As the IU v. Purdue rivalry ratchets up again this weekend, we take a closer look at the Boilermaker roster by analyzing the strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies of Purdue’s major contributors:

The Starters

Carsen Edwards – Guard

  • At this point, you should be very familiar with Edwards. He is one of the premier scorers in college basketball. He can single-handedly take over a game. In fact, because of Purdue’s erratic play, Edwards is probably underrated in the national landscape. When it comes to getting buckets, there are only a handful of players in the entire nation that are in Edwards’ class.
  • Often, Edwards has to shoulder the entire offensive burden himself. For example, against Texas, Edwards either scored or assisted on 66.7% of their points. Edwards has one of the highest usage rates in the nation, being incorporated in 35.5% of possessions.
  • He has a perpetual green light. Moreover, he will shoot from anywhere… And, I mean, A-N-Y-W-H-E-R-E.
  • However, because so much of the offense relies on him, he is prone to becoming frustrated and jacking up poor shots. Similarly, he can occasionally play recklessly, as he averages 3.3 turnovers per game.
  • Yet, Purdue has no qualms with Edwards’ occasional “hero-ball” play. Instead, they encourage it. If it wasn’t for him, the Boilermakers would be in the basement of the Big Ten.
  • Defensively, Edwards has quick feet and can be very effective when he is locked-in. If the squad struggles offensively, Edwards can become distracted and disengaged. Because he employs so much energy trying to score to keep the team in the game, he often runs out of steam on the defensive end (but, can you blame him?).

Ryan Cline – Guard

  • Cline is Purdue’s only other major offensive threat.
  • He is a dynamic three-point shooter, averaging 39.7% from beyond the arc. Cline is also a volume shooter, attempting 7.9 threes per game.
  • If you are familiar with Cline but have not watched him this season, you are probably thinking “eh he’s a shooter, that’s it.” But, that is no longer the case. Cline has greatly improved his playmaking skills and is a much more all-around complete offensive player. In fact, Cline is currently 24th in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.11). Yes, he is going to score the three-ball, but he now can run the offense and facilitate quite effectively.

Nojel Eastern – Guard/Forward

  • Eastern gets a lot of flack for his offensive struggles (and his mom’s message board habits), but make no mistake: Eastern is an integral part of Purdue’s team.
  • He is an elite defender. Eastern is most certainly in the running for Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year (and should be one of the front-runners).
  • You don’t find many 6-6, 220 lbs basketball players like Eastern who have such nimble feet. He has a perfect combination of speed and size. This allows him to be effective during switches. He is agile enough to defend quick guards and big enough to handle physicality in the post. His defending is one of Purdue’s secret weapons. If it wasn’t for him limiting production from their opponent’s best players, things would be looking even worse in West Lafayette.
  • He may look uncomfortable offensively and he may have the worst free-throw shooting form any of us have ever seen…but, Eastern is still one of the most valuable players on Purdue.

Grady Eifert – Forward

  • Eifert is the hustle guy. He has a tremendous work rate and does a little bit of everything.
  • He is also the team’s leading rebounder and shoots 43.3% from three (although he only takes about 2 per game).

Evan Boudreaux – Forward

  • Boudreaux has an old-school vibe to his game. He utilizes a lot of “old man YMCA” moves, a.k.a. he is crafty.
  • He plays with physicality. He is not afraid to bump and bang in the post. He sets great screens. He rebounds. He is a great complementary player that focuses on the fundamentals.
  • With that being said, Boudreaux can also provide an occasional offensive boost. He only averages about 7.5 points per game, but before transferring to Purdue, he averaged over 17 points per game at Dartmouth. These days, any offensive production from him is a bonus. He has only posted double-digit points in 5 games this season, most notably an 18 point performance against #18 Virginia Tech.

Key Reserves

Trevion Williams – Forward

  • Williams is quickly becoming one of Purdue’s most important X-factors. His minutes have been steadily increasing throughout the season and, in the last two games, Williams has averaged over 20 minutes per game. Honestly, Williams should probably even be getting more time.
  • Overall, Williams’ production may seem modest statistically. However, now that he is receiving more of an opportunity to play, he has more than proven himself. During Purdue’s two most recent games, Williams has shown his value, recording 13 points and 12 rebounds against Michigan State followed by a 9 point and 11 rebound performance against Wisconsin.
  • The team simply looks better when he is on the floor. He provides a much-needed rebounding presence and also is a better offensive option than many of their other bigs.
  • Look for Williams to continue to get more playing time and continue to show why he just might be Purdue’s next diamond in the rough.

Matt Haarms – Center

  • Haarms’ statistics have improved, but he just doesn’t seem to have the same impact on the team as he did last season when he was paired with another talented center. Perhaps, the expectations were simply too high. Despite not quite being as good as one may have expected, Haarms still brings a lot to the table. I mean, averaging 7.6 points and 4.6 rebounds is nothing to balk at.
  • Occasionally, he still tends to get overpowered in the post. Similarly, his shot still is not always reliable. Although, it is important to remember that he is still only a sophomore and in the developmental stages of learning the position. Despite his growing pains, the 7’3″ center provides valuable minutes for the Boilermakers.

Aaron Wheeler – Forward

  • Wheeler has been a surprising contributor this year. The freshman has shown bursts of brilliance, like his 15 points in 21 minutes performance against Maryland.
  • He is a sharpshooter, plain and simple (at least at this point in his career). He is currently shooting 35.9% from three and provides a nice shooting option off the bench. In high school, Wheeler had a more well-rounded offensive game, but it is clear that the coaches have indicated that they prefer him to fill in as a perimeter shooter.

Eric Hunter Jr. – Guard

  • Hunter was a prolific scorer in high school. He has yet to find similar scoring success in college.
  • He is currently only averaging about 3 points per game but he certainly has that potential inside him.

Sasha Stefanovic – Guard

  • Stefanovic (a.k.a. The Serbian Sensation) has played more minutes than expected this season, primarily because he specializes in three-point shooting.
  • He hasn’t been overly productive but is shooting 35.1% from three.
  • To put it simply, he is Ryan Cline in training.

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