When the Purdue Boilermakers opened up their season against McNeese State at the beginning on November 11th, there was a lot of hype surrounding the program. This team appeared to have depth, better guard play, and the same dominant inside presence that it had for years.
We were wrong about that last part, though. There’s nothing about this inside presence that’s the same as in years past. Caleb Swanigan has proven throughout this season that he’s on a different level than any other big man both in the conference and in the country.
He gathers rebounds at an incredible rate and simply put, there just aren’t many players who can have a bad game individually and still finish with 12 points and 17 rebounds like he did against Rutgers on Tuesday night. He has 22 double-doubles in 27 games this season, and could very well break the conference single season record set by Jerry Lucas at 26 double-doubles.
Swanigan has improved by leaps and bounds since his impressive freshman season a year ago, and his offensive versatility is what makes this Purdue offense so deadly this season. While everyone knows that Swanigan is impossible to guard one on one in the paint, defenses now have to worry about him at all three levels. He can manhandle anybody in the paint, but his mid-range jumper and three point shot have become a huge part of his offensive arsenal.
His 47.5% three point field goal percentage ranks 29th in the country. That’s a 6’9”, 250 pound power forward, by the way.
If you take a look at Swanigan’s numbers against ranked teams this season, they jump off the charts. In the 6 games Purdue has played this season against teams that were ranked at the time, Swanigan averages 21.3 points and 11.3 rebounds while shooting 56.9% from the floor. Purdue is 4-2 in those games with the two losses coming at home against Villanova and on the road against Louisville.
According to the KenPom, Swanigan is currently second in the National Player of the Year rankings behind Villanova’s Josh Hart. On February 13th, Caleb Swanigan came in at number one in the Naismith Watch by the NCAA. Of course, there is still plenty of basketball to be played over the next couple of weeks, so all of this is still subject to change, but the race is down to a handful of players, and Swanigan is right at the top.
Caleb Swanigan is, almost undoubtedly, the most dominant force in all of college basketball. He has turned Purdue back into must-see television and has the Boilermakers right near the top of the Big Ten standings with tiebreakers over both teams at the top with them.
On top of all the statistics and the standings, Caleb Swanigan is simply a story that cannot be ignored. As dominant as he is, there was a time when none of this seemed like it would be possible for him. While his personal story likely won’t and should not have any impact on him winning a performance based award, it would be an even more incredible feat based on what he has come from as an individual.