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Not since the 1987-88 season has a Purdue men’s basketball team faced higher expectations than the 2023-24 Boilermakers.

If Purdue reaches those expectations – a repeat Big Ten Conference championship, another run to a Big Ten Tournament title, the school’s first Final Four in an astounding 43 years – it will be because of a decision announced shortly after 9 p.m. on May 31.

Zach Edey, once the 440th-ranked high school recruit in the class of 2020 and now the reigning college basketball consensus National Player of the Year, is back for his senior season.

In addition to having a chance to accomplish a feat not seen since 1983, Edey has a realistic shot at statistically becoming the greatest player in Boilermaker history.

For 53 years, Rick Mount’s career scoring record of 2,323 points has not been seriously threatened by another Purdue standout. Jerry West Award winner Carsen Edwards likely would have broken that standard with 1,920 points through three seasons. The Boston Celtics gave Edwards approximately four million reasons not to stick around West Lafayette for his senior season.

Four other Boilermakers have reached the 2,000-point plateau. Dave Schellhase (2,074), like Mount, only played three varsity seasons due to NCAA rules declaring freshmen ineligible.

Joe Barry Carroll came the closest to Mount with 2,175 points in four varsity seasons. However, Carroll was not a starter as a freshman and scored just 220 points in 28 games.

Troy Lewis (2,038) was incredibly consistent for most of his Purdue career, scoring 589 points as a sophomore, 556 as a junior and 590 as a senior. But the 1984 co-Indiana Mr. Basketball only started nine games as a freshman while putting up 303 points in 29 games.

E’Twaun Moore, who played nearly twice as many games (140) as Mount (72) in a Purdue uniform, started 135 times on his way to scoring 2,136 points.

Edey enters his senior season with 1,533 points, 790 behind Mount. After scoring 757 points in 34 games a year ago, Edey might have a shot if the Boilermakers can avoid a first weekend upset in the NCAA tournament.

Carroll’s career rebounding record of 1,148 seems more likely to fall. If Edey comes close to the 438 rebounds he collected as a junior, that would put him well over 1,200 for his career.

Edey also has a chance to be the first repeat National Player of the Year since Virginia center Ralph Sampson won his third consecutive honor in 1983.

As for those team expectations?

In 1987-88, Purdue was ranked No. 2 in the preseason and dreamed of a national championship with a senior corps nicknamed “The Three Amigos.” Lewis, Todd Mitchell and Everette Stephens believed they would take the Boilermakers all the way under coach Gene Keady. Not even an early season slip-up, a stunning 104-96 loss to Iowa State in Mackey Arena, lowered those expectations. Nor did the suspensions of key reserves Jeff Arnold and Dave Stack for the season.

Melvin McCants was an outstanding center and power forward Kip Jones made up for his inability to consistently make free throws with solid defense and rebounding skills. Backup point guard Tony Jones was a future star. So was a shy 6-9 center named Stephen Scheffler, who would become the 1990 Big Ten Player of the Year.

A 16-game winning streak after the Iowa State loss restored Purdue to its No. 2 ranking, where it remained for most of the season on its way to a 16-2 Big Ten record and a three-game edge over second-place Michigan.

Similar to a potential 2024 NCAA Tournament path (Indianapolis, Detroit in the Midwest Regional), the Boilermakers seemingly had the perfect road to the 1988 Final Four. Fairleigh Dickenson and Memphis were speed bumps during the first two rounds in South Bend. In the Sweet 16 at Pontiac, Mich., Kansas State – which had lost 101-72 in Mackey Arena three months earlier – was waiting.

Purdue got off to a 10-0 lead and fans were looking ahead to an Elite Eight matchup with Kansas. But future NBA All-Star Mitch Richmond got hot, even banking in a 3-pointer in the second half, and the Wildcats pulled off a 73-70 victory.

Few losses in Purdue basketball history have been tougher than that one.

Following Edey’s announcement, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi installed Purdue as the No. 2 overall seed behind Kansas in his projected NCAA Tournament bracket.

“Zach Edey’s ultimate return to Purdue has already reframed the 2023-24 campaign,” Lunardi wrote. “Kansas remains the clear preseason No. 1, but the Boilermakers have slipped in behind the Jayhawks as a probable repeat 1-seed with serious revenge on their minds.”

