Purdue basketball puts forth two menaces in the frontcourt and a preseason candidate for the most improved player in Jaden Ivey.
Purdue basketball head coach Matt Painter didn’t do what most college hoops head honchos did this offseason. Instead of diving into the transfer portal, Painter kept it all in-house, bringing back his entire Boilermakers squad to form one of the deepest teams with a lot of team chemistry.
Eric Hunter Jr. and Jaden Ivy lead the backcourt with Sasha Stefanovic and Mason Gillis allowing for a small-ball starting five. Trevion Williams makes up for that in the 5-spot. That’s a loaded first unit as the Boilermakers look to not only compete for a Big Ten title but also reach the Final Four.
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PG: Eric Hunter Jr. (6-4, 170, Sr.)
2021 stats: 8.5 points, 2.8 assists, 2.2 rebounds, 1.1 steals
Projected stats: 7.4 points, 3.5 assists, 2.1 rebounds, 1.0 steals
SG: Jaden Ivey (6-4, 200, So.)
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2021 stats: 11.1 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.7 steals, 25.8 3P%
Projected stats: 15.2 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 0.9 steals, 32.8 3P%
SF: Sasha Stefanovic (6-5, 200, Sr.)
2021 stats: 9.3 points, 2.6 assists, 2.6 rebounds, 40.0 3P%
Projected stats: 8.8 points, 2.5 assists, 2.3 rebounds, 41.7 3P%
PF: Mason Gillis (6-6, 230, So.)
2021 stats: 5.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 35.2 3P%
Projected stats: 5.7 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 34.2 3P%
C: Trevion Williams (6-10, 265, Sr.)
2021 stats: 15.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.6 blocks
Projected stats: 14.7 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.8 blocks
6: Zach Edey (7-4, 285, So.)
2021 stats: 8.7 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.1 blocks
Projected stats: 10.6 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.4 blocks
7: Brandon Newman (6-5, 195, So.)
2021 stats: 8.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.8 steals, 37.9 3P%
Projected stats: 10.2 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.9 steals, 39.3 3P%
8: Isaiah Thompson (6-1, 160, Jr.)
2021 stats: 4.2 points, 1.4 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 39.7 3P%
Projected stats: 5.0 points, 1.7 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 38.5 3P%
9: Trey Kaufman-Renn (6-8, 210, Fr.)
247Sports #43 overall rated recruit
Projected stats: 3.7 points, 1.6 rebounds, 0.8 assists
10: Caleb Furst (6-8, 215, Fr.)
247Sports #64 overall rated recruit
Projected stats: 2.4 points, 1.9 rebounds, 0.5 assists
Team MVP: Trevion Williams
The big and bruising Trevion Williams is going to have to play that way to keep his footing in the conference with the best centers in the country. Williams is right up there with Hunter Dickinson and Trayce Jackson-Davis and in some ways is better than those potential All-Americans.
Williams controls the floor from his position, meaning the offense runs through him. If he’s open, pass him the ball, because Williams will use his brute strength and size to put in buckets. The senior has seen everything and at times can play alongside 7-foot-4 Zach Edey, making for the most challenging frontcourt to match up against in college hoops.
Make-or-Break Player: Sasha Stefanovic
There’s not a lot of pressure on this Purdue basketball team because it’s a largely veteran group that didn’t add any major transfers.
Stefanovic is the best shooter on this team, so he’ll have to make sure he delivers once again from behind the arc. It can be tough getting in a rhythm while sharing the floor with so many other stars, so that’ll be the make-or-break part for Sasha. He’s a fantastic competitor and has proven his shot-making ability, improving his field goal percentage to a career-high 41.6% last season.
This year, Stefanovic will have to be even more efficient with Ivey and Edey expected to get more touches.
Bench Rating: 8/10
The versatility this bench provides is almost unmatchable. Edey has all the credentials of a starter, but coach Painter will probably use the small-ball lineup that he did last season to start games.
Brandon Newman is also capable of earning starters minutes, so the amount of A-plus talent on this Purdue basketball roster runs deep into the bench.
Thompson could be a pleasant surprise as long as he can gradually improve alongside such a veteran roster. The two freshmen will likely get some chances, but it’ll be hard for them to get consistent minutes unless there’s an unfortunate injury or foul trouble.
Analytic to Know: Returning Points Production
Purdue basketball brought back 95% of its points per game from last season, with Aaron Wheeler as the only rotation player to leave the program, choosing St. John’s this offseason.
The team chemistry, experience and overall will to win are going to make this Purdue team one of the most focused and mentally toughest teams in college basketball. That might not all show up in the box score, but it will be the cause for the effect.
In a Big Ten conference that has as many Final Four contenders as any league, I like Purdue basketball as the best bet to reach that last weekend of the postseason. The Boilermakers check off nearly every box of a team built for a long run in March.
The one downfall is how Purdue wasn’t a team that made a deep run last season, so improvement will need to be seen. However, whenever a team brings back that thick of a unit from the season prior, it normally bodes well. Matt Painter’s also a pretty darn good coach, so that should translate too. Purdue basketball is the team that just carries that feel heading into the new season.