Replacing Biggie With Boogie: Purdue’s 6-foot dynamo, Carsen Edwards, has turned a team full of seniors into a title contender

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
2 Comments

P.J. Thompson knew.

It wasn’t all that hard to figure out, really.

This C-Boogie kid?

He was going to be good. He shot it well. He was tough, athletic, “had a fire to him,” as Thompson put it. He saw that on his recruiting visit. He saw that in captain’s practices. He saw it in the way that this 6-foot kid from Texas worked, the way that he carried himself. Humble but confident. Unfazed by the hype machine, concerned with improving himself more than celebrating his successes.

He fit in the culture that Thompson and his teammates had built at Purdue. Thompson and the rest of this senior class committed to a program in the midst of their second straight losing season. They’ve been to three NCAA tournaments and look to be the favorite to win their second straight Big Ten regular season title as seniors.

Carsen Edwards?

The kid known as C-Boogie?

He fit.

But Thompson knew there was more there. He figured it out during one of Purdue’s first practices in Edwards’ freshman season, when, in a 4-on-4-on-4 drill, the right-handed Edwards drove the lane and threw down a left-handed dunk on Purdue’s 7-foot-3, 290 pound center, Isaac Haas.

“It was nasty,” Thompson said. “You can see on the camera, everyone going crazy. It was a pretty cool dunk. Well, Isaac probably didn’t think it was cool.”

“That’s when we knew.”


Carsen Edwards (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Purdue’s ascension into college basketball royalty this season was not something that many people predicted.

A season after winning the Big Ten regular season title and advancing to the Sweet 16, the Boilermakers were faced with the arduous task of trying to replace one of college basketball’s best players: Caleb Swanigan. A first-team all-american and the only player that really challenged Frank Mason for National Player of the Year, Biggie’s departure left Purdue devoid of 18.5 points, 12.5 boards, 3.1 assists and a low-post hoss that shot 44.7 percent from beyond the arc.

“Anytime you have a player of Caleb Swanigan’s ability, everybody made a big deal in terms of where you ranked us and where you put us because we lost him,” head coach Matt Painter told NBC Sports. “But man. We had so much back.”

And he’s right.

Purdue returned four seniors that started at least 15 games last season, including Vincent Edwards, who was a third-team all-Big Ten performer as a junior. They also returned Carsen — the two are not related — who started 21 games. One of the problems that Purdue ran into last season was that they more or less had six players deserving of a starting spot.

Without Biggie, that issue goes away.

And, frankly, it allows those five remaining starters to play roles that they are better-suited for. Thompson, Carsen and Dakota Mathias can all play on the perimeter together while Vincent can slide into the small-ball four role that he is so well-suited to. Haas, who is impossible to stop one-on-one when he gets position on the block, and fellow 7-footer Matt Haarms can rotate through at the five, giving Purdue a dream scenario: four guys that shoot the cover off the ball around a center that has to be double-teamed.

“The thing that stuck out to me last season was that I didn’t like our team when we were really big,” Painter said. “When it was Isaac, Vince and Biggie all in the game. I thought we had to play two of those three guys,” even if it meant that he couldn’t get his five best players on the floor.

This year, that is not an issue.

And Carsen, who is averaging 17.0 points, 4.2 boards and 3.1 assists, may be the biggest reason why.

Given his size, Carsen is going to have to be a point guard if and when he gets to the NBA, but that hasn’t always been the way that he’s played. He’s an attack-minded guy, not necessarily someone with a score-first mentality but certainly a kid whose biggest strength has always been finding a way to put the ball into the basket. When he is able to share the court with Thompson and Mathias, he is freed up to play that way. Thompson is the quintessential ‘pure point guard,’ a guy who facilitates offense, who knocks down open threes (51.2 percent on the season), who doesn’t turn the ball over, who is a pest defensively.

Mathias plays that way as well. He leads the team in assists this season while essentially playing the three, shooting 45.8 percent from three as one of, if not the best perimeter defender in the Big Ten. And to hear Painter tell, what Mathias does better than anything else is recognizing what the right play is. They can run actions for him because they know a shot is only going to go up if it is a good shot; he’s more than willing, and capable, as a playmaker.

That frees up Carsen to … well, to be himself.

“I think my teammates trust me,” he said. “They trust my ability.”

It creates an unusual dynamic within the locker room.

