Purdue Hopes a Strong Regular Season Will Lead to a Deep Run in March
Purdue heads into the 2016-17 season with an abundance of optimism, so let’s take a look at the Purdue Basketball Preview:
On paper, they should be able to improve on their 2015-16 season which saw them win 26 games and finish third in the conference. It was also a season that saw the Boilers get beat in the first round of the NCAA tournament for the second year in a row. This is a very important season for Coach Matt Painter and the program especially when it comes to recruiting. Purdue needs to prove to recruits that they can follow-up good seasons with deep tournament runs. On paper, this team appears to have what it needs to be good in March.
Let’s break down the 2016-17 Purdue Boilermakers:
Purdue boasts one of the best frontcourts in college basketball. Isaac Haas has been named to the Kareem-Abdul Jabbar watch list (best center), Caleb Swanigan has been named to the Karl Malone watch list (best power forward) and the Naismith Trophy Award watch list (best college basketball player), and Vincent Edwards has been named to the Julius Erving watch list (best small forward). The trio was also ranked in the top three of best frontcourts in college basketball by ESPN. They’ll have to play like it if Purdue hopes to achieve the goals they have set for themselves. Haas will have added pressure to him as he now takes over for A. J. Hammons. It’ll be important for Haas to stay out of foul trouble and to be well conditioned to take on the extra playing time.
Purdue’s depth has been hurt by the recent news that forward Jacquil Taylor could be out until February after undergoing surgery for a stress fracture in his ankle. Basil Smotherman (suspended for the first game versus McNeese St.) is back after redshirting last year due to injury. He adds versatility as he can play both small and power forward. With the injury to Taylor, staying out of foul trouble will be really important.
If Purdue wants to challenge for a Big Ten title, the backcourt is going to have to step up this year. P.J. Thompson will be the likely starter at point guard. He was at the top of college basketball in assists to turnover ratio and shot 41.5% from the three-point line. