Name: Purdue University
Location: West Lafayette, Indiana (which apparently is the most densely populated city in the state), conveniently located across the Wabash River from Lafayette, Indiana.
Enrollment: 43,411 as of Fall 2018, with 32,672 undergraduates.
They Have A Drum: The Purdue marching band has a bass drum that stands 10 feet tall while on the cart that takes four people to move it. There is actually a physical fitness test to determine whether or not you’re prepared to move the thing around on its cart. They claim it to be the world’s largest drum, but in 2013, the Indianapolis Star proved that to be a lie and not by a little bit, either.
Why “Boilermakers?” They came by it honest, to be fair. Being called the Boilermakers for their trouncing of Wabash College is basically naming a team the “Running Train” in modern-day lingo.
Better Nickname: Now I want to call them the Running Train so.......
Wait, What’s With The Guy In The Hat With The Hammer? That is Purdue Pete, who has been a part of campus since 1940, just like The Boilermaker Special, but has only been a physical performer at events since 1956.
The Grand Prix: As one might expect for a school with a fine history of engineering, they have a yearly go-kart race that has been running since 1958. Student teams build karts every year from scratch and compete on a — no, I’m not joking — million dollar track with what is regarded as “one of the most advanced computer scoring systems anywhere in the world of kart racing.”
Notable Alumni: Neil Armstrong, Gene Cernan, Roger Chaffee, and Gus Grissom are amongst the 23 astronaut alumni; Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, known for successfully ditching into the Hudson River; Robert C. Baker, the inventor of the chicken nugget; Ward Cunningham, inventor of the wiki concept, without which this list of alumni would not be possible; “Not That” BJ Penn, former Assistant Secretary of the US Navy; comedian Jim Gaffigan; Harold Gray, the creator of the Little Orphan Annie comic strip; Academy Award winning screenwriter Callie Khouri; businessman & politician Herman Cain; Orville m’f’n’ Redenbacher; Ruth Siems, the inventor of Stove Top stuffing; the other JaJuan Johnson; Brian Lamb, the founder of C-SPAN; Missouri basketball coach Cuonzo Martin; David E. Nichols, expert on psychedelics; Basketball Hall of Fame coach John Wooden; NFL quarterback Drew Brees; SEC on CBS broadcaster Gary Danielson; award winning adult film actress Bree Olsen, Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Hank Stram; Pixar animator and director Bob Peterson, best known as the co-director of Up and the voice of Dug in said movie; professional wrestler Dick The Bruiser, UFC Hall of Famer Stephan Bonnar; and finally, Eric Justin Toth, the man who replaced Osama bin Laden on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list.
Cricket Spitting: Every year, Purdue hosts something called “Spring Fest.” It’s apparently hosted by the College of Agriculture — they’re a Big Ten school and are probably required by conference charter to have an Ag school — and any part of Purdue University that submits a planning form and has an event/exhibit with a family friendly educational message can participate. Apparently, one of the most popular parts of Spring Fest is the Bug Bowl. The 2019 calendar included an insect petting zoo, a bee exhibit, a demonstration of how insects can be used as food, and so on.
Since 1996, part of the Bug Bowl has been a Cricket Spitting contest. Now, if you’re wondering how you train a cricket to spit, you can let that thought pass through your head. We’re talking about humans spitting frozen crickets. There are very serious rules involved, and the world record for cricket spitting is 32 feet, 0.5 inches, held by Dan Capps, who hails from Madison, Wisconsin. Please read this Salon article for more on cricket spitting and Mr. Capps.
Last Season In Basketball: 26-10 overall, 16-4 in Big Ten play. That gave them a share of the Big Ten regular season title with Michigan State, one game ahead of Michigan. They lost their first conference tournament game to Minnesota, but then advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament on an overtime win against Tennessee. Purdue then bowed out of the tournament at the hands of eventual national champion Virginia, also in overtime.
Hey, was that.... The Mamadi Diakite buzzer beater game? SURE WAS. Let’s watch.
Purdue was THAT CLOSE to the Final Four last season.
Here’s the final five minutes and overtime, although very edited down. I’m fine with the NCAA narrowing it down to just the made baskets/important plays. That’s cool with me.