The hierarchy of many, if not most, college teams is simple: Seniority prevails. If you’ve spent two or three or four years paying your dues, by the time you get to be a senior, it is your turn to be the star. You get to take the shots. You get to be the leading scorer. You get to be the guy that is on the cover of gameday programs. With this Purdue team, the four senior starters have not only ceded the starring role to Carsen a year after they did the same for Swanigan, they’ve embraced the youngster and what he is capable of.

“We know how special of a player C-Boogie is,” Thompson said. “Our senior class, we have no egos. We want to be stars in our roles. It’s only a handful of stars in the world, but you can be a star in your role, perfect it and do it to the best of your ability. We have a lot of guys on our team that do that.”

Painter took it a step further.

“They like it, he said.” He has some things that we need. You try to piece your team together, and he’s the final piece. You [look at our] four seniors, what do we lack? If we were playing four-on-four with those four seniors, what do we lack? All of Carsen’s attributes would be the answer. He’s fast, he’s explosive, he can score, he can put pressure on the ball and use his quickness.”

“We’re driven by so many people that think they gotta do individual things to make themselves shine. We live in that basketball landscape. In reality, you’ve gotta win. There’s way more individual attention getting shelled out to people that win than people that don’t. I don’t care what you score, how you do it. There’s a leading scorer on every team. They’re fighting to be the leading scorer, we’re fighting to win.”


Via Purdue Basketball

The NCAA has a rule that allows college basketball programs to take one overseas trip every four years, and for the most part, these trips have less to do with the actual basketball than they do with taking a vacation.

The competition is rarely competitive, and the best part about the trip from a coach’s perspective is the chance to get those 10 extra practices in and manufacturing the team-bonding experiences the players get while spending time in a place where they speak a different language and the cost of international data is enough that, hopefully, the kids spend more time communicating than they do scrolling.

Purdue went on one of those trips in the summer of 2016.

They also took a trip this past season, but it was very different than a typical foreign tour. The Boilermakers were Team USA’s representative in the World University Games in Taipei. Not counting the two exhibitions that they played against Canada prior to leaving for Taiwan, Purdue spent two weeks abroad, playing a total of nine games in just 12 days.

“A lot of times you go on those trips it’s more educational than it is about basketball,” Painter said. “It was a basketball trip.”

And the competition was really good as well. Notre Dame’s Martinas Geben played for Lithuania. Florida’s Egor Koulechov and Gorjok Gak played for Israel and Australia, respectively. These were 22 and 23 year olds playing playing in a national team structure that they’ve played in for a long time. Purdue came home with a silver medal and it wasn’t all that big of a deal that they didn’t win gold.

Put another way, the Boilermakers got an 11 game head start on trying to figure out how they were going to move on without Swanigan.

The other part of it, however, was that there were no excursions. They weren’t visiting museums or going on group hikes or experiencing everything that the city of Taipei has to offer. It was a basketball trip, the by-product being a lot of downtime living in what amounted to an Olympic Village with mobs of athletes that didn’t speak English and no TV or Netflix to binge on.

So what did Purdue do?

Well, they played a lot of cards.

“I didn’t know how to play euchre,” Thompson said, “but now I’m a stud and they can’t beat me. Texas Hold’em. Tonk. All that.”

Those are the moments where the real team-bonding happen. Those are the moments where friendships are started, where freshmen become teammates and teammates become brothers.

“Oh yeah,” Carsen said, chuckling when asked if the trip helped him get to know his teammates better. “We stayed in a village apartment, and there was six of us in a room. And wherever you go you’re with your teammates. You have no choice. Looking back on it now, I have a lot of memories from it, just small memories with my teammates.”

What the younger guys learned about the seniors on this team was simple: They came to Purdue to turn the program around. That had already happened, but their story wasn’t complete yet.

“We’ve done what we wanted to do here at Purdue,” Thompson said, “and now we have to finish it.”


USA Basketball

The trip to Taipei wasn’t the only international trip that C-Boogie took this summer.

Young for his age, Carsen was invited to tryouts for USA Basketball’s U-19 team. He made it. He played for John Calipari and alongside the likes of Cameron Reddish and Brandon McCoy and Hamidou Diallo. He led the team in minutes and assists, finishing fifth in scoring at 10.4 points despite coming off the bench in all but one of the team’s games.

“Carsen Edwards was the one guy that went in and changed the game because of his intensity,” Calipari said of his lone Boilermaker, “and he was dragging people with him.”

That aggressiveness has never been an issue for Carsen. It’s ingrained in him. What he needed to learn was to pick his spots, to develop the kind of decision-making that would allow him to be the go-to guy for a team with Final Four aspirations. As a freshman, Boogie took more shots-per-minute than Biggie, Purdue’s All-American first round pick, and he did it while being the least-efficient player on the Purdue roster and while committing two more turnovers than assists on the season.

