Purdue and Texas Tech. The Boilermakers and the Red Raiders. Matt Painter and Chris Beard. Trains and tortillas.
Carsen Edwards and Keenan Evans.
The game may be in Boston, but the players that matter most are from Texas.
Carsen Edwards (hometown: Atascocita, TX) could be the most dynamic player to wear a Purdue jersey in the Matt Painter era. Biggie got more national attention, Hummel got more love, but neither of those guys could create instant offense the way Carsen Edwards can. Whether it’s splashing a three, driving the lane, or converting an opposing team’s pass into a pick-six, you get the feeling Edwards is never more than a moment’s notice away from putting points on the scoreboard.
You could say that the reason Keenan Evans (hometown: Richardson, TX) has a bum toe is because he injured it against Baylor, or you can get metaphorical and say the reason he has a bum toe is because he kicks so much ass. The man is a senior, and a warrior, and the reason Texas Tech is as good as they are.
In the four games after the toe injury on February 17, Evans scored 4, 2, 6, and zero points. That last game was against West Virginia, where he did not play at all. Texas Tech lost all four games. Since then, the Red Raiders have won four of five, with Evans contributing 23, 25, 13, 23, and 22. Against Stephen F. Austin he got his 23 points on only 10 shots.
If you can blame injuries for Evans’ off nights, you can blame youth for Edwards’. Only a sophomore, against Illinois Carsen scored 40 points on 19 shots. Against Butler on Sunday, he scored 13 points on 17 shots. No. 3 has never been afraid to hoist shots. I call him the Goldfish, since he doesn’t remember anything. Whether the last shot went in or not, he plays the same way.
That’s exactly what Purdue needs since they don’t have anyone else like that on the roster. Moreover, they need the good Edwards to show up in order to beat Tech on Friday. Coach Painter has been known to say that Carsen “needs a little moon to go with his sun.” In other words, there’s a time to be the hero, and a time to defer. Discretion is the better part of valor. Or as they might say in Texas, there aren’t a lot of elderly gunslingers.
Apart from age, the biggest difference between the two players is height. Edwards is shorter, listed at a generous 6-foot-1, whereas Evans is 6-foot-3. Evans, though, is the shortest starter for Tech, where everyone else is at least 6-foot-5. Edwards is taller than the diminutive PJ Thompson. But despite how it may be listed in the scorebook, Edwards looks more like the point guard on paper, dishing out more assists and turning the ball over less than Thompson.
Both Evans and Edwards attack the rim, but Evans does it like it’s his job, drawing 7 fouls per 40 minutes and getting to the line an astounding 224 times so far this season, hitting 81%. Edwards is also a good foul shooter at 82 percent, though he doesn’t get to the line as often. That’s because he is more of a jump shooter, hoisting up 230 threes on the year and making 40% of them.
Though the two players are different, they were both among the best in their respective leagues, and they’ll both be bringing something to Boston that is essential in March: Texas swagger. Whether you say Guns Up or Boiler Up, you had better get up for this game, or else these two hombres will shoot you down.