The Purdue Boilermakers are about 2/3 of the way through the Big Ten season, a large enough sample size to really understand what some of the data is.
For those that know me, numbers have always fascinated me. I’m a stats major, and the analytics side of basketball has always intrigued me, trying to find out how teams can become more efficient. Now, wait wait wait. Before you click off because I used the word analytics, I understand the importance of BOTH “analytics” and the “eye test”. But for this one specifically, I wanted to just purely dive into numbers. Maybe they need more context but who cares.
Ok, now back to the Purdue Boilermakers. As of writing on February 8th, they’re 22-2 overall and 11-2 in Big Ten play. They have a 3-game lead in the loss column of *checks notes* six teams that have five losses in the Big Ten. Purdue has the best offense per Kenpom and the 22nd-best defense. More than that, Purdue is the overall #1 seed by a majority of bracketologists, something that could see Purdue have potential destinations of Columbus, Ohio, and Louisville, Kentucky in March.
Purdue’s two losses have come by a combined six points. In a season of uncertainty at the top of the college ranks, the Boilermakers have checked off more boxes than most. They have the National Player of the Year frontrunner in Zach Edey, who is having one of the most efficient and dominant seasons of all time. This is a team that has continued to improve and seems like they can still get plenty better.
*Note* All data is from Kenpom, CBBanalytics, or Synergy.
So what makes up the number one offense in the country? It starts with scheme, but we’re focused on the numbers today. The first thing that stands out is offensive rebounding. On the season, the Purdue Boilermakers have an offensive rebounding percentage 38.7%. This means they get an offensive rebound on 38.7% of the shots they miss. This is the best rate in the country, and the gap between Purdue and #2 (Duke) is the same as #2 and #9. Purdue has fewer “bad shots” because they rebound those shots more than anyone else.
The reason Purdue is so dominant on the offensive glass starts with 7-4 big man Zach Edey. Teams have to sometimes have two guys boxing him out or illegally face-guard him while “boxing out”, just so Edey maybe won’t get the board. Edey has an individual offensive rebound percentage of 22.8%. So while he is on the floor, he rebounds almost one out of every four Purdue misses. Combine that with him shooting 62.7% on the year, and you have an elite offense already. To put into context how impressive that rate is, #2 in the country is Jeremiah Kendall at 19.3%. The gap between Edey and Kendall is the same between Kendall and #17.
If Edey holds his rate constant, that will be the second-highest ORB% of the past 20 years per Kenpom (Dejuan Blair in 2009 had a 23.6 ORB%).
Now even though Edey plays a lot of minutes and gets a ton of boards for Purdue, Caleb Furst has the 34th highest ORB% in the country at 14.0%. That is wild considering that a large majority of his minutes come playing with Edey.
When Furst and Edey are on the floor together, they have an ORB% of 42.7% per CBBanalytics. That is the highest in the country by a wide margin. When Edey and Furst share the floor, they rebound a little more than two out of every five Purdue misses. That is insane.
On top of that, Purdue has the 65th highest free throw rate in the country, and they have the 52nd highest FT%. They get fouled a ton, but they also make a lot of their free throws, including Zach Edey who is shooting 73.2% from the line this season.
Purdue has one of the most fun offenses to watch in all of college basketball with all of their actions and screens and movement. This has led them to have the 17th highest assist rate in the country at 59.7%, meaning that Purdue has an assist on 59.7% of all of their baskets. Which is impressive considering how much they run through the post.
No team posts up more than Purdue. This makes sense when you have Zach Edey, one of the most efficient players in all of college basketball. Per Synergy, Purdue runs a post up on 20.4% of their possessions, the highest rate in the country. They are in the 90th percentile in efficiency which makes sense since Edey averages 1.007 points per possession (PPP) on post-ups (81st percentile individually).
Edey is not just a one-trick pony in the post either. It is no secret he loves getting to the right hook over his left shoulder, but he has found a counter this season with the drop step over the right shoulder. Edey has 188 possessions going over his left shoulder for an efficiency of 1.032 PPP. He has 45 possessions going over the right shoulder with an efficiency of 1.067 PPP.
When Purdue is not running a post-up, they might be running a pick-and-roll. It is not the most used set, but Purdue has found success in it, mainly because Smith is an elite passer out of it. When accounting for all picks and rolls that result in a shot or turnover (so including when the ball handler shoots, passes to the roll man or passes to someone on the wing who shoots), Purdue is in the 91st percentile of efficiency at 0.97 PPP. When the ball handler shoots, the efficiency drops to 0.728 PPP.
The final aspect of Purdue’s offense is jump shooting, and this has been an up-and-down thing this season. Although the process has been consistent all year, (which you can click here to read more about) Purdue has not consistently made them. They got to as low as 30% from three on the year, but it is up to 33.9% now and 37.1% in conference play.
In the last ten games (since after Rutgers), Purdue has shot 39.5% from 3— Joe Jackson (@Joe_Jackson2210) February 7, 2023
An interesting note is that in the past 10 games, Purdue has shot 40.4% from three while Braden Smith has been on the floor and 33.3% when he has been off.
