After defeating Penn State 66-59 on Saturday, No. 23 Maryland men’s basketball heads off to West Lafayette, Indiana, on Thursday for its first Big Ten road game of the year. Purdue was the first team left out of the AP poll this week, and the winner of this game will likely be the only one ranked next week.
Carsen Edwards garnered a lot of hype entering the season as a potential Wooden Award candidate. How has he performed so far this year?
He’s been mediocre, definitely not up to the level he has been expected to play. He has the second-highest usage rate in the nation, taking almost 40 percent of the plays for the Boilers. He’s also turning the ball over 4 times per game, an alarming number for someone who’s usually such a good ball handler. While he’s averaging 24.4 points a night, his lack of help from teammates is putting all the work on him, something that can’t continue if the team wants to make a deep run in March.
Isaac Haas’ graduation left a big hole at center for Purdue. How has sophomore Matt Haarms stepped into Haas’ shoes?
Actually, Haas’ absence has been filled by a combination of Haarms and Evan Boudreaux. Since transferring from Dartmouth, Boudreaux has been a pleasant surprise coming off the bench, providing solid rebounding and post play. He has shown the ability to work the ball inside and — at times — stretch the defense with his shooting. Haarms is still developing in the pick-and-roll game and hasn’t reached Haas’ level of efficiency (who can, really?) but has provided solid rim protection due to his long frame.
Last year the Boilermakers were a 2-seed in the NCAA tournament. Does this year’s team have the potential to be better?
In short: no. Coming into this season, players not named Carsen Edwards had combined for just 11 career starts. Losing the seniors meant losing talent, chemistry, but most importantly, experience. While the Boilers will have a strong resume come March — having faced Florida State, Virginia Tech, Texas, Notre Dame and the Big Ten wringer — it’s unlikely they’ll find enough wins in that schedule to be a No. 2 seed. They’ll probably be somewhere between 4-7.
Over the past three seasons, Purdue has lost only five home games. What makes Mackey Arena so hard to play at?
It’s a combination of many things, the first and foremost being the Paint Crew. Throughout the entire game, they are loud, aggressive and in the opposing team’s head. The dome also helps reverberate the noise onto the court, making it seem even louder on the floor for players. Lastly, because the fans are so close to the court, it feels as though “the fans are right on top of you,” as some Big Ten players have previously described. All of these make it very hard for a visiting team to walk out of Mackey with a W.
Finish this sentence: The Boilermakers win if…
…they limit their turnovers and push the pace for 40 minutes.
The Terps wins if…
…their front-court establishes dominance in the paint early and forces Purdue to shoot outside jumpers. Slowing down Carsen Edwards wouldn’t hurt their cause, either.