A pair of losses in the Bahamas was evidently precisely what the Purdue Boilermakers needed to flip the switch and turn around their season.
Since then, they’ve won twelve consecutive games, including a thrilling one point road win against Michigan on Tuesday in a place they hadn’t left with a win since 2012.
Now sitting in a tie for the #5 ranking in the AP poll along with being ranked #1 in Sagarin and #4 in KenPom, the Boilermakers appear to be in the drivers seat for another Big Ten Title.
With that being said, let’s take a look at what separates Purdue from most of the other teams in America.
1. Their offensive aggressiveness balanced with defensive discipline
Obviously, with the size that they have in the post between Isaac Haas, Vincent Edwards and Matt Haarms to complement the driving ability of Carsen Edwards, Purdue shoots plenty of free throws.
In fact, on the season they have shot 403 free throws, which ranks 27th in the country. To go along with ranking 27th in attempts, they are 14th in the country in made free throws with 302, shooting at a 74.9% clip from the charity stripe.
While the dominance on the interior is blatant on the offensive end, it’s just as evident on the defensive end. Purdue has a block rate of 15.1%, which ranks 20th in the country. Despite blocking so many shots, they manage to do it without fouling. On the season, Purdue opponents have attempted only 259 free throws, 43 fewer attempts than Purdue has makes.
The ability to get to the free throw line and keep the other team away from it allows you to not only get the opposition into foul trouble, but also control the tempo.
2. The offensive balance is impeccable
With four guys averaging over 13 points per game and P.J. Thompson at 8.9 per game, it’s impossible for another team to truly key in on any one player in their defensive game planning.
Obviously, everything starts with trying to come up with some type of plan for keeping Isaac Haas from establishing his 7’2”, 290 pound frame in the middle of the paint. However, with the shooting prowess of everyone on the perimeter in the starting lineup for Purdue, it’s the definition of picking your poison.
Purdue ranks 10th in the country in three point shooting at 41.6%. Needless to say, that nearly forces teams to play one-on-one in the post with Haas, which typically ends in an easy bucket if he gets the defender on his back.
Another key factor that leads to the offensive balance is the versatility of some of the key contributors on that end of the floor for the Boilermakers. Players like Vincent Edwards, Carsen Edwards and Dakota Mathias, who have shown the ability to score at all three levels put so much pressure on a defense.
When all of the weapons for Purdue are on all cylinders, there aren’t many teams in the country that can match their firepower, but they’ve certainly proven they can win with only a few playing well on any given night.
3. This Purdue Boilermakers team is selfless
Outside of assist rate, which currently sits at 59.8% (good for 35th in the country), this isn’t necessarily something that can be captured by a group of statistics. It’s something that is extremely evident when you’re watching them on a nightly basis.
With the business of college basketball being what it is, a lot of teams and players can end up having agendas that fall outside of the lines of where they should be. With this group of guys, the only agenda that seems to exist is to win each and every night. It’s a special thing to watch a group come together the way this senior class has over their four years, and they’re definitely showing that they are far from being done.
In the grand scheme of things, a Big Ten Championship would certainly be a hell of an accomplishment, but this team will likely be judged far more by what they do in the NCAA Tournament. After reaching the Sweet Sixteen a season ago, they have their sights set on far greater heights.
With the way they’ve played so far this season, it’s hard to find any reason that they couldn’t make a deep run in March.