Zach Edey Had a Brilliant Career, But I'm Thrilled I Never Have to Watch Him Play Again

Purdue v Connecticut
Purdue v Connecticut / Jamie Squire/GettyImages

UConn dispatched Purdue with relative easy Monday night, winning its second straight national championship thanks to a dominant second half. The Huskies are a team practically without flaw and were the best squad in college basketball all season. With the victory, UConn ended Zach Edey's incredible career. Like most fans of the spot, I respect Edey's accomplishments but I'm thrilled I'll never be forced to watch him play again.

Edey's statistical prowess is damn impressive. For the last two seasons, he has utterly dominated college basketball, laying waste to his opposition and winning two national player of the year awards. As a senior this year, Edey led the nation in points per game (24.9), was second in rebounds per game (12.2) and 10th in field goal percentage (62.5). Despite all of that, he was fairly brutal to watch.

Listed at 7-foot-4 and 300 pounds, the Toronto native plays a slow, back-to-the-basket game. On most plays, he'd work to get solid post position, use decent footwork to get to his left shoulder and shoot what was essentially an uncontested hook over a much smaller opponent. Other times, he'd pull an up-and-under move and finish with a left-handed layup. On rare occasions he'd score on a dive following a pick-and-roll with point guard Braden Smith. It was pretty standard early 2000s big man stuff. He also got a ton of points at the free throw line, slowing things down even more. Purdue's games were akin to watching paint dry.

Don't get me wrong, Edey played exactly as he should have and his story is inspiring. He was a backup at IMG Academy when Matt Painter recruited him. As a prospect he was the 33rd-ranked player in his class. No, not nationally, that was his rank in Florida. He was a three-star and, more insultingly, he was the 75th-ranked center that year. He took that profile and worked on his game.

A bit of a stiff, awkward player as a freshman, Edey got into 28 games and averaged 8.7 points and 4.4 rebounds in 14.7 minutes per game. He moved into the starting lineup as a sophomore and began to emerge. He averaged 14.4 points and 7.7 rebounds while playing 19.0 minutes per contest. He did a ton of work on his game after that season. His footwork improved tremendously, his touch around the rim got softer, he got tougher and more active on the defensive end and he improved his free throw stroke. It showed immediately.

In an impressive junior season, Edey averaged 22.3 points, 12.9 rebounds and 2.1 blocks in 31.7 minutes per game while hitting 60.7 percent of his shots from the field and 73.4 percent of his free throws. He was named national player of the year, while Purdue went 29-6, won the Big Ten and entered the NCAA tournament as the No. 1 overall seed. Then the Boilermakers were upset by No. 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson in the First Round. After that embarrassing finish to the year, Edey decided to return to school.

As a senior this season, Edey was better in many respects and Purdue repeated as Big Ten champs while earning another No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. There would be no upsets along the way, and the Boilers reached the national title game for the first time since 1969. UConn was the better team by far on Monday night, but Edey finished his career with a 37-point, 10-rebound performance. It was admirable, though nowhere near close to enough.

It's not that I don't respect Edey's achievements. Not only was he a dominant college basketball player, he also made himself into one. Yes, being 7-foot-4 and towering over everyone he faced made life easier, but he worked to develop the skills to deploy those natural gifts effectively. That said, he was never really fun to watch. His game was slow, deliberate and while the numbers were impressive it was a chore to get through. Basically, it was the same as watching Patrick Cantlay play 18 holes.

Matt Painter is an excellent coach and he ran the exact system he should have with this Purdue team. The game plan was almost solely focused on tossing the ball to Edey on the block and letting him go to work. It was smart, but laborious, ugly and boring. Modern basketball is and up-tempo, team-heavy game that relies largely on speed, quick passing, attacking and three-point shooting. Purdue's paint-focused approach with Edey was a relic of another age. There's a reason the Boilers finished ranked 218th in tempo nationally. It was ugly basketball.

While UConn finished even lower in tempo, their offense had a completely different, modern flow. The Huskies cut, moved, shared the ball, spread the wealth and attacked from all angles. Their approach was the epitome of what makes today's game preferable to post-heavy attacks. That showed Monday night.

UConn had four players finish with 11 or more points and all five starters took seven or more shots. Purdue got Edey's 37, 12 from Smith and 11 from the rest of the roster. Edey took 25 shots, Smith took 12 and only one player took five or more (Fletcher Loyer went 0-for-5). When so much is predicated on one player's dominance, the rest of the team suffers.

Edey dominated in his way. His numbers and the accolades he racked up are pretty incredible. He should absolutely be celebrated for those accomplishments and he'll go down as one of the best players in Big Ten history. I truly mean that and honor what he did during his career.

I'm just thrilled I'll never have to watch him play basketball again.