The 12 most influential stay-or-go NBA draft decisions

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The NBA’s predraft process is going to be very different this season.

There is no guarantee that there will be a combine. No one knows if teams are going to be able to fly prospects in for workouts or for interviews. Hell, we don’t even know when (or if) the NBA is going to finish the season.

As of today, the draft is scheduled for June 25th. It seems fairly likely that will end up getting pushed back for the simple fact that the draft order cannot be determined until the season itself is complete.

That puts prospects that are testing the waters into a difficult spot. They are not going to be able to earn themselves a bump in the eyes of NBA GMs with impressive showings at the combine or in workouts. They are going to have to rely on the tape that they put together during the season itself and quite a bit of misinformation that is going to be floating around throughout the process.

Will it be worth it to go pro without knowing exactly what the league is going to look like next season? Will there be players that decide to return to school and try to play their way into being a higher pick next year? How much will the 2020 recruiting class — which is much more talented than this year’s class — factor into these decisions?

There are a lot of players that have quite a bit of soul-searching to do over the course of the next three months.

These 12 will have the biggest impact on the 2020-21 college basketball season.

These are the most influential NBA draft early entry decisions.

(One programming note: We only considered players that we think have real decisions. Dayton would be awesome if Obi Toppin comes back to school. Obi Toppin isn’t coming back to school.)

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1. MALACHI FLYNN, San Diego State

The Aztecs went 30-2 last season, and while they lost Yanni Wetzel and K.J. Feagin, they are on track to return enough talent that they should be considered the favorite to win the Mountain West regardless of what happens with Flynn. Matt Mitchell is coming back. Jordan Schakel is coming back. Nathan Mensah, who started over Wetzel before getting hurt, is coming back.

Flynn is the guy that’s up in the air. A redshirt junior that transferred into the program from Washington State, Flynn — who is projected as a second round pick — was the engine of SDSU’s high-powered offense. Brian Dutcher schemed him into ball screen after ball screen after ball screen, and he was one of the best players in the country at executing those actions. His situation reminds me a little bit of the spot that Gonzaga’s Nigel Williams-Goss was in after the 2017 season. He, too, was a redshirt junior coming off of an All-American season that was not guaranteed to be drafted, let alone drafted in the first round. But he opted to leave school, was the 55th pick in the draft and spent a couple of years playing at a very high level overseas before getting his shot with the Jazz this season. Flynn could end up following a similar path.

If he returns, the Aztecs will be a top ten team. If he opts to go pro, San Diego State will plummet out of the top 25.

2. LUKA GARZA, Iowa

This one should be obvious. Garza is coming off of a season where he averaged 23.8 points and 9.8 boards for a top 25 team, was named a first-team All-American and put himself alongside Dayton’s Obi Toppin in the race for National Player of the Year.

But he’s also in a unique spot where he doesn’t really project as a great pro because of his lack of athleticism and mobility. How often is a player that is that unquestionably good returns for another year in the collegiate ranks? Cassius Winston did it. Doug McDermott did it. It’s a big deal having him on the floor, to say nothing of the impact that he has on everyone else on that Iowa roster. The only reason he’s not No. 1 on this list is that Iowa has enough of a supporting cast that, without Garza, I still think they’re a tournament team.

With him?

They can win the Big Ten and a national title.

(Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

3. JEREMIAH ROBINSON-EARL, Villanova

Robinson-Earl is not the biggest name on Villanova that has a decision to make — that would be Saddiq Bey, who would be a preseason first-team All-American if he opted to come back to school — but I think his decision is much more influential on Villanova’s season than that of Bey.

The Wildcats have so many good guards. They are going to be absolutely loaded on the perimeter next year. Collin Gillespie is perennially underrated. Justin Moore was the most underappreciated freshman in America. Bryan Antoine should finally be healthy and ready to contribute. Caleb Daniels is going to be very, very good for Villanova. Brandon Slater. Cole Swider. Jeramine Samuels can even play the three is need be.

What they don’t have is much up front behind Robinson-Earl, who averaged 10.5 points and 9.4 boards while shooting 32.5 percent from three last season. Projected as a second round pick, Robinson-Earl is the kind of player that might be hurt by not being able to have workouts and get in front of NBA execs thanks to the coronavirus shutdown around the country.

