What do you remember about the 2008 NCAA Tournament?
Can you tell me who was in the Final Four? Off the top of your head, do you know who won the title that year?
Kansas fans sure do. Memphis fans probably do as well. But for the rest of America, the lasting image of that NCAA tournament was some skinny 20-year old from Davidson setting the world on fire. That was the year that Stephen Curry became Steph. He put 40 on Gonzaga in the first round. He had 30 against No. 2 seed Georgetown and Roy Hibbert in the second round. No. 3 seed Wisconsin caught 33 in the Sweet 16, setting up a showdown with Bill Self for the right to get to the Final Four.
The Wildcats would end up losing in the Elite Eight despite 25 points from Curry, but that didn’t change the fact that the 2008 tournament was Steph’s tournament.
This year’s tournament is far from over, but it has the distinct feel of being an event we remember for Carsen Edwards going nuclear as much as anything else.
Edwards had 42 points on Saturday night in Purdue’s overtime loss to Virginia. It was the second time in the span of six days that he dropped 42 points, something that had not happened in the NCAA tournament in 15 seasons prior to this year. One of those 42-point performances came against the reigning national champs, Villanova. The other came against the best defensive basketball program in the sport in UVA. In the proces, he became the first player to score at least 25 points in each of the first four games of the NCAA tournament since Steph did it in 2008.
The show that he put on in the Yum! Center on Saturday night is not something that is soon going to be forgotten.
The man they call C-Boogie came to the tourney to dance, and he danced all over anyone that got in his way.
Edwards was probably always going to be drafted whenever he decides to leave school, but what he during over the course of the last nine days might be enough to get his name called in the first round as early as this June. The NBA is always looking for athletic, shot-making microwave scorers that can come off the bench and put up 25 points on a given night, and Edwards should be able to thrive in that role. And while NBA scouts have known for a long time that this kind of shot-making is something that Edwards is capable of, seeing him to it to this degree on this stage against this defense is staggering.
When you consider the context of what Edwards did, you’ll understand.
As I detailed in the video breakdown below, what Purdue wants to do on the offensive end of the floor is to run dribble-handoff actions to create shots for Ryan Cline and chances for Carsen Edwards to turn a corner and get downhill with a defender on his hip. Virginia completely took this away by guarding these DHOs like they would a ball-screen, with the big — Mamadi Diakite and Jack Salt — hedging hard and forcing Edwards and Cline further out than they want to be.
What this forced Purdue to do was to turn their offense into the Carsen Edwards Show, allowing him to work off of ball-screens and, eventually, just clear-out 1-4 low and allow Edwards to go make a play:
Put simply: There is no defense in college basketball that is more difficult to do this against, particularly when the guy guarding you is De’Andre Hunter.
And Edwards scored 26 of his 42 points in the second half.
It was one of the most impressive individual performances that I have seen in an NCAA tournament game, one that I am not going to forget anytime soon.
That certainly won’t be any consolation for Edwards or the Boilermakers, as they head back to West Lafayette instead of north to Minneapolis, and it shouldn’t be. I’m sure Edwards would trade every single one of those points for a win, and there is no doubt that he’d trade anything up to a appendage for one more chance at the final possession, a turnover he committed when Purdue had a chance to tie with 5.9 seconds left.
But it is something that Purdue fans will always be able to remember. And it’s the performance from the first two weekends of the tournament that I will carry with me for the longest amount of time.
67 of the 68 teams in the NCAA tournament are going to head home with a loss.
If you’re not going to win the thing, you might as well leave a legacy as a March legend.