It’s not a secret to anybody in the country that if the Purdue Boilermakers have any chance to advance past Kansas into their first Elite Eight for the program since 2000, the offense will start and end with their All-American and possible National Player of the Year, Caleb Swanigan.
He’s been playing at an unprecedented level this season, with his averages now sitting at 18.5 points, 12.6 rebounds while shooting 52.7% from the floor.
Against Iowa State in the round of 32, Swanigan played what may have been his most impressive offensive game of the season. He dominated from three levels of the floor and finished with 20 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. Seven assists from your 6’9”, 250 pound forward/center makes a team nearly impossible to stop.
While everyone knows that Caleb Swanigan is a monster on the glass and is nearly guaranteed to have at least 10 rebounds just by putting on his uniform and stepping on the court, what’s made him really dangerous this season is his versatility on the offensive end.
He can step down on the block and dominate just about anybody in the country, if you try to defend him one on one. Additionally, Purdue can also run offense through him by putting him at either elbow and letting him make decisions with cutters to the basket or by working on his own man.
But, of course, Swanigan becomes almost impossible to stop when he is hitting shots from three-point range. There’s just no way to guard somebody who can score from all three levels of the floor. Defense is about being willing to live with one thing so you can take away the others, but with a player who can score from all three levels, you almost have to be willing to let him get his points and try to contain everyone around him.
Swanigan has dominated all levels of competition, but his game has really been at its best against the highest levels of competition that the Boilers have faced this season. Against teams that were ranked at the time of their meeting, Swanigan has averaged 21.1 points, 11.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game.
With the national spotlight on him, Swanigan steps up to play his best. He willed this team back in the second half against Notre Dame in December and dominated the Maryland Terrapins to bring the Boilers back in early February.
He has the Big Ten’s all-time record for double-doubles in a single season and leads the country with 28 double-doubles in 34 games. Swanigan is also the only major D-I player in the last 25 years to post 600 points, 400 rebounds and 100 assists in a single season.
He is, without a doubt, the biggest advantage that the Boilermakers will have against this potent Kansas Jayhawks team with a chance to advance to the Elite Eight.
If Swanigan plays as well as he can, he will still need help to get past the #1 seed in the region in Kansas City. He’s proven throughout the year that he can put this team on his shoulders and elevate his team to a higher level, and he’ll need at least one more of those performances to get it done on Thursday night.