If you've got the kind of job where New Year's Eve is just another day, or worse, it's a busier day for you, then I wish you well and hope that people don't mess with you too much. If, however, you're like me and counting down the hours until you get another three-day weekend (yes, I start counting on the 30th), you probably could use something to read, and we can only write so much about Purdue basketball ... ACTUALLY THAT'S NOT TRUE. My New Year's resolutions include posting more so that J stops nagging me about it* and becoming one of those people on the DraftKings commercials that explains how he turned $5 bets into millions or something like that.** So, courtesy of the dead time between now and January 1, I bring to you Irrational Optimism. *he's actually quite nice about it, wondering if perhaps I'm waiting for my AARP discount to kick in first*** **small-time bets and payouts are just fine with me, thanks; let's just say that when I entered one of the NBA Year End specials today, it wasn't the one with the $365 entry fee ***he didn't make that joke either, but someone obvs should have
You probably don't have a kenpom subscription yet, but you should because it's got a lot of good stuff behind the paywall. What isn't behind the paywall is his team ratings, so let's look at those, shall we?
- As I write this, with 4 games complete today, Purdue's a comfortable 4th at .9426. Michigan State is the only other Big 14 team in the top 10, at 8th. The top 12 teams are P6 teams; SMU is the first outsider at 13th. (The Big East has enough quality teams in it that I think it's safe to include them. If you want a good laugh, check out this Wikipedia article on the Power Seven: the obvious six plus ... the A-10? But not the AAC, which is "top-heavy". Right. I can't figure out which A-10 fan made this page.)
- The distance between Purdue and #1 Kansas is less than the distance between Purdue and #5 Louisville, and is the same as the distance between Louisville and #6 Villanova.
- Purdue's adjusted defense is still #1 easily: at 86.6, they're a full three points better than #2 West Virginia. The next-best Big 14 school is MSU, 13th at 92.8. That defense is spread across everything except turnovers: first in eFG% (38.4), 22nd in OReb% (24.4), 15th in FTA/FGA (25.3), 9th in 3PT% (27.7), 2nd in 2PT% (37.0), 37th in Block% (13.4), 29th in 3PA/FGA (29.9). Basically, that's what you see when you watch - they don't have to pressure ballhandlers or actively block passing lanes, because with the interior D the Big Three provide, plus perimeter defenders that contest outside shots, there simply aren't going to be many open looks anyway.
- Offense is good enough so far, 37th at 110.4. The inside game has boosted Purdue's 2PT% to 32nd, 54.5%, and FT% is at its highest since 2003, 24th at 74.9%.
- If there is cause for concern, again, it's what we've all seen: Purdue's 11th in A/FGM, 66.2, which is still third in conference play behind MSU (74.6) and Northwestern (68.1). The offense is heavily dependent on inside-out ball movement to create shots, but when they do that, they get good shots. Biggie and Kendall Stephens are the only Boilers with enough possessions to be nationally ranked and not also be ranked in the top 500 (I think).
- Hammonster's resurgence has boosted him to 10th in the kenpom POY standings ($); with Haas still at #5, that gives Purdue two top-10 players. Virginia is the only other school with two in the top 10.
- The Boilers are currently predicted to win the Big 14 outright ($) by a game over Michigan State, with Iowa, Indiana and Maryland tied for third. This is a combination of Purdue's reasonable conference schedule and the other contenders' unwillingness to play like contenders, although you could argue that MSU got a raw deal by having its only conference game so far at Iowa.
- The Hawkeyes are the only L on the Good Guys' schedule ($), and that's a 51-49 split; even the game at Maryland is 50-50 but slightly favors Purdue. Notably, the only other game with a win percentage under 60 is the game in Bloomington, and of course kenpom doesn't have a Crean Factor, otherwise I suspect that'd be above 60 as well. Also, the game at Michigan is the only other game with a win percentage less than 70, and that's sitting at 61. Yes, Purdue will probably drop a game or two they shouldn't, but even losing all three above plus another game, that'd still match kenpom's 14-4 prediction. If the Boilers play to their potential, well ...
Yes, these numbers aren't prescriptive - Purdue isn't guaranteed a 30-win season. Yes, the Boilers are missing a consistent three-point threat. Even last season, the best they had was Stephens at 38.4%, which isn't exactly going to get defenders running at you: there are 43 players currently taking 2 or more threes per game and hitting at least 50% from behind the arc, and you have to scroll all the way down to 84th to find the first Boiler, Rapheal Davis (at 46.4%). Purdue's 35.5% as a team is ninth in the conference.
But the conference isn't chock-full of solid defenses, either. MSU's 13th, OSU and Iowa are 28 and 29, and Maryland's 39th. Beyond that, when you get to the ghost of Wisconsin, suddenly those teams don't seem that imposing. Yeah, Purdue only ended up with 0.97 PPP in Madison ... but that was a full tenth of a point better than the Badgers managed, and that kind of difference leads to 6- or 7-point wins at the tempo that Purdue normally plays at. This is not a team that needs to score 80 points a game to win.
Just for today, and maybe tomorrow, put all those pessimistic thoughts aside, and join me and Aneesh as we think about what is possible. 26-5, wins over Northwestern, Indiana and Michigan State to get to 29-5, and then? Well, at that point, a national championship would require the Boilers to get to 35 wins.
The uniform number of the team captain ... is 35. COINCIDENCE?