In the weeks leading up to the 2017-18 college basketball season, BTPowerhouse will be releasing its preview series breaking down each Big Ten team. These will come in a set of series previewing the overall team, the team’s backcourt, wings, and big men, and the team’s schedule. Each post will take a look at its top in-depth and give predictions on the upcoming season.
Today's edition of the 'BTPowerhouse Preview Series' we will take a look at the wings for Purdue. The Boilermakers bring back Vincent Edwards and add a couple of intriguing newcomers.
‘BTPowerhouse Preview’ - Purdue Wings
2016-17 All Big Ten Qualifiers: Vincent Edwards (Third Team Media; Honorable Mention Coaches)
Additions: Aaron Wheeler, Eden Ewing
Top Player: Vincent Edwards
It’s not quite accurate to say Purdue is loaded at the wing, since the Boilermakers only boast one proven man at that position. But that one man is Vincent Edwards, a 6’8” senior Swiss army knife of a player who is arguably the most important guy on the roster.
Over the past three seasons Vincent Edwards has proven himself to be a guy who can stuff the stat sheet on any given night. Edwards is the only active player in college basketball with 1000 career points, 500 career rebounds, 300 assists, and 100 made three-pointers. He is a jack of all trades who can drive, pass, shoot, and rebound, particularly on the offensive glass. But there is a big difference between putting up numbers any night and putting up numbers every night. At times Vincent has been maddeningly inconsistent.
When Edwards disappears, Purdue struggles. Four of the most frustrating games for Boiler fans last year were the losses to Louisville, to Nebraska, to Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament, and to Kansas in the Sweet Sixteen. In those four games, Vincent put up 1, 6, 8, and 8 points, respectively.
The good news for Purdue is that Edwards is not particularly foul-prone. He hasn’t fouled out of a contest since his freshman year and he managed to play 71% of available minutes last year, a career best. Look for that number to increase this year, especially if he can start playing with more consistency game-to-game.
Still, there are options behind Edwards if needed. 6’9” freshman Aaron Wheeler and 6’9” Juco transfer Eden Ewing are available off the bench. Of those two, expect Wheeler to see more minutes based on what we saw Coach Matt Painter go with at the World University Games in Taiwan this past summer. Both are fairly raw, and though Wheeler saw more minutes than Ewing, they both saw the fewest minutes of any players on the roster. That may be a sign that neither is ready for the rigors of high-level college basketball, or it may just be an indication that Vincent Edwards is going to eat up as many minutes as possible.
A pleasant surprise from the World University Games was 6’9” junior Grady Eifert. At first the former walk-on wasn’t even supposed to go to Taiwan, but when Purdue was unable to fill the final slot on the roster with a player from another team, the spot went to Grady, and he made the most of it. Eifert saw action in all eleven games in Taiwan and shot nearly 50% from the floor. It was on the defensive end where he had his biggest impact, though, leading all Purdue players in steals per 40 minutes played. Painter has been known as a defensive-minded coach since he first arrived at Purdue, and as such it’s likely Eifert has won himself some minutes.
Vincent Edwards is going to be on the court as much as possible, but beyond that it’s difficult to know what to expect. I would expect Coach Painter to experiment with various rotations in the early part of the schedule, particularly in the softer part of the schedule where Edwards won’t need to play 35+ minutes.
Given the limited number of minutes available behind Edwards, it’s unlikely there will be many games where Painter will go beyond 2 deep at the wing position. But whether the second man will be Wheeler, Ewing, or Eifert is impossible to say at this point.