Why Purdue might actually be just that good again, and why it might still fail

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Purdue's start to the 2023-24 season is eerily similar to its 2022-23 campaign. A couple of mid-major victories, followed by a win over a Big East opponent, followed by a Feast Week championship over a loaded field. This time around, the Boilermakers ran through an absolute gauntlet at the Maui Invitational, knocking off Gonzaga, Tennessee and Marquette.

And like last year, they exited Feast Week by ascending to the No. 1 ranking in the country.

They're hoping this season ends differently than last season, though, when they suffered a historic upset loss to 16-seed Fairleigh Dickinson in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Has anything really changed about Purdue from last season? And are the Boilermakers better positioned to win a national championship than a year ago?

What hasn't changed is Zach Edey, the reigning Wooden Award winner and consensus National Player of the Year.

Edey is just as dominant as he was a year ago. His numbers were actually slightly down in the opening two games of 2023-24, but Matt Painter fully unleashed him against Xavier and in the Maui Invitational, and Edey responded by averaging 26.0 points, 12.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks on 56.5% shooting in that stretch.

In short, the 7-foot-4 center is still the best player in college basketball.

"Everybody can say we want to push him past 8 feet. Great. Good luck with that," one opposing coach said. "Their playbook has 500 plays to get it to him in the right spot. They can run fake motion for a year and they'll still end up with him getting a post touch. Take that away, the offensive glass is always real. You can fight him on the glass, but eventually 7-foot-4, 300 pounds is gonna get a couple."

"He's a reigning National Player of the Year who's back. His sole focus is trying to win," another coach added. "Their best player's sole focus is trying to win the game. It's a simple, profound thing that makes a player special."

So, Edey is the same. But where has Purdue improved, and where might it still struggle? We asked a handful of opposing coaches for their early-season thoughts.