If he does opt to leave, the Wildcats will be forced to play with either Dhamir Cosby-Rountree or Eric Dixon at the five. With Robinson-Earl I think Villanova is the favorite to win the national title. Without him, I think they’re more of a top 6-8 team in the country.

4. XAVIER TILLMAN, Michigan State

Michigan State is going to take a hit next season because they are losing Cassius Winston, but the Spartans will still have a chance to win the Big Ten title if they bring back Xavier Tillman. For my money, Tillman was an All-American this past season. He’s the anchor of Michigan State’s defense, a leader in the program and an underrated weapon offensively because of his ability to pass the ball. He’s the piece that brings everything else together for this roster.

And there are going to be some weapons there. Rocket Watts will be a year older, as will Aaron Henry, Gabe Brown, Malik Hall and Marcus Bingham. Joey Hauser will be eligible to play, and there’s a chance that Josh Langford will be back for his final season. But none of that really matters if Tillman isn’t there.

I think that he is a first round pick, especially in a year like this, and with a wife and two children already, I would not be surprised in the least to see him keep his name in the draft — he announced his intention to declare for the draft this week.

(AP Photo/Wade Payne)

5. IMMANUEL QUICKLEY, Kentucky

The Wildcats are going to have an absolutely loaded freshman class in 2020-21. Terrence Clarke and B.J. Boston are the biggest names, but Devin Askew should have an impact at the point and the likes of Isaiah Jackson and Lance Ware will push whoever is left in the frontcourt by the time things are settled in Lexington.

But what the Wildcats seem likely to lack is going to be any kind of veteran presence in their backcourt. I’m expecting Tyrese Maxey to declare and sign with an agent right away. Things should be more up in the air for both Nick Richards and Ashton Hagans, but I do think both will be drafted high enough that staying in the draft is the right decision. Quickley is more of a question mark. I think he’s legitimately 50-50 right now. He was the SEC Player of the Year as a spot-up shooter this season, and if he returns I would not be surprised to see him take over the point guard role.

That said, there’s still a chance that he is drafted anyway this year. If he leaves, Kentucky is a back-end top ten team in my mind. If he’s back, however, they’re a top five team and a very real title contender.

6. JALEN SUGGS, Gonzaga

Suggs is in a different situation than everyone else on this list. He’s an incoming freshman, but there has been some scuttle that he could end up going to Australia for his one-and-done season instead of playing college basketball. As a dynamic lead guard that can create for himself, he is precisely the piece that the Zags are going to need next season.

Now, he’s not the only guy weighing professional options. Corey Kispert, Joel Ayayi and Filip Petrusev all will have a decision to make. Oddly enough, the guy most likely to leave — Petrusev — is probably the guy that Gonzaga can most afford to lose. With a backcourt of Suggs, Kispert and Ayayi, the Zags will be a top three team in the preseason regardless of who starts at the four and the five.

(Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

7. JARED BUTLER, Baylor

I currently have the Bears sitting as the No. 3 team in my preseason top 25, and that’s assuming that Butler is coming back to school. That, however, is not a guarantee. Butler showed enough as a scorer this past season that he could end up getting picked in the second round of the draft, and that has been enough to make worse players opt to leave school.

The big issue with Baylor this past season is that they went through stretches where they just couldn’t score. Butler is, by far, their best scorer. Without him, how long will those scoring droughts last?

8. AYO DOSUNMU, Illinois

At this point, I don’t think that Ayo Dosunmu is coming back to school even after the season that he had. That doesn’t mean that he is a lock to be a top 45 pick. He’s a 6-foot-5 slasher that isn’t great creating for others and actually saw his three-point shooting dip as a sophomore. He is, however, a terrific talent for Illinois, and if he does end up coming back to school, the Illini will work their way back into my preseason top 25 somewhere.

9. WENDELL MOORE, Duke

This one is pretty simple. Assuming that Vernon Carey Jr. and Cassius Stanley follow Tre Jones to the NBA, Duke could end up starting four freshmen next season. Wendell Moore could end up being the veteran on this roster, if he opts to return to school. After a rough start to his freshman season, he came on strong towards the end of the years, and his slashing skill-set should fit really well next to Jalen Johnson and D.J. Steward. With him back, I think Duke is a borderline top ten team.