Fun Fact: No one on Purdue’s team other than Carsen Edwards scored more than seven points in that game. Guess who’s not on Purdue’s roster right now?
Final 2018-19 KenPom.com Ranking: #9
This Season: 1-1 with an easy win over Green Bay in their opener and a 70-66 loss to Texas back on Saturday. This will be their first game of the year away from Mackey Arena.
Current KenPom Ranking: #9
Current KenPom Projection: 21-9 overall, 14-6 in the Big Ten. That has the Boilermakers aimed at a second place finish in the league, behind a Michigan State squad that projects at 16-4 in B1G games.
Returning Stats Leaders
Points: Matt Haarms, 9.4 ppg
Rebounds: Nojel Eastern, 5.5 rpg
Assists: Nojel Eastern, 2.5 apg
Actual Stats Leaders
Points: Jahaad Proctor, 19.0 ppg
Rebounds: Aaron Wheeler, 8.0 rpg
Assists: Nojel Eastern, 3.5 apg
Shooters? I want to give this one a big “well, yes and no” off the top. No matter what you read next, realize that Purdue is currently ranking #293 in the country in terms of how much they use three-pointers as a part of their offense per KenPom and their 28.7% rate through this very early part of the season would have ranked #348 out of 353 teams last year. This is also a massive decline in three-point attempts by the Boilermakers from last year, but as mentioned, they also don’t have Carsen Edwards any more. So even though I’m pointing out good shooters here, realize that the Boilermakers aren’t actually focusing their offense on that, at least not yet.
With that in mind, Sasha Stefanovic and Aaron Wheeler are the two names to know here. Stefanovic missed the opener agaisnt Green Bay with a minor injury and then hit four of his seven long range attempts against Texas. That’s really good after a freshman season where he hit 41% of his attempts. Wheeler is also a sophomore and has hit 38% of his eight tries across two games this year after hitting 37% a year ago.
Purdue as a team is connecting 40% of their three-point attempts thus far in 2019-20, but they’re also getting makes from what I would call unlikely sources. That’s probably why they’re not relying on shooting threes very much to start the year. Grad transfer Jahaad Proctor is 2-for-5 after shooting 34% in his previous three years of college hoops, sophomore Eric Hunter is 3-for-7 after hitting just 22% a year ago and junior Matt Haarms is an inexplicable 2-for-4, not because he’s never taken threes before, but because he is a career 25% shooter on 32 attempts and I have no idea why the coaching staff is letting him do that.
Bigs? I ended the last section with Matt Haarms because he’s the primary name to know here. The 7’3” Dutchman was an efficiency machine a year ago for the Boilermakers, finishing ranked #54 in the country in KenPom’s Offensive Rating department. Part of that was shooting 68% on twos, part of that was being a top 400 rebounder on both ends of the floor, and part of that was ranking #13 in the country in block rate. If you watched Theo John patrol the paint a year ago and asked yourself “boy, how good are the guys who block shots better/more than Theo??” well, the answer to the question will be in front of your eyes in Haarms. He’s also mobile on offense, as evidenced by his four three-point attempts already this season, so defending him may turn into a team concept. At 7’3”, and 250 pounds, he’s lanky more than anything else, so it wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world for Brendan Bailey to draw the assignment.
With that said, 6’9”, 205 pound Aaron Wheeler is also letting it fly from downtown this season, so someone is going to have to defend him as well. Through two games and this very early part of the season, Wheeler is the best defensive rebounder on the Purdue roster in terms of rates, and thus figuring out how to defend both Wheeler and Haarms at the same time — both men start and both play north of 25 minutes — may be the key to the game for Marquette.
Head Coach: Matt Painter, in his 15th season as a head coach and 14th with Purdue. He has a record of 347-165 overall and 322-160 with the Boilermakers.
All Time Series: NOT GREAT. Marquette is 0-9 against Purdue all-time after getting wrecked, 86-71 at home by the Boilermakers in the Gavitt Games in 2017. The last meeting before that one came back in 1969. MU lost that encounter in the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament on a last second shot by Rick Mount.