Entering the 2016-’17 season, expectations were raised for the Purdue Boilermakers. In head coach Matt Painter’s 11 seasons, Purdue had qualified for the NCAA Tournament eight times. However, they had not won an NCAA game since 2012. In fact, in each of the last two seasons the Boilermakers had lost in the opening round.
Yet that being said, Purdue has found great success within the Big Ten Conference. Last season gave Boilermakers fans a second consecutive 12-6 record in the Big Ten, which included a fantastic 17-1 record at home in Mackey Arena.
Once junior forward Vince Edwards and sophomore forward Caleb Swanigan announced they would return last summer, expectations immediately rose for the 2017 season. The Boilermakers met and even exceeded those expectations with a 14-4 record and regular season Big Ten Championship.
With two wins to start the 2017 NCAA Tournament, Purdue has advanced to a Sweet 16 matchup with top seeded Kansas on Thursday night. The Boilermakers sit just two wins away from a Final Four trip to Phoenix, Arizona.
Here’s a look at what to expect for Purdue for the remainder of the NCAA Tournament.
After a 27-7 season that featured a 14-4 first place ranking in Big Ten play, Purdue finds itself headed to Kansas City, Missouri. The Boilermakers enter as a four seed and will open up with top seeded Kansas on Thursday night.
Without a doubt, this is a winnable game for Purdue. The Boilermakers bring matchup problems for the Jayhawks, especially inside with 6’9” Caleb Swanigan and 7’2” Isaac Haas. Kansas only features 6’10” senior Landon Lucas, and very little height on the bench. The Jayhawks opened the NCAA Tournament with convincing wins over UC-Davis and Michigan State, but neither team brought the skilled post play that Purdue does.
Kansas relies extensively on their guards, featuring senior Frank Mason III and junior Devonte’ Graham. Both are complimented by superstar freshman Josh Jackson who has been forced to play the forward position due to injuries. The Jayhawks love shooting from deep, averaging over 40 percent from beyond the arc, ranking fifth overall in Division I.
The most interesting aspect of this game will be how Purdue’s guards handle the explosive Kansas backcourt. The Boilermakers’ guards are much stronger than most realize, shooting 40.4 percent from long range, good for eighth overall in the nation.
Purdue also has depth at the guard position with junior guards P.J. Thompson, Dakota Mathias, sophomore Ryan Cline, freshman Carsen Edwards, and senior transfer Spike Albrecht.
If They Advance
Should Purdue find a way to upset the top-seeded Jayhawks, they would face the either the third-seeded Oregon Ducks or enjoy a Big Ten rematch with the seventh seeded Michigan Wolverines.
Boilermakers fans couldn’t help but root to face Michigan, a team that defeated the Purdue twice during the regular season. It would be a familiar foe, with the winner headed to Phoenix for the Final Four.
Once in Phoenix, Purdue would face either North Carolina/Butler or the Kentucky/UCLA winner for a right to play in Monday’s championship finale.
It is clear that Purdue’s biggest game lies directly in front of them on Thursday night. If they defeat Kansas, Boilermaker’s fans will rightfully feel like their team could win the 2017 National Championship.
Purdue has the inside game and three point shooting ability to defeat any possible remaining opponent. The Boilermakers used a ten rebound advantage and eight three pointers to defeat Iowa State in the Round of 32 last Saturday.
With a first team All-American lock in Swanigan and strong timely outside shooting, Purdue looks every bit the part of a legitimate Final Four caliber team.