WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — It's Jan. 29. Selection Sunday is still in the distance, 42 days away. Doesn't matter, though.
The national player of the year race is, for all intents and purposes, over.
Truth is, in a practical sense it's felt like close to a done deal for weeks; top-ranked Purdue's 77-61 win Sunday over Michigan State was the clincher. This has been Zach Edey's race to lose since the third week of the season, when Purdue went from unranked to undefeated and vaulted into the top five on the back of Edey's dominant play at the PK85.
Barring (and God forbid) any severe injury, the 7-foot-4 junior center from Toronto is going to galumph away with all of the awards and become just the third Boilermaker to win national player of the year. When the unsolvable problem that is Zach Edey rightfully receives his trophies in March and April, he'll join a pair of Purdue legends who played six decades apart: John Wooden and Glenn Robinson.
Any window that might have been narrowly open for Gonzaga's Drew Timme, Kansas' Jalen Wilson or Indiana's Trayce Jackson-Davis was elbowed shut Sunday after Edey got elbowed in the lip on his way to a career-high 38 points and 13 rebounds vs. the Spartans. The statistical gap between Edey and Wilson, who is second place in KenPom.com's algorithm for player of the year, is laughably large — as in Edey-sized.
"We couldn't cover him," MSU coach Tom Izzo said. "He's bigger than any player I've ever coached against, he's more skilled with his hands than any player I've coached against."
Edey, who plays with a Zen-like calm on most days, was unusually demonstrative and emotive at points during the dominant victory.
"When you start tasting your own blood, you kind of get going a little bit," Edey told CBS Sports of the inadvertent elbow he took to the face from MSU's Mady Sissoko. "It kind of fires you up."
Edey's 38-and-13 went with three assists, three steals and a block. Only one other Purdue player has ever posted a line matching that: Robinson. He did it against little ol' Portland in 1993. Edey did it against a Hall of Fame coach and vs. a team that Purdue only beat by one point on Jan. 16 — a game that was won on an Edey shot with 2.2 seconds remaining (Edey had 32 and 13 in that one).
"Probably the most disappointing defensive performance that we've had," Izzo said. "If one player gets 70 points in two games, you can't blame your players for that, you blame the coach."
Izzo shouldn't get too down on himself, though there is something about Sparty that gets Edey's blood going. He's redefined his single-game scoring record three times the past two seasons vs. MSU. Sunday was his best version yet of Michigan State's worst nightmare.
"When, at the end of the day, you can stop anywhere this side of the equator and throw the ball in the air and this monster's going to go get it, it makes it a little easier," Izzo said.
And he did it after waking up on the wrong side of the bed. Edey told me he's a night owl, not a morning person. Sunday's game was a 12:15 p.m. tip, so he set his alarm for 8 a.m. and fought off the snooze button until he knew he didn't have any more time before pulling himself out of bed and hustling off to meet for the team breakfast at 8:30. He was a little cranky.
"You saw my emotions get going, I was almost trying to get myself going," Edey told CBS Sports. "I had the morning legs."
So: Edey woke up unenthused for an early tip and then went out and pulled off the best performance of his career. I guess Michigan State's lucky it wasn't an evening tip. The pick-me-up Edey sought was supplied by the Purdue faithful. According to the school, Sunday's game reached 123.2 decibels, which is "the loudest recorded decibel reading in Mackey Arena."
Edey's averaging 22.1 points, 13.0 rebounds, the most combined points and boards per game of any player in the country. He's also swatting 2.2 shots per game. The 7-4 monster is becoming a master.
"He's so unselfish," Boilermakers coach Matt Painter said. "Maybe the best stat is the zero turnovers."
Edey is so casually dominant, he's taken the tension out of the question of who is the best player in the sport. While the news of Edey's standing in college hoops isn't exactly breaking, the nature of how far out ahead he is vs. all his peers is bizarre. We almost never see the player of the year debate be a non-debate in January. Scan back over the years, and it's rare for someone to have separated this much.
Even more amazing, Edey's still not all the way there as a player. He's running away from the field while learning on the job. He hasn't played organized basketball for six full years yet.
"It's real special, something you've got to not take for granted," freshman teammate Fletcher Loyer said. "I feel bad for the other teams."
Sure, his game lacks some finesse, ferocity and needs fine-tuning, but he's efficient and unflappable. There is no counterbalance an opponent can provide. There is nobody like Edey. Toss in the fact he's the centerpiece of top-ranked 21-1 Purdue and this thing is a wrap. The Boilermakers (10-1 in-league) are the only ranked team in the Big Ten, two games clear in the standings of ...
... hold on ...
It says here that Northwestern is in second place?
Yeah. As I said: it's a wrap.
There hasn't been a Big Ten team with a start this good since Ohio State opened 24-0 in 2010-11. Through 22 games, nobody can crack 70 on Purdue. Top team with the top player. Simple as that. The Boilers (who nevertheless will almost certainly lose at least one more conference game, and likely on the road) have no peer this year in this league. Edey's status combined with Purdue's dominance makes this a gap that can't be overcome, both for Edey in the NPOY race and Purdue in the Big Ten chase.
Edey is pacing toward a season with at least 775 points, 453 rebounds and 77 blocked shots. Sports Reference's database only brings up one player to clear those benchmarks in a single season: David Robinson in 1986-87. You know what Robinson did in '87? The same thing Edey's going to do in two months: sweep every individual award he's eligible for.
The only unknown here is how much better Purdue and Edey can become between now and the NCAA Tournament.