Without him, they are very, very young. Or playing Joey Baker.

(Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

10. YVES PONS, Tennessee

Pons is definitely not a guy that is going to make any preseason All-American lists if he opts to return to school, but he may just be the best defensive player in all of college basketball. At 6-foot-6 and easily the best athlete in the sport, Pons can quite literally guard anyone from a point guard to a center. And he can make a step-in three. His presence will allow the Vols to play all kinds of small-ball lineups, which is exactly what they need to do with the number of talented guards on their roster.

He is a borderline first round pick in my mind, although I would expect him to go in the second round if he leave. With Pons back, I have Tennessee at No. 14, and that may be too low.

11. JAY SCRUBB, Louisville

Scrubb is a shooter than can handle the ball at 6-foot-6, and given that he performed well at the Nike Basketball Academy over the summer, there will be some legitimate interest in him as a prospect. How much interest is a question that might have been answered better if he had a chance to workout and interview with NBA teams. He is a JuCo transfer that is scheduled to enroll at Louisville this summer. As of now, if NBA teams are basing decisions off of a camp from last summer and tape of JuCo games, that may push him towards playing a season in the ACC, and with Scrubb on the roster, I think the Cards are a top 25 team once again.

12. TRENDON WATFORD, LSU

The Tigers are already losing Skylar Mays to graduation, and it would not be surprising to see Javonte Smart and Emmitt Williams at the very least test the waters, but with five-star Cam Thomas headlining a solid crop of newcomers, Will Wade should have a pretty solid team. Watford, a bucket-getting combo-forward, could end up being their best player if he comes back to school.

South Carolina tops women’s AP Top 25; Ohio State tumbles

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It was a rough week for Ohio State, which lost all three of its games and tumbled down the AP Top 25 as a result.

The previously unbeaten Buckeyes fell from second to 10th in The Associated Press women’s basketball poll released Monday after losing to Iowa and Indiana, two top 10 teams, as well as Purdue. Ohio State fell two games back in the Big Ten Conference standings.

South Carolina remained No. 1 for the 32nd consecutive week. The Gamecocks, who were again a unanimous choice from the 28-member national media panel, have the fourth-longest streak ever atop the poll. Only UConn (51 and 34 weeks) and Louisiana Tech (36) have had longer runs at No. 1.

Stanford moved back up to No. 2 in the poll and the Cardinal were followed by LSU, Indiana and UConn in the top five. LSU is the only other undefeated team in women’s basketball besides South Carolina, which visits UConn for a top-five showdown on Sunday.

Iowa jumped out four spots to sixth with Utah, Maryland and Notre Dame coming in ahead of Ohio State. The Hawkeyes started the season No. 4 in the poll.

The Fighting Irish split a pair of games last week against ranked opponents, routing Florida State before falling to N.C. State.

“There’s a lot of parity right now, which is great, great for the game,” Notre Dame coach Niele Ivey said. “The game is growing, which is what you want. But yeah, I mean, every night, especially the ACC, the ACC is the strongest league and, you know, we have just a tough stretch every night.”

One week after falling out of the rankings, Texas re-entered the poll at No. 24. The Longhorns routed then-No. 14 Oklahoma and Oklahoma State last week. South Florida also came in at No. 25. Colorado and Illinois fell out of the poll.

RISING BULLS

No. 25 South Florida continued its streak of being ranked for at least one week every season since the Bulls entered the poll for the first time in 2015.

“For us not being in a so-called football five conference, that’s a huge accomplishment,” South Florida coach Jose Fernandez said. His team has won 10 consecutive games and has 20 victories this season. The team’s four losses have all come against ranked opponents (Michigan, Villanova, Ohio State and N.C. State).

“This group has been fun to coach. We always play a great non(equals)conference schedule,” Fernandez said. “We won on the road at Texas, beat Alabama, beat Arkansas. We challenged ourselves in November and December.”

RECORD PERFORMANCES

Cameron Brink carried Stanford to a win over Oregon with a triple-double that included 10 blocks. It was the first triple-double in NCAA Division I women’s basketball featuring double-digit blocks since Tamari Key did it for Tennessee in an overtime win against Texas on Nov. 21, 2021.

