The Big Ten has been one of the best conferences in college basketball for several years. However, its level of play is down this season, which will have an impact on March Madness expert picks.
The Big Ten will likely produce the most NCAA Tournament bids but it has only two teams in the AP Top 25 Poll. However, the conference still has a championship contender in Purdue. The Boilermakers have been a familiar face in the AP Poll’s top five throughout the season and feature the runaway favorite for the Naismith College Player of the Year, 7-foot-4 center Zach Edey. Here’s everything you need to know about Purdue.
Edey is the Heartbeat
Everything starts and ends with Edey, college basketball’s most dominant player. Of course, his 7-foot-4 frame is a rarity, but Edey’s skill and mobility make him special. The junior center’s 12.8 rebounds per game rank second nationally, behind Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe (13.1 rebounds). Plus, Edey averages 21.9 points while shooting 61.1% from the field.
7’4″ Zach Edey has been named the @B1GMBBall Player of the Year!
😤 21.9 PPG
😤 12.8 RPG
😤 2.3 BPG@BoilerBall @zach_edey pic.twitter.com/Q6F8VaW4w4
— SLAM University (@slam_university) March 7, 2023
Defenses cannot let Edey work one-on-one. He constantly draws double-teams, which provides good spacing and open shooters. Some elite frontcourt defenders are capable of slowing star centers. However, Edey is an exception. His size cannot be replicated, which pretty much guarantees double-teams from the start to finish of every game.
Purdue’s offensive identity is to feed Edey and work off of that, whether that be cutters flashing through the lane or shooters awaiting a pass on the perimeter. We know how special the Boilermakers’ big man is, but his counterparts will determine Purdue’s March Madness fate.
Surrounding Pieces Up to the Task?
Since Feb. 12, most scores and odds have not gone the Boilermakers’ way with a 1-5 record against the spread (ATS). Purdue’s shooters could be the biggest key to the postseason. If it has great 3-point shooting around Edey, this offense becomes almost unguardable. However, without reliable shooting, opposing defenses simply pack the paint.
Since 2000, only four teams have won March Madness while shooting under 36% on 3-pointers. The Boilermakers are far below that mark at 32.7% from deep (249th). In addition, they have shot under 25% from beyond the arc in four of the last six games.
Freshman guard Braden Smith, who leads the team at 41.2% from deep, shot 3 of 12 on 3-pointers from Feb. 12 to Mar. 2. He finally bounced back, hitting both attempts in the regular-season finale. Any March Madness prediction with Purdue cutting down the nets will fail if this shooting continues.
The Boilermakers hope to turn it around in the Big Ten Tournament. NCAA basketball odds list them as the favorite to win the tournament at +150. The second-lowest mark is Indiana at +550. Keep an eye on Purdue’s 3-point marksmen. If they get back on track, the Boilermakers are favorable March Madness Picks due to their efficiency.
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Efficiency Wins Rings
Despite recent shooting struggles, Purdue ranks 11th in Kenpom’s offensive efficiency. This offense flourishes thanks to great ball movement and efficient shooting in the paint. It ranks in the 91st percentile of assists per game and in the 90th percentile of 2-point shooting percentage.
This is also one of college basketball’s best rebounding teams, ranking second in offensive rebounding percentage and fourth in defensive rebounding percentage. It goes beyond just Edey as the Boilermakers have good rebounding guards, like Smith at 4.3 rebounds per game.
The defense ranks 23rd in Kenpom’s efficiency. Perhaps the unit’s best trait is its ability to limit personal fouls. Purdue’s 13.5 fouls per game are the fifth-lowest mark nationally. Opponents average only 10.8 attempted free throws per game, which leads the country.
Since 2002, every national champion has finished in the top 25 of offensive and defensive efficiency. The Boilermakers pass the efficiency test with flying colors. Purdue’s odds to win March Madness are among the favorites for a reason. Will the Boilermakers capture their first national championship and become the first Big Ten team to win a national title since Michigan State in 2000?