Purdue will be among the Big Ten’s most experienced teams with all five starters, including Westfield’s Braden Smith, and seven of its top eight scorers returning. Southern Illinois transfer guard Lance Jones, redshirt freshman forward Camden Heide and true freshman forward Myles Colvin could give the Boilermakers a boost of athletic skills.

As for the rest of the conference field, Michigan State has been receiving a lot of hype from the national media for some reason. Yes, the Spartans have a veteran backcourt of Tyson Walker (14.8 ppg.) and A.J. Hoggard (12.9).

But Tom Izzo’s team lost a valuable scorer in Joey Hauser (14.4) and center Mady Sissoko was no match for Edey in either of Purdue’s victories over MSU a year ago. The Spartans do have a highly regarded recruiting class but as the Boilermakers learned a year ago, freshmen aren’t usually ready for the physical beating they will take in the Big Ten.

Indiana, which tied Northwestern for second place, has to replace 80 percent of its starting lineup. The NCAA gifted the Hoosiers another year of guard Xavier Johnson to go with promising recruits Mackenzie Mgbako and Gabe Cupps. But the question again is, where’s the outside shooting?

Northwestern retained Boo Buie (17.3 ppg.) for a sixth season but backcourt mate Chase Audige (14.1) remained in the NBA Draft. Lafayette Jeff graduate Brooks Barnhizer could make up for most of that scoring.

Illinois kept first-team All-Big Ten guard Terrance Shannon Jr. (17.2) as well as Coleman Hawkins (9.9), but once again the Fighting Illini will be a chemistry experiment on the court. Coach Brad Underwood doubled down on his transfer-heavy recruiting with five more players.

Only Michigan and Penn State were hit harder by departures/transfers than Iowa, which saw Kris Murray (20.2 ppg.), Filip Rebraca (14.1), Connor McCaffery (6.5) and Ahron Ulis (6.1) walk out the door.

Michigan second-team All-Big Ten center Hunter Dickenson followed the money to Kansas for his senior season. Add Jett Howard and Kobe Bufkin entering the NBA Draft, and the Wolverines must make up nearly 47 points a game from that trio. Michigan won’t be Minnesota or Nebraska bad but an NCAA Tournament bid seems like a long shot today.

Maryland finished four games behind Purdue a year ago, but star guard Jahmir Young (15.8 ppg.), Julian Reese (11.4) and Donta Scott return. Circle the date when the Big Ten announces the Terrapins’ trip to Indiana. Former Hoosiers forward Jordan Geronimo is one of three transfers into Maryland.

As for the rest of the league, Minnesota may not be much better than its 2-17 Big Ten record a year ago even with the return of Dawson Garcia (15.3 ppg.) Nebraska welcomes back fan favorite Keisei Tominaga (13.1) but the cupboard looks pretty bare in Lincoln.

Ohio State has underrated sophomore point guard Bruce Thornton (10.6 ppg.) and Zed Key (10.8), a good start on improving last season’s disappointing 16-19 overall record and 5-15 Big Ten mark. Minnesota transfer Jamison Battle and a highly regarded freshman class will help, too.

Fans will need to buy programs to figure out who is playing for Penn State this year. Micah Shrewsberry’s departure for Notre Dame triggered an exodus of talent that took Purdue to the wire in the Big Ten Tournament final. The Nittany Lions have two returning players who combined for less than five points a game in 2022-23. Eight transfers will have to figure out their roles quickly under new coach Mike Rhoades.

Clifford Omoruyi (13.2 ppg.) and Paul Mulcahy (8.3 ppg.) are two reasons why Rutgers will again be a tough victory for any visiting Big Ten team. Cam Spencer (13.2), who transferred to national champion Connecticut, is a major loss.

Wisconsin, which finished an uncharacteristic 11th in the Big Ten a year ago, mustn’t be overlooked either with a veteran lineup of Chucky Hepburn (12.2 ppg.), Steven Crowl (12.1), Connor Essegian (11.7), Tyler Wahl (11.3) and Max Klesmit (8.4).

– Kenny Thompson is the former sports editor for the Lafayette Journal & Courier and an award-winning journalist. He has covered Purdue athletics for many years.