Purdue is still a top contender for 2017-18, but what if Caleb Swanigan had chosen to stay for his junior season?
SI is bullish on Purdue even though it lost Big Ten player of the year Caleb Swanigan to the NBA this offseason. We view the Boilermakers as the No. 2 team in the conference, second only to Michigan State, and the No. 17 team in the country. Our model likes the abundance of proven contributors coming back to West Lafayette, the Boilermakers’ wealth of perimeter shooting threats, the return of a promising point guard (Carsen Edwards) coming off a big summer with team USA at the FIBA U19 World Cup and the availability of a mammoth center (Isaac Haas) to sop up some of the minutes Swanigan leaves behind.
It is tempting to wonder how good Purdue would have been had Swanigan chosen to stay for his junior season. (You might recall that he waited until just hours before the early-entry deadline to announce his decision.) The answer: Really good! The Boilermakers would have opened 2017-18 as the No. 2 team in the country, just behind Arizona at No. 1, according to our model. Swanigan’s efficient scoring on both sides of the arc and prolific rebounding would have elevated a potential Sweet 16 team to a Final Four contender, one capable of rivaling the Purdue outfit that won 29 games, rose as high as No. 3 in the AP Top 25 Poll and fell to eventual national champion Duke in the NCAAs in 2010.
On another note, it would have been fascinating to track what arguably would have been the two leading National Player of the Year candidates battle for the award while trying to guide their respective teams to the top of the same league. Swanigan is one of those candidates. As for the other…