No. 20 Oklahoma’s Taylor Robertson set the all-time NCAA women’s career record for 3-pointers when she hit her 498th in a loss to Iowa State on Saturday. Robertson has 503 entering this week. The all-time NCAA record, men or women, is held by Antoine Davis of Detroit Mercy, who has 534 and counting.

Purdue a unanimous No. 1 in AP Top 25; Vols up to No. 2

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Purdue became this season’s first unanimous No. 1 team in the AP Top 25 men’s college basketball poll Monday after wins over Michigan and Michigan State last week as chaos ensued behind the Boilermakers among other ranked teams.

More than half of Top 25 teams lost, including second-ranked Alabama, which was routed by Oklahoma in the Big 12-SEC Challenge. That allowed Purdue to grab the remaining No. 1 votes and tighten its grip atop the poll, while Tennessee jumped two spots to second and Houston held onto third in voting by 62 national media members.

The Boilermakers (21-1) have won eight straight since a one-point loss to Rutgers on Jan. 2.

“We’re the No. 1 team in the country because of how unselfish we are as a team,” Purdue guard David Jenkins Jr. said. “We had a lot of people doubting us in the beginning because, you know, we may not be the most talented team or whatever, but we’re close on the court and off the court and it’s really translating to how we’re winning.”

The Volunteers climbed to their highest perch since reaching No. 1 for four weeks during the 2018-19 season. They routed Georgia before becoming one of three SEC teams to beat Big 12 opponents on Saturday, knocking off No. 10 Texas 82-71 for their fifth consecutive win over a top-10 team.

Perhaps this is the year Rick Barnes finally gets the Vols through the Sweet 16 for the first time as their coach.

“We have a chance to be as good as we want to be,” he said. “It’s up to one thing: Are we tough enough to embrace the daily grind? And not worry about going to the Final Four or worry about going to the NCAA Tournament, but can we build a team that can be successful that time of year? It starts with truly embracing the grind.”

The Crimson Tide dropped to fourth after the blowout loss to the Sooners, when Alabama fell behind by 17 at halftime in an eventual 93-69 defeat. The Tide edged fifth-ranked Arizona by just two points in this week’s poll.

“It doesn’t have any effect on SEC standings, which is the only good thing to come out of this,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said of the lopsided loss. “Hopefully we’ll recover from a loss out of conference, but you know, it’s not good.”

Virginia was sixth and Kansas State, which rebounded from a narrow loss at No. 13 Iowa State by pummeling Florida on Saturday, fell two spots to seventh; the Wildcats face eighth-ranked Kansas in a top-10 showdown Tuesday night.

UCLA dropped to ninth after losing to Southern California and Texas rounded out the top 10.

Baylor continued its climb from unranked to No. 11 following wins over the Jayhawks and Arkansas. The Bears were followed by Gonzaga, Iowa State, Marquette and league rival TCU – the sixth Big 12 team in the top 15.

Xavier, Providence, Saint Mary’s, Florida Atlantic and Clemson completed the top 20, while poll returners Indiana and San Diego State joined Miami, UConn and Auburn in rounding out the Top 25.

RISING AND FALLING

The No. 11 Bears and No. 17 Providence made the biggest leaps, each climbing six spots from last week.

“I think our defense is better. Our turnovers are better. When you don’t give people easy transition baskets, now its five-on-five in the half court,” said Baylor coach Scott Drew, whose team had a date with the Longhorns on Monday night.

“We execute at a pretty high rate,” Drew said. “It really comes down to taking care of the ball, making sure we get shots up and when you don’t make them, you’ve got to get rebounds. And our guys are buying into that.”

Auburn took the biggest hit of those still in the poll, dropping 10 places after losses to unranked Texas A&M and West Virginia.

IN AND OUT

The Hoosiers returned to the poll at No. 21 and the Aztecs rejoined it right behind them. They took the place of Charleston, which fell out from No. 18 after losing to Hofstra, and New Mexico, which lost to Nevada in double overtime last week.

