The 2023-24 ‘BTPowerhouse Season Preview’ series will take an in-depth look at all 14 teams in the Big Ten heading into the 2023-24 season with analysis on each program’s previous season, offseason departures, new additions, strengths, weakness, top player, and top storylines. Each post will also include predictions on each team’s starting lineup, season performance and commentary from a local “insider” who covers said team.
Purdue went from being in flux to a prime contender once again this offseason when superstar center Zach Edey announced that he would be returning to West Lafayette for another season. The Boilermakers would have likely contended towards the top of the league but the return of Edey places them as not only league favorites, but a potential Final Four contender in March.
Of course last year’s Purdue team ran through the conference on their way to winning the league by a whopping three games. They picked up both regular season and conference tournament title honors and earned a one seed in the NCAA Tournament. That didn’t go exactly as planned, though, with a dreadful shooting performance leading to an early exit in the opening round. Now Purdue will look to channel their inner Virginia and see if they can bounce back with a potential national title in April.
1. 2022-23 Season Performance
- Record: 29-6 (15-5, 1st in Big Ten)
- KenPom ranking: 7th
- NET ranking: 5th
- Postseason: NCAA Tournament First Round
Heading into the 2022-23 season Purdue was expected to be a tournament team but no one expected them to run away with the league on their way to a 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Part of that was the heavy reliance on a pair of freshmen guards in Braden Smith and Fletcher Loyer while also trying to replace superstar Jaden Ivey. While there were growing pains in the backcourt, they got enough from Loyer and Smith and rode an impressive season from Zach Edey on their way to winning the conference and winning the Big Ten Tournament.
Expectations for Purdue shifted late November when they knocked off West Virginia, Gonzaga and Duke back-to-back, all by double digits. A 13-0 start and plenty of time as the #1 team in the country were major highlights of the year, while Purdue was able to sidestep two losses to Indiana on their way to winning the league by three games. That success carried over to the Big Ten Tournament where they won three games on their way to beating Penn State in the title game.
Of course they exited the NCAA Tournament early after the backcourt fell apart in real time, incapable of shooting the ball while Fairleigh Dickinson effectively left them unguarded to focus on clogging up the lane. Now Purdue will hope to follow in the footsteps of Virginia, who followed their opening round loss as a 1 seed with a National Championship the following year.
2. Offseason exits
- G David Jenkins (3.9 PPG, 1.3 RPG, 0.8 APG)
- G Brandon Newman (6 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 1.1 APG)
Purdue remains largely intact this season, losing only two players from last season. Probably the biggest of the two is Brandon Newman, who had an up-and-down career at Purdue and started six games last year. There were moments where Newman was a key contributor for the Boilermakers, but issues with consistency kept from him seeing consistent minutes and was a key reason why he spent most of the year coming off the bench.
Also gone is grad transfer David Jenkins, who was a rotational player that was utilized mainly as a three point specialist. Jenkins didn’t set the world on fire statistically but he was a key player that made several huge shots down the stretch to help Purdue throughout conference play. His loss could sting a bit if Purdue continues to struggle shooting from the perimeter.
3. New Additions
- G Lance Jones (Southern Illinois)
- C Will Berg (redshirt freshman)
- F Camden Heide (redshirt freshman)
- G Myles Colvin (4-star recruit)
- G Jace Rayl (walk-on)
- F Josh Furst (walk-on)
The biggest addition for Purdue this offseason has to be four star guard Myles Colvin, son of former Boilermaker football player Rosevelt Colvin. The 6’6” guard was a highly athletic scoring threat all over the clock that could make plays and create open shots at ease when he was in high school, something Purdue desperately lacked last year without Jaden Ivey. Colvin might not be at that same level, at least right now, but the potential there is huge and if Colvin can play to his talent level he’ll likely find a sizeable spot in the rotation in no time.
Lance Jones, a transfer from Southern Illinois, solidifies the backcourt and gives Purdue some much needed depth. There’s some serious questions on how he’ll fit in at Purdue considering his three point shooting fell off a cliff last season, but if he can rediscover his stroke he could see plenty of minutes. If he’s back to hitting 28% from three, though, he’s going to be little more than an insurance policy in the backcourt.
