Purdue Basketball BS Preview - How We Feelin'?
Ok gentlemen, Purdue basketball kicked off November 11th vs. McNeese State. Ambition is high this year, despite losing AJ Hammons to the NBA draft, as many think Purdue could win the B1G or make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
With that in mind, how's everyone feeling about the state of the program? Are you excited? Nervous? Skeptical? What are your expectations for the season? What is the minimum set of accomplishments that Purdue would have to achieve in order for you to be happy next Spring?
I’m sure I’m not the only one who shares this sentiment, but I am cautiously optimistic on the outlook of the Purdue basketball program. It's getting to the point where our tepid post-season performance is starting to diminish the enjoyment of the regular season.
The hype and optimism for the 2016-2017 season is well justified, but CMP has fielded several teams with comparable talent with very little to show. Additionally, I’m not confident Painter’s defensive scheme is flexible enough to overcome the loss of such a great defensive mistake eraser like AJH. This year’s team team will challenge his defensive philosophy. I am looking forward to seeing how he adapts to a team complete unsuited for his traditional man-to-man defense. But there are enough data points to suggest he’ll entertain changes.
Based on the talent and experience on this year’s roster, here are my minimum expectations for me to consider this season a step forward for the program:
- Top 3 finish in Big Ten
- 4 (or lower seed) in the dance
- Advance to the Elite 8
Purdue will have college basketball’s toughest front court and a minimum of 3 future pros on the roster. Failing to meet these reasonable expectations will exponentially exacerbate an existing contingent of frustrated fans unhappy with the coaching situation. This season will be either be the glorious removal of a monkey camped on his back or the breaking of the damn of discontent amongst the Purdue faithful.
Maybe I’m being a little dramatic…not it’ll be hard to convince me otherwise.
I'm skeptical. On one hand, I see the crushing blow the Boilers applied to McNeese State, even after trailing a ways into the first half; I see kenpom putting the Boilers just outside the top 10, essentially where they finished the conference tournament last year (I think we agreed not to mention you-know-what), and I see a number of Big Tenteen teams that have clear flaws, so there's definitely a path to a conference title for Purdue.
On the other hand, I see the departure of the Hammonster, plus an absence of a solid point guard (14 turnovers against the Cowboys isn't a good sign, either), and I just don't see how the addition of Edwards and Albrecht plus improvement from returning players will get the Boilers any farther than they were last season. I'm not sold on Matt Painter's ability to coach his way out of difficult situations, and I see a number of those on the schedule, starting with non-conference games against Villanova and Stripperville.
My expectations are a top-6 regular-season finish and a reasonable finish in France or wherever the heck the conference tournament this year. Also, none of this first-round out garbage - second round, minimum.
To be happy, I'd like a top-4 finish, plus playing to their seed in the conference tournament (i.e. at least Saturday) and NCAAs (at least Sweet 16).
Or, you know, sweep IU.
As some know, I'm a bit disillusioned on Purdue basketball in general and Matt Painter in particular. I documented my thoughts on this at the conclusion of last season and I haven't changed.
Matt Painter had AJ Hammons and Raphael Davis for four years and did not win an NCAA Tournament game. By the time he next has a chance to do so, he'll have gone FIVE YEARS without winning one. That's an eternity in CBB and it's also not a blip. It's not something we can or should just overlook. It's a tremendous letdown at a minimum, but failure if you want to use stronger language. Yes, getting the program back to the life of a ranked team is terrific. And putting a scare into MSU and Wisconsin sometimes -- and IU, most important of all -- is also great. But what needs to happen for me to be "happy"? How about the following...
--Compete for the conference title. And by that I mean be at LEAST top 3 and be in it to win it well into February. If someone else is just better and has an insane 16-2 kind of conference season, fine, they earned it. But Purdue hasn't really been close recently and a 12-6 kind of conference season won't do it.
--Remain in the top 15 all season. This shouldn't honestly be that hard to do and they certainly have the talent.
--For the conference tournament, just don't embarrass themselves. This means a lot less to me than most other things. If it matters, then they should be in the semis, at least.
--An actual deep run in the NCAA tournament, with making it to the Sweet 16 being a minimum requirement.
Do I actually think this will all happen? No, I really don't. It's not that I won't enjoy watching (look for me on Dec 6 at MSG), either. Like all of you, I'm hopelessly committed to Purdue sports. But this year, the story will be about how they're a little thin on depth and how Smotherman and Cline can't lay off the pipe and somehow the Painter apologists will find a way to explain away another season that ends with his team falling on its face.