CONFERENCE CALL

The Big 12’s dominance of the SEC in the final year of their head-to-head challenge was rewarded in the poll, where the league led the way with six ranked teams and all of them in the top 15. The Big East has four teams in the poll but none higher than No. 14 Marquette, while the SEC and ACC have three teams apiece.

College basketball broadcaster Billy Packer dies at 82

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Billy Packer, an Emmy award-winning college basketball broadcaster who covered 34 Final Fours for NBC and CBS, died Thursday. He was 82.

Packer’s son, Mark, told The Associated Press that his father had been hospitalized in Charlotte for the past three weeks and had several medical issues, and ultimately succumbed to kidney failure.

Packer’s broadcasting career coincided with the growth of college basketball. He worked as analyst or color commentator on every Final Four from 1975 to 2008. He received a Sports Emmy for Outstanding Sports Personality, Studio and Sports Analyst in 1993.

“He really enjoyed doing the Final Fours,” Mark Packer said. “He timed it right. Everything in life is about timing. The ability to get involved in something that, frankly, he was going to watch anyway, was a joy to him. And then college basketball just sort of took off with Magic Johnson and Larry Bird and that became, I think, the catalyst for college basketball fans to just go crazy with March Madness.”

Packer played three seasons at Wake Forest, and helped lead the Demon Deacons to the Final Four in 1962, but it was his work as an analyst that brought him the most acclaim.

He joined NBC in 1974 and called his first Final Four in 1975. UCLA beat Kentucky in the title game that year in what was John Wooden’s final game as coach.

Packer was also part of the broadcast in 1979 with Dick Enberg and Al McGuire when Magic Johnson’s Michigan State team beat Larry Bird’s Indiana State squad in the title game. That remains highest-rated game in basketball history with a 24.1 Nielsen rating, which is an estimated 35.1 million viewers.

Packer went to CBS in the fall of 1981, when the network acquired the rights to the NCAA Tournament. He remained the network’s main analyst until the 2008 Final Four.

In 1996 at CBS, Packer was involved in controversy when he used the term “tough monkey? to describe then-Georgetown star Allen Iverson during a game. Packer later said he “was not apologizing for what I said, because what I said has no implications in my mind whatsoever to do with Allen Iverson’s race.?

Sean McManus, the chairman of CBS Sports, said Packer was “synonymous with college basketball for more than three decades and set the standard of excellence as the voice of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.”

“He had a tremendous impact on the growth and popularity of the sport.” McManus said. “In true Billy fashion, he analyzed the game with his own unique style, perspective and opinions, yet always kept the focus on the game. As passionate as he was about basketball, at his heart Billy was a family man. He leaves part of his legacy at CBS Sports, across college basketball and, most importantly, as a beloved husband, father and grandfather. He will be deeply missed by all.”

Packer was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008.

ESPN broadcaster Dick Vitale took to Twitter as word of Packer’s death spread. “So sad to learn of the passing of Billy Packer who had such a passion for college basketball,” Vitale tweeted. “My (prayers) go out to Billy’s son Mark & the entire Packer family. Always had great RESPECT for Billy & his partners Dick Enberg & Al McGuire-they were super. May Billy RIP.”

College basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla tweeted: “We fell in love (with) college basketball because of you. Your voice will remain in my head forever.”

Packer was viewed as a controversial figure during his broadcasting days, often drawing the ire of college basketball fans, particularly on North Carolina’s “Tobacco Road.”

“As a kid, I was a big NC State fan growing up, and I would watch a game and the next day I’d be like, `Boy you sure have it out for NC State, don’t you?’ And he would just laugh,” Mark Packer said.

The younger Packer, who is the host of ACC PM on the ACC Network, said it didn’t matter what school – most fans felt the same way about his father.

“He would cover North Carolina game and Tar Heels fans would be like, `you hate North Carolina,”‘ Mark Packer said. “Wake (Forest) fans would be like, `you hate us.’ And Billy just sort of got a kick out of that.”

Mark Packer said that while most fans will remember his father as a broadcaster, he’ll remember him even more for his business acumen. He said his father was a big real estate investor, and also owned a vape company, among other ventures.

“Billy was always a bit of a hustler – he was always looking for that next business deal,” Packer said.

