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Defending Big Ten champs still have plenty of options

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Matt Painter spent August getting a sneak peek at his new team.

No, Purdue hasn’t changed much.

The Boilermakers have four starters and four seniors returning and still have enough size and versatility to defend their Big Ten title — even without Caleb Swanigan. They also have perhaps the most valuable commodity in college basketball: Veterans who know what it takes to succeed and the will to finish their mission.

“People always talk about experience, but I think what’s more important than that is the experience of having success together,” Painter said. “I think those guys are going to have to have those qualities for us to be successful.”

Make no mistake, losing Swanigan hurts . Last season, the 6-foot-9, 250-pound forward averaged 18.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and led the nation with 28 double-doubles. He was a first-team All-American and finished third in the national player of the year voting.

But without him, Purdue could have a better overall team than the one that got blown out by Kansas in the NCAA Tournament regional semifinals.

This year, the goal is to go all the way to Final Four. And it all starts with 6-8 forward Vincent Edwards, who put his NBA dreams on hold to give it one more shot.

The senior does a little bit of everything as he demonstrated at the World University Games (19.3 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists). He’s the only active player in the nation with over 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 300 assists.

The Boilermakers also bring back three starting guards — Dakota Mathias, P.J. Thompson and Carsen Edwards.

Mathias is a 3-point specialist and all-conference defensive player. Thompson, a senior like Mathias, has the two best single-season assist-to-turnover ratios in school history. And Carsen Edwards, no relation to the forward, is expected to improve his scoring (10.3 points) after being the only Big Ten freshman to record at least 45 3s and 35 steals in 2016-17.

“Sometimes, he is so aggressive that it leads to tough shots,” Painter said after Edwards went 11 of 16 from the field and scored 30 points in Saturday’s open scrimmage. “Today, he did a great job of playing within himself. That led to the good shots.”

The Boilermakers also have size.

Isaac Haas, the 7-foot-2 senior center, was second in scoring last season (12.6 points) despite playing 19.5 minutes. This year, he’s expected to become a full-time starter.

Will it all be enough to win another title or advance deeper in the postseason?

“It’s going to be a challenge,” Painter said. “When you have those types of challenges, you know, you would much rather have experienced players, especially talented ones like we have.”

Here are some other things to watch this season:


When Painter overhauled the program following a second straight losing season in 2013-14, he rebuilt on the core principles of rebounding and playing defense. Though his old-school approach seems somewhat antithetical to today’s trendy small-ball style, Painter is sticking to his plan.

“I think our ability to shoot is probably the No. 1 thing that jumps out,” he said. “But we’re going to have to be able to compete on both ends if we’re going to be in a good position at the end of February.”


The Boilermakers might not have a dominant inside player like A.J. Hammons or Swanigan this season. But they could still have one of the nation’s biggest front lines. Along with Haas, Painter has 7-foot-3 Matt Haarms, a redshirt freshman from The Netherlands, and 6-10 Jacquil Taylor, a junior who has been battling a chronic foot injury. Look for Haarms to become a major factor off the bench.

“Going against Caleb Swanigan and Isaac last year in practice really helped him,” Painter said. “He has gotten stronger and better.”


Purdue isn’t just deep at guard. They’re versatile, too. The three starters each made at least 47 3s last season and showed they were more than just shooters. Thompson and Edwards shared the team lead for steals (36), while Mathias had a team high 133 assists and averaged 3.9 rebounds.


Purdue should have a pretty good notion of where it stands in early December thanks to a rugged early schedule. The Boilermakers visit Marquette on Nov. 14 then head to The Bahamas where they’ll play Tennessee before potential matchups with Villanova and perhaps Arizona. When they return, they host Louisville on Nov. 28 and visit Maryland on Dec. 1. Purdue opens the season Nov. 10 against SIU-Edwardsville.

VIDEOS: Villanova team bus stuck on icy roads trying to leave campus

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Villanova’s road to the Sweet 16 hit its roughest patch yet on Wednesday as the team attempted to leave campus for the team’s flight to Boston.

Since the Philadelphia area has been slammed with a snowstorm, the Wildcat team bus had issues leaving to get to the team’s chartered flight.

A struggle between team bus and ice ensued. The bus was delayed by 30 minutes before finally being able to leave.