Purdue will also have a pair of redshirt freshman ready to find the court this season. First is Will Berg, a 7’2” center that should see minutes backing up Edey. Berg has struggled with health issues but if he can stay healthy there is some hope he could be Edey’s successor. Purdue fans are well aware of where Edey started as a freshman and how he developed into the juggernaut he is now, so Berg’s development will be interesting to watch.
Camden Heide is another player that battled health issues and ultimately took a redshirt last year. The 6’7” forward has a set of intangibles on par with what Purdue needs and could find his way into a solid contributing role this year. Heide is athletic enough to attack inside and throw it down while also hitting around 40% from three at the high school level. Purdue could use both those assets this winter.
4. Points of Optimism
It’s easy to remain optimistic when you return basically the entire team following a season where you won the conference and earned a top seed in the NCAA Tournament. The fact that Purdue did that with a backcourt anchored by two true freshmen and a cast of guards that struggled from three shows the impact Zach Edey had last season.
Smith and Loyer showed flashes and the possibility of flourishing into two of the best guards in the conference if they can clean up some of their weaknesses. Now that they have a year’s worth of experience and a full offseason to develop (and bulk up a bit, particularly for Loyer), they should hopefully be able to make that next step. The Boilermakers don’t have a massive incoming class of fresh faces, but a few of those faces are highly athletic and if they can help create their own shots that will also take pressure off of both Smith and Loyer.
I guess the biggest “point of optimism” here is even if the backcourt doesn’t make a major step forward this season they still found themselves as one of the best teams in the country last year and it’s hard to see the backcourt regressing this year.
5. Points of Concern
One of the biggest issues last year was perimeter shooting, with the Boilermakers only hitting 32.2% of their three pointers. That shooting clip put them 291st in the nation. Their inability to shoot from three was problematic all season long, with the team only managing to get by with a heavy reliance on Zach Edey. In their postseason loss Purdue shot 5 of 26 from three and simply making one or two of those shots down the stretch would have likely led to a victory.
Unfortunately for Purdue there aren’t many new additions in the backcourt, with transfer Lance Jones hitting less than 30% from three last season, and a slim freshmen class incoming. That means the returning players from last season will have to improve. There is some optimism here, with hope that Braden Smith and Fletcher Loyer will make a considerable improvement after having to start their entire freshmen seasons. Also, Mason Gillis is a capable three point shooter that has more than proved he can hit from range. The problem is Purdue never found consistency from three and now will have to hope their returning core will suddenly clean things up in the backcourt.
6. Top Player
Purdue starting center Zach Edey earned a medley of accolades last season, including the National College Player of the Year, Pete Newell Big Man Award, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award, Big Ten Player of the Year and consensus first-team All-American honors. While the big man flirted with entering the NBA Draft, he ultimately decided to return for his senior season and instantly elevated Purdue to a potential national title contender.
Posting career highs basically across the board, Edey averaged 22.3 points and 12.9 rebounds per game and absolutely dominated inside. The Boilermakers had a number of issues in their backcourt and couldn’t consistently shoot from range, yet time after time they simply kept feeding Edey inside and he did enough to carry them to a victory. Edey’s performance last year was impressive as is, even more so when you realize the lack of help he had at times. If Purdue can clean up their shooting issues then that would allow Edey even more space inside and could set him up for an equally as good, if not better, senior season.
7. 2022-23 Schedule Breakdown
- 11/1 - Grace College (exhibition)
- 11/6 - Samford
- 11/10 - Morehead State
- 11/13 - Xavier (Gavitt Games)
- 11/20 - Gonzaga (Maui Invitational)
- 11/21 - Tennessee or Syracuse (Maui Invitational)
- 11/22 - Kansas, UCLA, Marquette or Chaminade
- 11/28 - Texas Southern
- 12/9 - Alabama (Hall of Fame Toronto Series - Toronto, Ontario)
- 12/16 - Arizona (Indy Classic - Indianapolis, Ind.)