That wasn’t going to work this year.

He understands, Painter says, that he can be the star for this team without needing to force shots anymore.

Purdue is unselfish. They make the right pass. They make the right play. Carsen knows that if he gives the ball up, he’s either going to get it back with a cleaner look at the rim or one of his teammates will end up with a better shot. This group understands the roles they are being asked to play, and they understand the roles their teammates are being asked to play.

Carsen’s role?

Go-to guy.

He’s not intimidated by it, by the responsibility of shouldering the load offensively for a team ranked No. 3 in the nation. He’s not intimidated by much, it seems. Not by trying out for Team USA. Not by leading his college team into an international competition. Not by trying to dunk over a 7-foot-3 center that is built like combination of Mr. Incredible and The Mountain.

It seems that the only thing he’s scared of is … riding a camel?

“I’ve ridden horses and it’s not the same at all,” he said. “You’re so much higher off the ground and when it walks you’re moving. It’s a really scary experience.”

Luckily for Purdue, that seems to be the last time that anything has intimidated C-Boogie.

Via Carsen Edwards

Edey scores 21 as No. 24 Purdue beats No. 8 Duke 75-56

Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

PORTLAND, Ore. – Zach Edey and No. 24 Purdue shook off a slow start. When No. 8 Duke tried to rally in the second half, the Boilermakers finished strong.

Edey had 21 points and 12 rebounds, and Purdue beat Duke 75-56 on Sunday in the championship game of the Phil Knight Legacy men’s tournament.

Fletcher Loyer scored 18 points for Purdue (6-0), and reserve Caleb Furst finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

“I feel like we weren’t getting the looks we wanted early. As we settled into the game, we kept our poise and kept getting the shots that we wanted,” Edey said. “They were making some tough twos at the beginning of the game, shots we’re OK with all season.”

The 7-foot-4 Edey was 7 for 13 from the field and 7 for 8 at the line. He was named tournament MVP.

“They have the most unique player in the country,” Duke coach Jon Scheyer said of Edey. “He’s a hard guy to prepare for because there’s nobody else like him.”

Duke (6-2) shot 36.2% (21 for 58) from the field. Tyres Proctor scored 16 points for the Blue Devils. Kyle Filipowski and Jeremy Roach each had 14.

Ethan Morton had a steal and a dunk to help Purdue open a 58-41 lead with 15:37 left in the second half.

Duke countered with an 8-0 run, capped by two foul shots by Dariq Whitehead. But Furst made a layup and a jumper to help hold off the Blue Devils.

A hook by Edey and a 3-pointer by Loyer made it 68-56 with 5:03 remaining.

Duke got off to a 14-7 start before Purdue worked its way back into the game.

“I don’t feel like we came out bad today, but they matched our energy,” Edey said.

A 3-pointer by Brandon Newman pushed the Purdue lead to 46-28. A late run by Duke cut the Boilermakers’ lead to 46-35 at halftime.

BIG PICTURE

Duke: It looked as if Roach had an issue with his left foot at one point, but he went back into the game. Scheyer said Roach had hurt his toe.

Purdue: Although neither team had great offensive games, Purdue was the better team from range. Purdue made seven 3-pointers to just two for Duke.

UP NEXT

Duke: Hosts Ohio State on Wednesday.

Purdue: Visits Florida State on Wednesday.

No. 18 Alabama beats No. 1 North Carolina 103-101 in 4 OTs

Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

PORTLAND, Ore. – Mark Sears had 24 points, five rebounds and five assists, and No. 18 Alabama sent top-ranked North Carolina to a second straight loss with a 103-101 victory in a quadruple-overtime thriller on Sunday in the third-place game of the Phil Knight Invitational tournament.

Jahvon Quinerly added 21 points off the bench for the Crimson Tide (6-1), who knocked off the top-ranked team for the first time since upsetting Stanford in the 2004 NCAA Tournament.

“I was losing track of how many overtimes we were in there at the end,” Crimson Tide coach Nate Oats said. “A lot of credit to our guys. I thought they showed a lot of character when we could have folded.”

Charles Bediako had 14 points, 16 rebounds and three blocks, while Brandon Miller also scored 14 points.

Caleb Love led the Tar Heels (5-2) with 34 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three steals. Armando Bacot contributed 20 points and 10 rebounds, and R.J. Davis had 19 points and nine rebounds in the second four-overtime game in North Carolina history. The other was a victory over Tulane in 1976.

