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Canadian C Edey leads Purdue, top seed in Midwest, on quest for first-ever March Madness title


Canadian Zach Edey has led No. 3-ranked Purdue to the top record in the Big Ten and has a chance to propel the Boilermakers to their first-ever NCAA tournament title this season.

The 21-year-old centre out of Toronto has set a new career high with 24.2 points per game this season for Purdue, which leads all D1 NCAA athletes. His 11.7 rebounds per game ranked third in the country as well.

Purdue's 28-3 record won them their 27th Big Ten regular-season title, but this is a story Purdue fans know too well. The school finished 29-5 last season and emerged as the No. 1 seed out of the Eastern Division but were promptly eliminated by No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson in a historic upset.

Purdue is the No. 1 seed in the Midwest region this year, and will open their tournament against either Montana State or Grambling, depending on the results of the First Four games. 

Edey scored 21 points and collected 15 rebounds in last year's 63-58 loss to Fairleigh Dickinson, and head coach Matt Painter is expecting similar things for the big man this year - though hopefully with a different result.

"Ultimately, winning in the NCAA tournament separates people on the greatness scale. It separates people, because Zach has already put himself in that category," said Painter to Fox Sports ahead of their regular-season finale.

"No one's going to argue that he's not the best player in the country. He's also the most improved player in the country. So now, the cherry on top is being able to get to a Final Four and win a national championship."

The Boilermakers have advanced to the Elite Eight just twice in the past 25 years, and their best run at the NCAA tournament came all the way back in 1969, when they were runners-up to UCLA.

Edey was named Naismith Men's College Player of the Year last season and is primed to repeat this year, joining former Virginia center Ralph Sampson as the only players to win the award in consecutive seasons. 

The 7-foot-4, 300-pound big man is trying to stay focused on playing basketball and competing in the tournament. 

"We come in, we handle business, we get out. That's what's really special about our team, no one on our team is really caught up in the noise from the outside, everyone is just focused on winning basketball games," he told's Andy Katz after their season-finale victory against Wisconsin. 

Purdue has qualified for the last eight NCAA tournaments, but have been eliminated in the first round in four of those appearances. Their best run in recent history was a loss in the Elite Eight to No. 1 Virginia in overtime in 2019. 

Edey, despite his dominance on the court and in the stat sheets at Purdue, is not projected to be a lottery pick when he declares for the NBA draft after this season. 

Concerns about his ability to play in a higher-paced offence has led many to project him as a late first-round draft choice. Painter disagrees with the narratives surrounding Edey as a prospect.

"A lot of times, [evaluators] don't reach out to you too much. Some of them are lazy to be honest. The ones who are thorough talk to the right people and they are stereotypical of players. They don't just say, ‘Okay, he's this. He's bad at ball-screen defence. He's bad at changing ends. He's bad at passing. He doesn't fit the NBA,'" said Painter.

"Some people don't get off that because they're not watching. They're not really doing their job. Like, do your job. If you don't think he fits because of the way you play, I totally understand that. But don't tell me he's bad at ball-screen defense or changing ends, because he's not. He's really not."

Edey has a chance to join a list of Canadian-born players taken near the top of the NBA Draft that has grown quickly in the last decade. Seven Canadians have been selected in the top 10 picks of the NBA Draft since 2013, including Anthony Bennett (2013) and Andrew Wiggins (2014), who were both selected first overall. 

Watch all of March Madness on TSN and streaming on TSN+, starting on March 19 and concluding with the championship game on April 8.