Breathe a sigh of relief and rejoice, West Lafayette.
Reigning national player of the year Zach Edey announced Wednesday that he’s withdrawing from the NBA Draft and running it back for his senior season at Purdue.
The 7-foot-4 center was the most dominant force in college basketball this past season, averaging 22.3 points and 12.9 rebounds per game on 61% shooting from the floor. He went for 30-plus points eight times.
This is great news for college basketball and a headache for the rest of the Big Ten.
For Edey, a projected late second-rounder, the fact is that he can benefit more from his brand and in NIL by staying another year at Purdue than he would have by going the NBA route and potentially being lost in the G League ranks.
He will be the face of college basketball and the Big Ten, and will play on broadcast TV a number of times, making serious cash while doing so — provided that he can work through some visa issues as a Canadian.
There’s a bigger picture to his decision to come back on the floor, though. What will coach Matt Painter and the Boilermakers do with this jackpot news?
To say Purdue has to redeem itself next March would be an understatement.
After being only the second 1-seed in college basketball history to lose to a 16-seed (FDU) this past March, the Boilers can’t simply be the same team heading into next season.
I’m not suggesting drastic changes. This team was one of eight in the country to be in the top-25 in KenPom offensive and defensive efficiency this past season.
The continued growth of sophomore guards Braden Smith and Fletcher Loyer will be important. Creating some more tempo could be a way to find some wrinkles as well, as the Boilers ranked 324th out of 363 teams this past season in that category.
The defensive end isn’t necessarily an area of need, because Purdue showed a great ability on that end of the floor.
What the 2023-24 season will be about is not over-relying on Edey. Painter alluded to this in February following a loss at Maryland.
“We have to have a balance of driving, making 3s and posting Zach (Edey),” Painter told FOX Sports. “When we don’t have that balance, the defense is going to shrink the court on us.”
For now, it’s a day of celebration for Purdue, as this news likely places them in the top five in preseason polls, and sets them up to do what Virginia did from 2018 to 2019 — go from losing to a 16-seed to winning a national title. The evolution of the Boilermakers’ shot-making on the perimeter is what will determine if they can get there, but you need a rock on the interior for it all to work out, and Edey is the best one in the country — and there’s no stopping him.
John Fanta is a national college basketball broadcaster and writer for FOX Sports. He covers the sport in a variety of capacities, from calling games on FS1 to serving as lead host on the BIG EAST Digital Network to providing commentary on The Field of 68 Media Network. Follow him on Twitter @John_Fanta.
FOLLOWFollow your favorites to personalize your FOX Sports experience
COLLEGE BASKETBALL trending
Get more from College BasketballFollow your favorites to get information about games, news and more