Man, I hope I'm wrong but that's how all Matt Painter seasons seem to end now.
(man, that was a little dark, wasn't it?)
I’m really excited to see the most mature frontcourt in college basketball play a second year together. Last year was an adjustment year; expectations, talent level, pressure to win, playing style, everything was a little in limbo with the addition of Caleb Swanigan, the point guard void, and the non-Ray Davis leaders seeming scared to step on each other’s toes. We all hoped that the sheer defensive talent and experience on the roster would prevail, and for the most part it did. Until…well, you know.
But this year, the leadership of Vince(nt) Edwards, Biggie, PJ Thompson, and Isaac Haas should be undisputed. I love Vince taking over, both on the floor and in the locker room. I love Biggie’s personality shining through on social media. I love Haas not backing down from the massive role he has to fill. I love Dakota Mathias and Carsen Edwards and Spike Albrecht filling any and every role asked of them. Though this is a less-deep, probably less-talented team than last year, they might be more successful. Tighter rotations (forced by lack of roster depth), plus the key focus points of Vince and Biggie, might give this year’s team a clearer chain of command.
Like I said for years, it’s a problem when your team’s undisputed leader (Ray Davis) isn’t one of the five most talented players on the roster. Ray’s leadership and defensive prowess couldn’t surpass the fact that he was a clear offensive liability in key late-game situations, and with a crunch-time lineup of PJ-(Carsen or Mathias)-Vince(nt)-Biggie-Haas those issues should be gone.
The key question: Can Matt Painter, one of the best defensive coaches in the country (for all his flaws on the other side of the ball), conjure up a passable defense with this roster full of sub-par defenders? Davis and Hammons, the best defensive 1-2 punch in the country, are both gone. While we’re all certain Vince(nt) and Haas will step up, the onus really falls on the unproven Jacquil Taylor and Basil Smotherman. Neither has shown the ability to be consistent sources of production, but both are swimming in potential. Whether it will translate to an increased role is the question of the year.
In my estimation, this is one of the rare seasons that is completely dependent on March or some kind of meaningful hardware. A Big Ten championship (not just top 3), or a BTT victory, would do the trick. But a deep run (16 or better) in March is a necessity for Painter and Purdue basketball in 2017.
I’ve resisted proclamations like this for as long as possible, but (to J Money’s point) there’s no avoiding it now:
If Ray Davis, AJ Hammons, Vince(nt) Edwards, Caleb Swanigan, and Isaac Haas leave Purdue without a single B10 Championship or NCAA Tournament victory, it’s time for a fundamental change.
Let’s do this.
I dunno, I'm excited for basketball, but I'm always excited for basketball to start. Too bad Purdue doesn't have a football team, else I'd be excited about that too.
I think Aneesh raises a great point about Ray, and with the late-game situations issue. I can remember looking out at the court and seeing Purdue break the huddle with five guys, none of whom could break their man down off the dribble, and their best scorer - Hammons - was dependent on someone being able to successfully get him the ball. And if you really need too, most teams can deny one entry pass (I mean, BYU couldn't, but most team could.)
So without that, what have we got? Well, I think Painter has addressed the two glaring holes on this team in recent memory - a steady hand to guide the team in pressure situations, and a dynamic guard who can score off the dribble. I'll confess to thinking Spike Albrecht was overrated during his Michigan days, but he is an experienced guard, and has played well in tough games in the past. I'd trust him with the ball in his hands facing a press as much - if not more - than any current Boiler on the roster. And Carsen Edwards might be special. I love his shot - the ball just fires out of hands so quickly, he's going to have plenty of opportunities to get his shots this year. And he's so fast with the ball...I think he could bring a fresh element to the team.
And maybe you could talk me into Purdue's spacing being better this year with Haas replacing Hammons in the starting lineup. Haas isn't going to be stepping out for jumpers from the elbow like Hammons did, which will give Swanigan more space to do his thing.
I agree with J and Aneesh, some progress needs to be made this year. A lot of really good players have matriculated through the system these last few years, yet Purdue has little to shot for it. No Sweet Sixteens, no B1G championships, little success in the B1G tournament. Purdue is well balanced, talented, and experienced. Now is the year to make some real progress. If Purdue wins the conference title, or the B1G tournament, I'm happy, period If they fail to do that, I'll be ok if they get to the Sweet Sixteen, but actually happy if they make the Elite Eight. If they make the Final Four, I'll run through my neighborhood naked.
*roots more than ever for Final Four*