“At the end of the day, Alabama made one more play than we did,” North Carolina coach Hubert Davis said. “I walked in the locker room and a number of the guys had their head down and I told them to pick their head up. I’m just as disappointed (as the players) in terms of the final outcome, but I couldn’t be any more proud about the way they competed.”

Bediako gave the Crimson Tide the lead for good on a layup with 26 seconds remaining in the fourth overtime.

The Tar Heels, who lost to Iowa State in the semifinals, led by as much as eight in the second half before Alabama came back to tie it. The Crimson Tide retook the lead on a pair of free throws from Gurley with 2 minutes remaining, and later tied with another free throw from Sears with 51 seconds remaining in regulation.

Alabama starting forward Noah Clowney took a hard fall on a dunk attempt four minutes into the first half and had to be helped off the court. He did not return.

The Crimson Tide were 16 for 38 (42.1%) from 3-point range, with Sears making seven.

BIG PICTURE

North Carolina: The Tar Heels figure to take a deep drop in the Top 25 poll.

Alabama: The Crimson Tide bounced back nicely following their loss to No. 20 UConn in the semifinals, beating a top-ranked team in the regular season for the first time since a 66-64 victory over eventual national champion Arkansas on Jan. 8, 1994.

UP NEXT:

North Carolina: The Tar Heels travel to Bloomington to face No. 11 Indiana on Wednesday.

Alabama: The Crimson Tide return home to face South Dakota State on Saturday.

Clingan lifts UConn past Iowa State for Phil Knight title

Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

PORTLAND, Ore. – Donovan Clingan had 15 points and 10 rebounds to power No. 20 UConn to a 71-53 win over Iowa State in the championship game of the Phil Knight Invitational on Sunday night.

Tristen Newton scored 13 points for the Huskies (8-0), who went 20 for 25 at the free-throw line. Alex Karaban and Andre Jackson, Jr. each had 10 points.

Osun Osunniyi led Iowa State (5-1) with 14 points. Tamin Lipsey had 12 points and Jaren Holmes finished with 11.

“They were the more aggressive team,” Iowa State coach T.J. Otzelberger said. “We wanted a physical game. We didn’t want a physical game with them getting the rebounds and then also us putting them on the foul line. Lesson that we’ve got to learn is we need to embrace being the aggressor at both ends of the floor at all times.”

The Huskies had more offensive rebounds (20) than the Cyclones had total rebounds (19), and capitalized on that disparity with 20 second-chance points.

“Those guys are tough,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said. “T.J.`s an excellent coach. They grind people up. To outrebound them, it just speaks to how tough we were.”

Clingan, who was named tournament MVP, scored eight points to help UConn to a 38-28 lead at the break.

Iowa State closed to 53-48 on Holmes’ 3-pointer midway through the second half. But Karaban made a 3 and a dunk, and Newton’s jumper made it 60-48 with 7:13 remaining.

BIG PICTURE

UConn: The Huskies couldn’t have asked for a better showing in Portland, winning all three of their games.

Iowa State: The Cyclones picked up nice wins over Villanova and top-ranked North Carolina in the earlier rounds but ended with their first loss of the season.

UP NEXT

UConn: The Huskies return home to face Oklahoma State on Thursday.

Iowa State: The Cyclones return home to face North Dakota on Tuesday.

No. 3 UConn rallies past No. 9 Iowa to win Phil Knight title

Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

PORTLAND, Ore. – Azzi Fudd scored 24 points to rally No. 3 UConn past No. 9 Iowa 86-79 Sunday in the championship game of the first Phil Knight Legacy women’s tournament.

“It really was difficult to play against these guys,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “I don’t think we felt really good about ourselves at halftime. I thought we came out in the third quarter and really took control of the game.”

Fudd had plenty of help, with Aaliyah Edwards (20 points, 13 rebounds) and three other Huskies (5-0) scoring in double-figures. Edwards was named MVP of the tournament.

Iowa (5-2) star Caitlin Clark had 25 points, and Kate Martin added 20.

Edwards got UConn off to a strong start, scoring 10 points while the Huskies built a 20-14 edge.

Clark and the Hawkeyes then surged with a 13-2 run to begin the second quarter and led 41-35 at halftime. Clark scored 17 points in the first half.

Martin hit a 3-pointer in the third quarter for a 52-41 lead, but UConn countered with 11 straight points and led 61-57 entering the fourth.

