If you watched Purdue's basketball team this past season, you know at times it was tough to watch. It's been well-publicized that this team was hobbled coming into the season and didn't get healthy until February, and it showed. Two of the three captains couldn't practice at all for months at a time and two more of the top-5 scorers slogged through injuries that kept them from playing the game they way they did down the stretch. On top of that, a guy that was as divisive as talented had to be given the boot for the team to have cohesiveness.
These aren't excuses, in fact, they're testaments to Painter's ability...because in spite of all of this...in spite of Purdue having no post presence for much of the season, in a conference that has serious beef under the basket, Purdue still made the tournament and still won 20+ games.
Because of this...because of what we've seen Painter do during his time at Purdue, I'm bewildered by the media's view on his team for the coming season.
Here at BS, we like BTN's Brent Yarina. He researches his subject matter and generally knows what he's talking about. But he got his premature conference prediction wrong...and Purdue isn't the only reason why. The moving parts around our Boilers are flawed, yet, by his own admission via Twitter, he believes all seven teams above Purdue in his predicto got better while Purdue didn't.
Let's look a bit at his reasons why he likes everyone
in the conference except Purdue, shall we?
2012-13 PROJECTED STANDINGS
1. Indiana – The entire starting 5 is back, plus IU welcomes one of the nation’s top recruiting classes.
I really have no beef with this one. While I don't respect Crean as a game coach, his ability to get talent to IU has been astoundingly-effective. As Thad Matta will tell you, talent doesn't need much coaching.
2. Michigan – Trey Burke’s return makes Michigan a national contender — leadership is lone issue.
Michigan loses three starters...glue guys, if you will. Novak started for three years, was a clutch shooter, an intense defender, a coach on the floor, and was all B1G Honorable Mention (and looked like Christian Laettner). Douglass never missed a game at UM, was a great shooter and Smotrycz started the majority of the games and created tough a tough match-up with his ability to play low and high. Leadership will be an issue as Yarina said...but so will consistency.
3. Ohio State – Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft could become one of the Big Ten’s elite duos.
I agree with Thomas and Craft being a great tandem...but losing a guy who was one of the nation's best for one season and one of the conference's best in his Soph season might change a team a bit. On top of that, aOSU's offense relied heavily on Sully's ability to clear space and their offense ran through him. Most-interestingly, unlike most of Yarina's favorites, the Buckeyes have an incoming class of ZERO
(at this point.
4. Minnesota – Trevor Mbakwe joins a talented and underrated roster that clicked down the stretch.
Mbakwe is a guy who is as talented as any power forward in the nation...reminds me a lot of Kansas' Robinson, but with baggage off the court. So when a guy like that blows out his knee, I think it might be fair to think his explosiveness could be effected; Our pal at BTN doesn't think it matters. He also thinks that a team that lost 7 of its last 10 B1G contests clicked down the stretch. Oh wait, they did...but when playing teams like LaSalle, MTSU and teams from the awful Pac12.
5. Wisconsin – The Badgers know how to replace star players, and history says they’ll do it again.
I think Wisconsin will actually be better than this. Losing Taylor is tough, but it's the big honkies that have made Bo his dough...and UW will have plenty whitebreads cut from the Brian Butch mold next season.
6. Michigan State – How will MSU replace Draymond Green and will Branden Dawson be ready to go?
This is another team that I think will be better than Yarina thinks. Harris, Costello and Valentine will be immediate-impact guys...but Harris specifically will only make Nix better as Appling and Payne force themselves onto opposing defenses.
7. Iowa – Aaron White and Devyn Marble headline one of the Big Ten’s most exciting teams.
As we say last year with this team, excitement doesn't translate to wins...but I guess it will translate to more wins than Purdue, ammIright?
I think losing a four-year starter in Gatens is a pretty large deal to this team...but they'll be very dangerous.
8. Purdue – Without a proven big man or facilitator, the incoming recruits arrive with plenty of pressure.
I think his insinuation that Purdue's loss of Jackson will be important. Sure it will, but the pair of Johnsons both played point last season...and if other teams get credit for their incoming classes, why doesn't Purdue? Three four star-rated players, three guys over 6'9" (one a 21 year old Frosh, another a 7 footer) and a point guard who has played against the most-talented state, in the hotbed of Indianapolis and shined.
I don't mind Purdue not being picked as a conference favorite. BUT, to put a Matt Painter-coached, defense-first team in the lower third of the conference is worse than a slap in the face, it's foolish. Painter has won as an underdog before, and he'll do it again this season.
Yarina's post wasn't the first disrespectful shot across Painter and his squad's bow in the very-early pre-season...but it was the one from one of the guys that I consider a pretty-knowledgable writer from the network that focuses on the conference. It warranted a response, not because it's wrong, but because of the source.
Yarina's right- the conference is getting better. But why stop at eighth? Illinois has a hot name as coach and one of the best players in the league returning, Northwestern has two great players returning and a coach that runs a goofy offense that's tough to defend, and PSU has one of the best players in the conference back with a coach that shows his team's play will match his intensity. Let's just make Purdue's fall from greatness noteworthy and colossal and place the Boilers at 11th in the league, what do you say? There's no doubt the league is good, but an eighth place prediction nearly says Purdue doesn't belong.
Clowns like Goodman, Katz and others barely recognize that Purdue has a basketball team now that Hummel is no longer with the program. But before Hummel was on campus, Painter devised a plan that allowed Purdue, with only two real scoring threats, no real point guard and a ton of lunchpail defense to win 22 games. Before JJ was JJ, Purdue won 25 games while being led by Freshman and Sophomores...and last year, even with much of the starting line-up held out of practice and without anyone underneath who was formidable, Painter squeezed 22 wins out of a team. The defense will be back to what we've become accustomed to in '12/'13...and Purdue will surprise Yarina, and others.
In '12-'13, Purdue, Painter and company will relish the underdog role...again.