Zach Edey has become a polarizing figure in college basketball this season, but one thing is clear. Whether you like him or not, Edey will go down as a legend of March Madness.

Coming into the season, Purdue was an easy punching bag for critics and rivals after a first-round knockout at the hands of 16-seed Fairleigh Dickinson. As the best player on the Boilermakers, Edey was inevitably swept up in the criticism, but it did not tell the full story of last year’s loss.

The National Player of the Year was largely fantastic in his lone NCAA Tournament game last season, finishing with 21 points, 15 rebounds and 3 blocks while a disastrous shooting night from Purdue’s backcourt proved costly.

This time around, Edey has shown his previous outing was not a fluke. And an Achilles heel last year, the Boilermakers beefed up their depth and 3-point shooting in anticipation of a deep run that has now come to fruition.

As for Edey’s legendary status, the numbers speak for themselves, and no, we’re not talking about free-throw attempts. Remember the “polarizing figure” angle mentioned above? Many opposing fans have disapproved of the way Edey is officiated and his seemingly endless string of free throws in the tournament.

In Saturday’s win against NC State, Edey did his best to prove that criticism is bologna. He attempted just 2 free throws while still reaching the 20-point, 10-rebound threshold for his 6th straight NCAA Tournament game.

Edey’s 6 straight games (cemented by his 20 points and 12 rebounds Saturday night) is a new NCAA Tournament record, and he didn’t surpass just any player. He surpassed David Robinson (the Admiral) who produced 5 such games across the 1986 and 1987 tournaments before becoming the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft

If a record involving the great Robinson doesn’t tickle your fancy, consider that Edey has joined another record that includes the likes of Jerry West and Elvin Hayes. According to FOX broadcaster John Fanta, Edey joins that duo as the only players to have 140+ points and 70+ rebounds in a single NCAA Tournament.

Those numbers alone paint a bleak picture for the “Edey’s only good because he’s big!” crowd. And, if anyone is still not satisfied, Edey delivered another blow with a special Final Four performance.

Yes, he had an efficient 20 points and 12 rebounds on 9-for-14 shooting, but he delivered a truly complete performance against the Wolfpack. He blocked 2 shots and demonstrated his passing from the post.

Edey would finish the game with 4 assists, making him just the second player ever with 20+ points, 10+ rebounds and 4+ assists in a Final Four game. The other? Carmelo Anthony with 20 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists in the 2003 national championship game.

Coming into the Final Four, Edey was already the favorite at FanDuel to become the Most Outstanding Player in Phoenix. So far, he’s living up to those odds. The 7-foot-4 center has been so impressive that it’s possible he could become the rare player to win MOP even in a losing effort, but he gives the Boilermakers a great shot against any opponent they’ll face.

What about the ring?

For so many fans, the idea of players reaching “legend” status boils down to whether or not they have a title attached to their name. It’s an understandable fascination, but it doesn’t make it accurate.

The college basketball history books are full of truly legendary performaers who never won a title. Kevin Durant lost in the 2nd round of his lone NCAA Tournament. JJ Redick made it to just 1 Final Four. Shaquille O’Neal, Ralph Sampson and a host of others all came up short of the ultimate goal.

When it comes to Monday’s game, the Boilermakers are still waiting on an opponent, but the live odds do not favor Purdue to win the title. That distinction still belongs to UConn who is -180 per ESPN Bet with Purdue listed at +160.

At this juncture, fans should just buckle up for the ride and enjoy whatever happens. However, this article began with the premise that Edey is already a legend, so we need to follow that angle all the way through.

Let’s assume Edey doesn’t win a title, just for the sake of this argument. Ring or no ring, Edey entered the Final Four averaging 30 points, 16.3 rebounds and 1.8 blocks while shooting 65.6% from the floor in the Big Dance. Add Saturday’s numbers to the mix and Edey is still averaging 28 points and 15.4 rebounds.

There’s only one description for those kinds of numbers: Epic.

In fact, Edey adding a ring Monday night would elevate his 2023-24 season into the conversation for best single season in college basketball history. That’s how impressive he’s been, but, even without a ring, he’s still shown he can elevate his play to a transcendent level in the NCAA Tournament.

Not bad for a player who is “just big.”