The Purdue Boilermakers ahve been good in two areas of jumpers all year, pull-ups and open catch-and-shoot threes. Per Synergy, Purdue is in the 70th percentile of efficiency at 0.895 PPP on pull ups, and they are in the 67th percentile for open catch-and-shoot threes at 1.158 PPP. However, they are only in the 20th percentile for contested catch-and-shoot threes at 0.871 PPP. Many players struggled to start the year but have really started shooting well as of late, like Fletcher Loyer and David Jenkins.
Here are the 3-point percentages from in-conference play only:
- Braden Smith – 36.1%
- Fletcher Loyer – 38.2%
- Ethan Morton – 32.4%
- Caleb Furst – 43.0%
- Mason Gillis – 42.5%
- David Jenkins – 44.8%
- Brandon Newman – 30.3%
A few other things that are interesting about Purdue’s offense: They don’t turn the ball over a ton. They have a TO% of 17.0% for the season, the 76th best rate in the country. This means they turn the ball over on 17% of their possessions. However, they are the 12th worst in Big Ten play.
Purdue also has one of the slowest tempos in the country. They are fine if there are less than 60 possessions in a game because they are confident they are going to be more efficient than you.
Purdue has the 22nd-best defense in the country per Kenpom, and the 3rd-best in Big Ten play. they have the 36th best defensive 3P% (30.6%) and the 52nd best 2P% (46.5%). They have the 15th best defensive rebound percentage (76.8%), and they have the best defensive free throw rate in the country (17.1% – many in the country are mad about this).
There are two main things for Purdue’s defense, and they coincide with one another – rim defense and pick and roll defense.
Purdue is in the 80th percentile for pick and roll defense, allowing only 0.8 PPP on defense to pick and rolls. This is a number that is much better than last season, and it starts with Edey and his drop coverage. Purdue forces the 11th most mid range jumpers in the game, one of the least efficient shots in the game. Purdue is in the 9th percentile, a very bad number, on mid range defense, but they allow only 0.877 PPP on these shots.
The Boilermakers force so many mid-range shots because they allow so few rim attempts. Purdue allows only 30.8% of opponent shots to be at the rim, the lowest in the entire country, and the 15th lowest rate since 2010. Teams just flat-out do not want to go at Edey. When they do, they don’t find the most success. Teams average 1.195 PPP per Synergy at the rim against Purdue, putting Purdue in the 64th percentile.
When Edey is on the floor in conference play, opponents are 71/135 (52.6%) at the rim, and they only take 22.5% of their shots at the rim.
When Edey is off the floor in conference play, opponents are 35/50 (70%) at the rim, and they take 34.5% of their shots at the rim. (data per CBBanalytics)
And that just shows you what this defense is, and how important Edey is. They force jumpers and if teams can make them, more power to them. Specifically, they force mid-range jumpers. Purdue is one of the best teams defending catch and shoot 3s in the country. They contest on 66.9% of all opponent catch-and-shoot looks, the 11th highest rate in the country.
One area of concern is transition defense. Purdue loves to play slow, and they often get that. But teams have success when they run against Purdue. Purdue is in only the 15th percentile of transition defense, giving up 1.084 PPP.
Lineups and Combos
This is a *DISCLAIMER*
It is often hard to really understand lineup data and combos because either the lineup does not have enough possessions together to be statistically significant, or there is not enough context when looking at combos. So basically, we can find some interesting things from these numbers, but they are not the end all be all. Decisions about whether a lineup is good or bad should not be based off of these numbers alone, especially when oftentimes they have only played a few minutes together.
The Purdue Boilermakers have played a total of 965 minutes this season. Here are the top three most-played lineups (per CBBanalytics):
- Smith/Loyer/Morton/Furst/Edey – 229 Minutes: +34.1 Net Rating
- Smith/Loyer/Morton/Gillis/Edey – 172 Minutes: +32.9 Net Rating
- Jenkins/Loyer/Newman/Gillis/Edey – 27 Minutes: +43.6 Net Rating
So two lineups have played almost half the minutes, and then the third most has not even played a full game.
Individual On/Off-Net Ratings (Net Rating is Offensive points per 100 possessions – Defensive points per 100 possessions)
- Loyer: +26.6
- Smith: +25.6
- Edey: +24.6
- Furst: +7.2
- Morton: +2.1
- Gillis: -2.4
- Trey Kaufman-Renn: -15.9
- Jenkins: -18.3
- Newman: -20.8
Here are some interesting two man combos. The first number will be Purdue’s net rating when they are both on the court, followed by the net rating when they are both off the floor (On/Off):
- Smith/Edey: +31.6 (on)/ -1.0 (off)
- Loyer/Edey: +32.1/-1.5
- Morton/Edey: +28.3/-8.1
- Furst/Edey: +29.3/-10.4
- Gillis/Edey: +26.7/-1.2
The numbers look not great for the bench, but they have really started to improve as of late. David Jenkins especially has really started to find his role.
For the season, when both Jenkins and Smith are on the floor, the Purdue Boilermakers have a net rating of +21.9.
When Jenkins is on and Smith if off, the net rating is +2.9.
When Smith is on and Jenkins is off, the net rating is +28.3.
When both are off (has only been 13 minutes the entire season so a super SUPER small sample size), the net rating is -16.7.
In the end, these are just numbers void of context. There is much more that goes into it than what I just wrote about, but I think it is interesting to really dive in every once in a while to see what you can find.