The past two years have left a lot of doubt and skepticism in the minds of the Purdue faithful. As the game against the Vermont Catamounts wore on, it seemed like this might be the latest in the failures to close out a tight tournament game.
However, Matt Painter and the Purdue Boilermakers rose above their competition in the final minutes and secured a weekend game in the NCAA Tournament to silence some of the doubts and criticism for at least a few days.
Let’s take a look at some of the things we can take away from this game for Purdue going forward.
1. Vincent Edwards is the most important player for Purdue
I said it in a piece earlier this season, but it resurfaced against Vermont on Thursday evening. The Purdue Boilermakers prove to be a much more dangerous team when Vincent Edwards is performing at a high level. He’s the one player that Purdue has that is the ultimate example of versatility. They can play him in the post, take him to the elbow for high-low with Caleb Swanigan or Isaac Haas, or they can take him out to the three point line for isolation or spot up shooting.
His NBA level size and athleticism leave a lot of teams with very few answers for his versatility on the offensive end and it can lead to him being an elite defender when he puts his mind to it. He was robbed of a ridiculous highlight in the first half against Vermont that was ruled a goaltending, but his two handed block in the second half was one of many blocks that imposed the will of the Boilermakers in the second half.
Edwards led Purdue in scoring with 21 points on 10-16 shooting along with 5 rebounds, 3 assists, a block and a steal.
2. Swanigan is a big man dominant enough to lead an NCAA Tournament run
Everyone remembers the great guards of the NCAA Tournament. Looking into the recent past, you might think of runs like Stephen Curry and Davidson, Kemba Walker or Shabazz Napier for the Connecticut Huskies. Very rarely is there a big man that is dominant enough to lead a team through an NCAA Tournament.
Caleb Swanigan, however, is that dominant. He recorded his Big Ten record 27th double-double of the season, and one-on-one in the post, there are very few players in the country that can prevent him from scoring. Vermont chose to double team on the pass on most occasions, and Swanigan is a willing passer who will kick it out to open threes on a lot of their possessions.
If Swanigan can hurdle the leap of the turnover rate for the remainder of the tournament, he is definitely talented enough to lead the Boilermakers to a deep run.
3. Purdue will go as far as their shooting will take them
For the Purdue Boilermakers, you know what Caleb Swanigan is going to give you. He’s essentially a double-double before the game starts. Every team that faces the Purdue Boilermakers is going to be worried about what Caleb Swanigan and Isaac Haas will present to their team down low, which in turn will open up a lot of the three point shooting for Purdue.
Guys like Dakota Mathias, Ryan Cline, P.J. Thompson and Carsen Edwards will have to be huge from beyond the three point line for the Boilermakers to make any kind of deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
If the basketball whips around the perimeter and finds an open shooter in rhythm, the Purdue Boilermakers are a very tough team to beat. When the threes are coming from players on the move off of screens, it’s certainly a much lower percentage shot.
Purdue is a team, more than any other in the tournament, that has to play inside-out. If they can do that effectively, however, and are making their shots, they can quickly become of