Zach Edey is 2 wins away from the national title after leading Purdue past Tennessee in a dominating Elite 8 performance. Now, the 7-foot-4 Boilermaker legend is poised to deliver the best individual season for a player in Big Ten history.

If that claim startles you, I get it, but you have to investigate the numbers. Edey, the reigning consensus National Player of the Year, returned to West Lafayette and improved his scoring (22.3 points to 25 points per game), assists (1.5 to 2), field goal shooting and is attempting over 11 free-throws per game.

Translation? If Edey doesn’t repeat as National Player of the Year it will only be due to voting fatigue and certain writers growing tiresome of the gigantic Edey dominating the competition.

Edey is already the B1G’s Player of the Year for a second straight season, a First-Team All-B1G selection and consensus First-Team All-American.

After reaching the Final Four, Edey has cemented a claim that his 2023-24 season will be one of the greatest individual performances in the history of the Big Ten. All that’s missing to becoming the GOAT is a national title ring for Edey’s Boilermakers.

The criteria

Look, if we’re talking the “GOAT” season of Big Ten basketball, there are some pretty clear criteria we’ve got to cover. First of all, the player has to win major awards and be named an All-American.

We’re talking consensus status on the All-American front, and it better be first-team honors. Anything else is a great season, but there’s no way a second-team All-American, even if that player achieved massive March success, is worthy of GOAT status. (This eliminates Morris Peterson and Mateen Cleaves for Michigan State’s 2000 national championship season.)

Adding a POTY award is also paramount, and that should be self-explanatory. I’m not going to be too tough if some players have just one POTY award as voting for each honor can sometimes be questionable, plus the Wooden Award was not given prior to 1977. (This criterion eliminates Magic Johnson with Larry Bird capturing the POTY awards during the 1978-79 season.)

The final piece of the puzzle is possibly the biggest of all: A national championship ring.

Yes, a national championship is indeed a team honor, but we cannot fully remove it from the framework when talking about the B1G GOAT. And this specific criteria eliminates a strong group of contenders including Frank Kaminsky, Trey Burke and Glenn Robinson.

Every player in that trio accounted for a National POTY honor and produced some big-time moments in March, but none of them grabbed a title. Robinson fell in the Elite 8 to a Duke team that included Jeff Capel, Cherokee Parks and Grant Hill while Burke and Kaminsky both lost in the national final. (Glen Rice actually has a ring to his credit from the 1988-89 season, but he did not capture a POTY award or finish as a First-Team All-American.)

The top challenger

Considering what we just laid out as necessary to claim the GOAT season, there’s is really just one player that stands out as the major competitor to Edey (provided he leads Purdue to a title). And, as fate would have it, the player is an Indiana Hoosier legend.

During the 1975-76 season, Scott May captured the Naismith Award, Rupp Trophy and was a consensus First-Team All-American selection. He was also a member of the 1976 NCAA All-Tournament team.

And the national championship piece of the puzzle? May’s Hoosiers remain one of the best championship teams of all time as 1 of 7 undefeated national champions in men’s college basketball history. That Indiana team is also the last one to finish a season undefeated with a perfect 32-0 record.

On an individual level, May was dominant while averaging 23.5 points per game to lead the Hoosiers. He also added 8.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists while shooting 53% from the field.

In a Final Four victory over UCLA, May scored 14 points and followed that up with 26 points to lead all scorers in the national final win over Michigan. During the 1976 NCAA Tournament, May averaged 22.6 points and 7.6 rebounds as the Hoosiers rolled to the title.

Now yes, May holds the distinction of playing for an undefeated champion, but that group was stacked with NBA talent in Kent Benson, Tom Abernathy, Quinn Buckner, Bob Wilkerson and Wayne Radford. While the tale of the tape is yet to be told on this year’s Purdue squad, it’s unlikely this roster will produce the kind of NBA talent Bob Knight did from that group of Hoosiers.

And Edey may fall short of the title. Next up, the Boilermakers will face NC State, a game that features Purdue as an 8.5-point favorite per ESPN Bet. Even if Purdue gets past that game, a rematch with Alabama or a date with dominant force UConn will come in the national title game.

It’s far from a complete story for Edey’s season, but it’s an added layer of intrigue to follow in the Final Four.