(Editor’s note: with the NBA Draft tomorrow night, we’re re-posting this back to the top from March 23)
It’s all there right now for Jaden Ivey and Purdue to reach the Final Four. To reach the Elite Eight, all they have to do is beat a #15 seed, and there are no seeds higher than the Boilermakers remaining in their region. If ever there was a year for the Boilers to end their Final Four drought (1980) it’s now. And in All-American Jaden Ivey, they have the perfect alpha dog, blue-chip NBA prospect to lead them there.
Ivey could do a Carsen Edwards right here and right now- have a monster tournament individually, lead his team to a deep run in March Madness, and greatly improve his NBA Draft stock.
GAMEDAY INFORMATION – NCAA SWEET 16 Purdue (29-7) vs.  Saint Peter’s (21-11)
Friday, March 25 | 7:09 p.m. ET | Philadelphia, Pa.CBS (Ian Eagle, Jim Spanarkel, Jamie Erdahl)
It all starts Friday night, when Purdue are heavily favored. Like playing at an online casino, betting on March Madness is extremely unpredictable, but the Boilers are back by about 15 or more, everywhere.
Jaden Ivey, Trevion Williams and Zach Edey are averaging a combined 43.4 points per game, accounting for 54.4 percent of Purdue’s points right now. The trio has each scored in double-figures in 16 of the 36 games, but Ivey is going to have to be the one who takes over down the stretch in crunch time.
Northwestern Coach Chris Collins, following his team’s home loss to Ivey and the Boilers on Feb 16, described him as a “one man fast break.”
The all-everything guard, described by Illini coach Brad Underwood as the “Ja Morant of college basketball,” is slotted as the fourth overall pick in many a NBA mock draft. He’s projected third overall by NBA Draft Room, with Tankathon, CBS, Yahoo and SI all slotting him #4 overall.
Not that NBA mock drafts are gospel or anything, but that says it all right there.
He really should be in the conversation for no.1 overall, but we’ll see if that changes during his the pre-Draft workout and interview process.
He’s the most explosive athlete we’ve seen since Ja, and Underwood added another very flattering player comparison.
“Maybe the top NBA prospect in our league, a Russell Westbrook type guy in the open court,” Underwood said in January. He added that Ivey has Westbrook like athleticism too. Ivey has also drawn Dwyane Wade comparisons, so we asked Collins about these superlative comps (Ja, Westbrook and D Wade).
“He’s a terrific athlete, so when you hear those comps to those guys, it’s about world class athletes, and then you have what they would call freak athletes,” Collins said.
“He’s in that top percent athletically…got a burst of speed, quickness at 6-5 with some length.
“He looks the part of those long, electric athletes that are constantly putting pressure on the opponents.”
In order to get to the league, and especially to get there via the lottery, you need a whole lot more than what is just “God-given,” you need skills and the strong work ethic to develop those skills too.
“He’s improved,” Collins added.
“Last year I think he kind of got sped up. I think he’s done a better job this year of picking his spots, knowing when to attack, when to shoot.”
When the Boilers won at NU, they did so despite Jaden Ivey being a non-factor offensively.
This contest, and the one that preceded it marked Ivey’s worst two of the season.
“That’s a good question,” Purdue Coach Matt Painter responded when we asked him if Jaden Ivey just had fatigue, and if the tired legs were affecting his jump shot (this was when Purdue was coming off an absolutely brutal slate of games that saw covid-19 rescheduling slam them with some insane fixture congestion)
“You got to be able to push through things when you lock in, and defend, rebound and you stay process based, your talent takes over,” he said before referencing the Big Dog himself.
“Stay process based and good things will happen. He’s such a good player one of the best I’ve coached, but I’ve never seen anybody who didn’t struggle at some point, and I’ve played with Glenn Robinson, he was the best player in the country.
“You’re going to have tough days, but it’s what you do to work through those that counts.”
Paul M. Banks is the owner/manager of The Bank (TheSportsBank.Net) and author of “Transatlantic Passage: How the English Premier League Redefined Soccer in America,” as well as “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry.”
He has regularly appeared in WGN, Sports Illustrated and the Chicago Tribune, and co-hosts the After Extra Time podcast. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.
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