Villanova continues its NCAA tournament journey on Friday when the No. 1 seed Wildcats play No. 5 seed West Virginia in Boston.

Wake Forest guard Keyshawn Woods to transfer or go pro after graduation

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Wake Forest will be down a key player next season as the school announced that guard Keyshawn Woods will either transfer or go pro after graduation.

The 6-foot-3 Woods was the team’s second-leading scorer this season as he put up 11.9 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. Woods shot 43 percent from the floor and 37 percent from three-point range for the 2017-18 campaign.

Also a key member of last season’s NCAA tournament team for the Demon Deacons, Woods transferred to Wake Forest after spending his first season at Charlotte.

“I appreciate the opportunity that Coach Manning gave me to be a part of this program and to graduate from this great university,” said Woods in the release. “I am proud that I was able to help the coaches change the culture of the program and build a foundation for the future.”

The loss of Woods won’t be easy for Wake Forest, but the team is scheduled to return some talented guards like Bryant Crawford and Brandon Childress next season. Incoming freshmen like Jaime Lewis and Sharone Wright Jr. are also signed to add to the perimeter depth.

David Padgett not retained as Louisville coach

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Louisville announced on Wednesday afternoon that interim head coach David Padgett would not be retained.

Padgett, who is 32 years old, stepped in and took the program over in the wake of a scandal that cost Hall of Fame head coach Rick Pitino his job.

“We all owe a great debt of gratitude to David for his leadership and poise this season,” said U of L Interim Director of Athletics Vince Tyra. “He took over during incredible circumstances, has handled himself respectfully throughout the season and I believe he has a bright future in coaching. We expect to determine a new head coach in a short period to build upon the great basketball tradition of this university.”

Pitino was fired because an FBI complaint contained an allegation that he and his staff had arranged for a $100,000 payment to be funneled to Brian Bowen from Adidas.

In his one season with the Cardinals, Padgett went 22-14 and reached the quarterfinals of the NIT.

Louisville will now conduct a search for their next head coach, and current Xavier coach Chris Mack has long been considered the favorite to take that job.

Kansas State’s injured star hoping to play Thursday

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One of the most surprising parts about Kansas State’s run to the Sweet 16 is that they have done it without the services of their leading scorer, Dean Wade.

Wade injured his foot prior to the Big 12 tournament loss to Kansas. He did not play in that game or in either of Kansas State’s first two tournament games, but it is looking more and more like he’ll be on the floor on Thursday night when they play Kentucky.

“I don’t play percentages very well, but I’m feeling good,” Wade said, via SEC Country. “I’m very positive about it. It’s getting better every day and today I felt great out there, doing a little more than usual. It felt good.”

Wade averaged 16.5 points per game, but the big question is going to be whether or not he is actually healthy when he takes the court. Just because he’s on the floor doesn’t mean he’s at 100 percent.

“Really just trying to get it out of my mind that it’s not hurt,” Wade said. “Just more of a mental thing, just getting out there and running around. I think I got moved past that and it’s feeling better.”

Arizona’s Sean Miller: ‘I am not a candidate’ at Pitt

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With speculation mounting about who Pitt will hire to replace Kevin Stallings as their new head coach, current Arizona head coach Sean Miller released a statement saying that he is not in the running to fill the opening.

“I am not a candidate for the University of Pittsburgh men’s basketball head coaching vacancy. I wish them well in their search for a new coach,” the statement read.

Miller is a native of Pittsburgh and an alumni of the school — he’s the guy that had the assist on Jerome Lane’s famous dunk — and with the issues that are currently swirling around him and the Arizona program, there was speculation that he was looking for an escape plan.

Maybe he wasn’t.

Maybe he was and the Pitt administration decided they couldn’t risk hiring someone who had an assistant coach arrested in the FBI’s sweep of college basketball and who himself may be on wiretaps talking about who knows what. Releasing this statement would then be a way for him to save face and say he was never interested.

And then maybe there’s option No. 3: Pitt has won the Dan Hurley sweepstakes.

As it stands, both the Panthers and UConn are in the process of chasing after the Rhode Island head coach, and it’s not uncommon in coaching searches for a coach to announce that he is not a candidate for the job after the job decides they want someone else. Call it a professional courtesy.

But that’s neither here nor there.

What we do know now is that Sean Miller will not be the next head coach at Pitt.