Key Departures: Caleb Swanigan, Spike Albrecht, Basil Smotherman
Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: P.J. Thompson (Sr.)
SG: Carsen Edwards (So.)
SG: Dakota Mathias (Sr.)
SF: Vince Edwards (Sr.)
C: Isaac Haas (Sr.)
Key Reserve Players:
SG: Ryan Cline (Jr.), SG: Nojel Eastern (Fr.), C: Matt Haarms (Fr.), SF: Aaron Wheeler (Fr.), PF: Jacquil Taylor (RS Jr.), SF: Eden Ewing (Jr.), SG: Sasha Stefanovic (Fr.)
Yes, the Boilermakers do lose one of the best players to ever put on a Purdue uniform in Caleb Swanigan. Swanigan averaged 18.5 points and 12.5 rebounds per game for his sophomore season, and went on to be the Big Ten Player of the Year. Swanigan was also a first-team All-American selection in 2017. The good news for Matt Painter and company is that they still get one more year of the P.J. Thompson, Dakota Mathias, Vince Edwards and Isaac Haas class. All four bring valuable experience to the table, and this core has built a solid chemistry going into their senior years.
P.J. Thompson, a 5’10” point guard, will be running the Purdue offense for the final time. Thompson came to Purdue as a two-star and ranked as the 64th point guard in his class. However, he has been a very valuable player for this program over the years. He has increased his scoring and assists per game each year, and has been in the top 10 in assist to turnover ratio the past two years. Thompson knows how to take care of the ball, make smart plays, and can execute the offense. Carsen Edwards returns as a sophomore, and he is a special player who is destined for stardom. He had a very good freshman year, averaging over 10 points per game. Edwards has experience playing with top-tier talent, by playing with USA basketball. As a sophomore, he will need to improve his shooting percentage (and 3-point percentage), but he is going to be really good for Purdue. He got valuable minutes as a freshman, learned the speed of the college game, and is now prepared to advance his game to the next level.
Dakota Mathias and Ryan Cline also return for Purdue. These two snipers can absolutely light it up from downtown. Mathias shot a crazy 45.3 percent from 3-point range last year, and Cline shot 41.3 percent. Both guys take care of the ball as well. In fact, P.J. Thompson and Vince Edwards also shot over 40 percent from distance. Shooting will be a huge focal point to this Purdue offense, and they have a plethora of players to fit the part. Freshmen Nojel Eastern and Sasha Stefanovic will also add depth in the shooting department as guards. Eastern, a four-star recruit, is a lefty with a sweet stroke, he is a good ball-handler, and adds some athleticism to this guard rotation. Watch out for him in transition as well.
Vince Edwards had an up and down junior year. In and out of the starting lineup, he never got into a rhythm for the season. Edwards was still able to average 12.6 points for the season, and shot the ball well, as previously mentioned. With Swanigan off to the NBA, I have Vince Edwards sliding over to the power forward position for his senior year. He will be asked to guard multiple positions defensively, and will also be called upon for rebounding. His versatility will create matchup problems for other forwards, and I expect him to have a very good senior year. Isaac Haas also averaged 12.6 points a season ago, and he will be the main guy when it comes to being a paint presence for the Boilermakers. For me, Haas was always somewhat overshadowed by A.J. Hammons and Caleb Swanigan. He definitely isn’t quite on the level of those two guys (especially his outside perimeter game), but he is very solid fundamentally, and can really score down low. If you feed him in the post with a mismatch, he can score every time. He uses his height to his advantage in order to score over shorter bigs. He will definitely be called upon for rebounding with Swanigan gone, but I do think he will have his best season as a Boilermaker this year. Matt Haarms, a four-star center (who is also over seven feet), will come off the bench and play minutes behind Haas. There will be two twin towers on the roster.
Jacquil Taylor, who has been plagued by injury for the majority of his collegiate career, is now healthy, and will provide frontcourt depth off the bench. He has only played in 102 minutes as a Boilermaker, and didn’t play in a single game last season. Aaron Wheeler and Junior College transfer, Eden Ewing, will come in and play forward minutes off the bench as well. Wheeler is a lankier forward, who can step behind the arc, and can also run in transition. Ewing brings solid size and athleticism at 6’9″, and can hit from mid-range.
Purdue loses their best player to the NBA, but they retain their veteran core. They have the experience to make a late run in the NCAA tournament. With the four seniors and Carsen Edwards, their starting lineup will be really tough to match up against. I see them contending with Michigan State in the Big 10, and have them at number 12 in my preseason rankings.