes feel as if they are low-scoring and lacking creativity. In reality, it’s more like a chess match, with both sides trading moves until someone makes a fatal error.
Those kinds of blood pressure-raising battles happen quite often in the NCAA Tournament, And as a top seed in their regional, every team will be turning things up a notch against the Boilermakers. That will begin when they step on the court to face the winner of the play-in between Fairleigh-Dickinson and Texas Southern.
OUTLOOK: Out of the four number-one seeds in this year’s NCAA Tournament, Purdue is probably the least ‘sexy’ pick to win it all. However, they really aren’t going for aesthetics, only achievements. And they’ve had plenty of that.
They’re a tough team that gets plenty of work done in the paint, and Edey will be the key the rest of the way. If the dominant center can put the Boilermakers on his shoulders, they can take it all. But if they run into a game where he has early foul trouble and spends a good portion of time on the bench? They will be vulnerable to mid-level seeds.
The Boilermakers share their side of the bracket with traditional powerhouse Duke and the dangerous Memphis Tigers. So just getting out of their regional might be the proving ground Purdue needs to propel them to postseason prestige.
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