Iowa opened the final quarter with nine straight points for a 66-61 lead, but the Huskies countered and pulled away in the middle of the period, leading 79-70 after Carolina Ducharme’s 3-pointer with 3:42 left.

“Azzi Fudd really came to life in that third quarter,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “I was really pleased with our first half. If it wasn’t for that third quarter, but yes, we play four. And we missed some shots in the fourth quarter that we usually make.”

BIG PICTURE

Iowa: Iowa dominated the battle of the 3-point line for much of the game. The Hawkeyes made 13 3-pointers to only eight for UConn.

UConn: Sunday was a tale of two halves for Fudd. Fudd started the game 1 for 8 from the field but was red-hot in the second half, going 9 for 11.

UP NEXT

Iowa: The Hawkeyes will host N.C. State on Thursday.

UConn: The Huskies will host Providence on Friday.

No. 22 Tennessee beats No. 3 Kansas 64-50 for Atlantis title

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas – Tennessee’s players proved to be determined defenders and relentless rebounders, along with having the kind of toughness to ensure the reigning national champions would have little chance to get comfortable.

It was all enough to give the 22nd-ranked Volunteers a title of their own, along with the blueprint that coach Rick Barnes hopes they follow the rest of the year.

Santiago Vescovi scored 20 points while Tennessee locked down on third-ranked Kansas in a 64-50 win Friday night in the championship game at the Battle 4 Atlantis, snapping the Jayhawks’ 17-game winning streak.

Vescovi hit five 3-pointers as the tournament’s most valuable player for the Volunteers (5-1), who dominated the glass, overcame their own turnover troubles and made the Jayhawks work for clean looks. And for the third time in as many days, Tennessee won without leading scorer Josiah-Jordan James (knee soreness).

Perhaps that’s why reserve guard Zakai Zeigler, who had 14 points and four steals, showed up wearing sunglasses to the postgame news conference after the Volunteers had danced and hollered through the on-court trophy ceremony.

“We know if you can’t stop the man in front of you, then you’ll have no shot at winning the game,” Zeigler said, adding: “We just like to play defense, and we just happen to be good at it.”

The Vols held the Jayhawks to 32.1% shooting, bothering them with size and length around the rim. They also took the ball right at the Jayhawks with 5-foot-9 Zeigler leading the way, down to him refusing to let go of a jump ball and trading words with 6-8 forward Jalen Wilson.

Zeigler’s night included a 3-pointer to beat the shot clock at the 7-minute mark to push Tennessee’s lead to 56-38. He followed with another big one from the right wing with 4:42 left after Kansas had closed within 11.

Wilson and Joseph Yesefu each scored 14 points to lead the Jayhawks (6-1), who shot 28.6% in the first half and never warmed up. They made 5 of 21 3-pointers in what was an all-around rough night, from losing starting guard Dajuan Harris to fouls with 9 minutes left to failing to keep the Vols off the glass (45-27).

“We played a team tonight that was older and more mature and obviously played stronger and tougher,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “We didn’t handle the situation near as well as what I would hope a poised team would.”

BIG PICTURE

Tennessee: The Volunteers opened the tournament with a win over Butler, then grinded through an overtime win against Southern California in Thursday’s semifinals. This time, Tennessee played in front the entire way en route to its first title in three tries at the Atlantis resort.

“I think the main thing from the whole week was stay together through tough times, that’s what you’ve got to do,” Vescovi said.

Kansas: The Jayhawks didn’t have an easy first two days in the Bahamas. First came a battle to the final minutes with North Carolina State. Then came Thursday’s overtime win against Wisconsin on Bobby Pettiford Jr.’s last-second putback. But they never looked in any type of offensive flow this time with their smaller lineup.

“I feel like if we were able to get them out of place and not just have them standing there, waiting to contest a layup, that could’ve gave us some better chances at finishing at the rim,” Wilson said.

STRONG RUN

Tennessee held its three Atlantis opponents to 36.9% shooting and 15 of 59 (25.4%) from 3-point range. The Volunteers also averaged a +9 rebounding margin, ending with having Jonas Aidoo (nine) leading five players snagging at least six rebounds against Kansas.

“You can be a good defensive team but if you can’t be a great one if you give them second and third shots,” Barnes said.

SIDELINED

Beyond Harris’ foul trouble, the Jayhawks played most of the way without Pettiford, who exited midway through the first half grabbing at his right leg.

Afterward, Self said he would be out “for a while” with a hamstring strain.

UP NEXT

Tennessee: The Volunteers return home to host McNeese State on Wednesday.

Kansas: The Jayhawks host Texas Southern on Monday.