Clemson starter Galloway will miss time after surgery

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CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson starter Brevin Galloway is expected to miss games for the 24th-ranked Tigers after having surgery on his groin area Thursday.

The 6-foot-3 Galloway has started 20 of 21 games after transferring from Boston College this past offseason.

Galloway posted on social media that he’d had the surgery. Clemson coach Brad Brownell confirmed in a text to The Associated Press that Galloway had the operation.

Galloway said in his post he will be in uniform soon. He is not expected to play at Florida State on Saturday.

A fifth-year player, Galloway has averaged 10.6 points a game this season. He’s second on the Tigers with 55 assists and 18 steals.

The Tigers (17-4) lead the Atlantic Coast Conference at 9-1 in league play.

Clemson is already down two experienced players due to injury.

Point guard Chase Hunter, who started the team’s first 18 games, has missed the past three with a foot injury.

Guard Alex Hemenway, in his fourth season, has missed the past nine games with a foot injury. Hemenway was the team’s leading 3-point shooter (27 of 54) before getting hurt.

Zach Edey has 19 points, No. 1 Purdue beats Michigan 75-70

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Zach Edey had 15 of his 19 points in the first half and Fletcher Loyer finished with 17 points to help No. 1 Purdue hold off Michigan 75-70 on Thursday night.

The Boilermakers (20-1, 9-1 Big Ten) had a 15-0 run to go ahead 41-28 lead in the first half after there were 10 lead changes and four ties, but they couldn’t pull away.

The Wolverines (11-9, 5-4) were without standout freshman Jett Howard, who missed the game with an ankle injury, and still hung around until the final seconds.

Joey Baker made a 3-pointer – off the glass – with 5.9 seconds left to pull Michigan within three points, but Purdue’s Brandon Newman sealed the victory with two free throws.

Purdue coach Matt Painter said Michigan slowed down Edey in the second half by pushing him away from the basket.

“They got him out a little more, and got him bottled up,” Painter said.

The 7-foot-4 Edey, though, was too tough to stop early in the game.

“He’s one of the best in the country for a reason,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “He’s very effective, especially if he’s 8 feet and in.”

With size and skills such as a hook shot, the junior center from Toronto scored Purdue’s first seven points and finished the first half 7 of 12 from the field and 1 of 2 at the line.

“He did a great job in the first half, going to his right shoulder and using his left hand,” Painter said. “He made four baskets with his left hand which is huge.”

Freshman Braden Smith had 10 points for the Boilermakers.

Purdue’s defense ultimately denied Michigan’s comeback hopes, holding a 22nd straight opponent to 70 or fewer points.

Hunter Dickinson scored 21, Kobe Bufkin had 16 points and Baker added 11 points for the Wolverines, who have lost four of their last six games.

Dickinson, a 7-1 center, matched up with Edey defensively and pulled him out of the lane offensively by making 3 of 7 3-pointers.

“Half his shots were from the 3, and that’s a little different,” Painter said. “His meat and potatoes are on that block. He’s the real deal.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Boilermakers got the top spot in the AP Top 25 this week after winning six games, a stretch that followed a loss to Rutgers on Jan. 3 that dropped them from No. 1 in the poll. Purdue improved to 7-2 as the top-ranked team.

BIG PICTURE

Purdue: Edey can’t beat teams by himself and he’s surrounded by a lot of role players and a potential standout in Loyer. The 6-4 guard was the Big Ten player of the week earlier this month, become the first Boilermaker freshman to win the award since Robbie Hummel in 2008.

“Fletcher is somebody who has played better in the second half, and on the road,” Painter said.

Michigan: Jett Howard’s health is a critical factor for the Wolverines, who will have some work to do over the second half of the Big Ten season to avoid missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015. Howard averages 14.6 points and is the most dynamic player on his father’s team.

ROAD WARRIORS

The Boilermakers were away from home for 12 of 23 days, winning all five of their road games. They won at Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan for the first time since the 1997-98 season and beat the Spartans and Wolverines on their home court in the same season for the first time in 12 years.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Hosts Michigan State on Sunday, nearly two weeks after the Boilermakers beat the Spartans by a point on Edey’s shot with 2.2 seconds left.

Michigan: Plays at Penn State on Sunday.