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Unselfishness Has Purdue Looking Like A Final Four Contender

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Crisp ball movement and player movement has this Purdue offense on a roll

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Purdue Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

It doesn’t take deep analysis to look through this Purdue Boilermakers roster and realize how many offensive threats they have. Guys like Carsen Edwards and Vincent Edwards can take the ball from one end of the court to the other in the blink of an eye and finish at the rim, while of course we all know what dominance resides in the paint for the Boilers. Caleb Swanigan and Isaac Haas continue to just eat defensive frontcourts alive with their strength and skill in the paint.

With all of the offensive talent these Boilers have, the most impressive thing about their season thus far could possibly be the team’s ball movement.

This group is second in the country in assist rate (the percentage of made field goals that come off of an assist). An incredible 68.2% of made field goals for the Boilermakers have come off of assists so far this season, and when the ball starts popping around the perimeter with inside-outside action, they’re fun to watch and impossible to stop.

The offensive lightning rod for this team all year long has been “Biggie” Swanigan, and through all of his ludicrous stats, one thing that gets lost is his incredible passing ability. When the best player on a team is unselfish, that goes right through the ranks down to each and every player. Swanigan is fourth on the team in personal assist rate at 17.1%, and the high-low passing between he and Haas is a thing of beauty.

In the last three games for Purdue, they have an average margin of victory of 19.7 points per game. In those three games, their assist rate as a team has been 68.8%, 76.7% and on Tuesday night against the only team in the country with a higher assist rate, the Boilers posted an unreal 80.8% assist rate.

It seems that Purdue and coach Matt Painter have finally settled into a steady rotation, allowing players to get fully familiar with their roles and with the group they’re on the court with. Because players know their roles, they’re allowed to play much more freely and the comfort level has become very obvious. Of course, they always say you can’t get an assist with making the shot, and the shot making for Purdue this year has been at a much different level than in years past.

This might be the most complete team in West Lafayette since the Baby Boilers took over the state almost a decade ago, and the precise ball movement undoubtedly gives opposing coaches nightmares days before a match-up with this unit.

This style of moving the ball around and getting everyone involved was a big key in the shift of fortunes for Purdue basketball over the past five years, and this year has been the culmination of a movement long in the making. In 2013-14’, besides a lack of talent, a big problem in West Lafayette was that the players they had did not play well together. It was not a cohesive group that seemed to struggle with some selfish personalities, and the team finished 15-17 and 184th in assist rate. The next year, the team jumped to 21-13 and up to 21st in assist rate. A year ago, this team went 26-9 and finished 8th in assist rate.

Now, sitting at 17-4 and second in the country in assist rate, it seems that among the many strengths of the Purdue Boilermakers, their greatest asset may be that they don’t care about who gets the credit for the wins.