- 12/21 - Jacksonville
- 12/29 - Eastern Kentucky
The first two months for Purdue will give them plenty of opportunities for quality victories and to prepare for conference play and the eventual NCAA Tournament. Purdue’s early season tournament is the Maui Invitational drawing Gonzaga in the first round, followed by Tennessee or Syracuse and then likely either Kansas, UCLA or Marquette. There are also plenty of other marquee games, with Xavier (Gavitt Games), Alabama in Toronto and an outing against Arizona in the Indy Classic.
- 12/1 - at Northwestern
- 12/4 - Iowa
- 1/2 - at Maryland
- 1/5 - Illinois
- 1/9 - at Nebraska
- 1/13 - Penn State
- 1/16 - at Indiana
- 1-20 - at Iowa
- 1/23 - Michigan
- 1/28 - at Rutgers
- 1/31 - Northwestern
- 2/4 - at Wisconsin
- 2/10 - Indiana
- 2/15 - Minnesota
- 2/18 - at Ohio State
- 2/22 - Rutgers
- 2/25 - at Michigan
- 3/2 - Michigan State
- 3/5 - at Illinois
- 3/10 - Wisconsin
Conference schedules in the Big Ten are relatively balanced (for the most part) so they’re pretty consistent across the board. That being said, Purdue has a manageable start to build some early momentum. The early December run includes Northwestern and Iowa, while January starts with Maryland, Illinois, Nebraska and Penn State. Purdue should probably be undefeated in league play when they face off against Indiana for the first time this season.
After winning the Big Ten by three games last season Purdue should be favored to win the league once again. The biggest question is will the race for regular season champ be a bit closer this winter.
8. Projected Starting Lineup
- PG: Braden Smith
- SG: Fletcher Loyer
- SF: Ethan Morton
- PF: Caleb Furst
- C: Zach Edey
The 2023 starting lineup is a bit in flux heading into the season. The backcourt is anchored by Braden Smith and Fletcher Loyer, with little odds anyone takes over either guard starting spot. Smith and Loyer learned as they went last year and while there was potential, Smith struggled running the point down the stretch while Loyer was worn out by the tail end of the season and disappeared at times. If both players can build from an up-and-down freshman campaign then Purdue will have a much improved backcourt.
Inside Zach Edey solidifies the center spot and will likely dominate things at the rim once again. The bigger question mark is who will end up starting at the 3 and 4 spot. For simplicity sake we’ll go with experience and put Ethan Morton and Caleb Furst, though this will likely change (even the exhibition against Arkansas had a different lineup). Morton started 29 games, but fell out of the starting lineup to close the season. He’s a glue guy and solid defender but was incredibly limited offensively. Furst brings a bit more to the table offensively but Trey Kaufman-Renn is also going to be highly involved while Purdue will have a bit more depth in the frontcourt this season.
It’ll be interesting to see how Purdue rounds out the lineup because the need for shooting is going to be huge. That means a guy like Mason Gillis could end up starting (he started 15 of 32 games last year) to give Purdue a capable shooter...if he can find some consistency. Gillis can shoot lights out but also disappeared from time to time. Freshman Myles Colvin is also in the mix and if he plays to his potential it’ll be hard to keep him off the court, so he could also end up in the starting lineup when everything is said and done.
9. Overall Season Outlook
With Edey back in the mix Purdue should once again be capable of winning the league. The reality is anything less than a conference title would be a disappointment, though there’s also a good chance this Purdue team will put a bit less emphasis on the regular season and focus more on the eventual NCAA Tournament.
The biggest thing this Boilermakers squad will be trying to do is to avoid another upset to a team with a high seed line. If Purdue can get to the second weekend that would be a nice start, but the reality is this team should be aiming for at least a Final Four appearance. This is easily the best team Painter has fielded since a Baby Boilers squad that could have won a title if not for Robbie Hummel’s two torn ACL injuries derailing things.
If Painter is going to win a title in West Lafayette this is about as good as a chance as he’ll get.
Big Ten Prediction: 1st Place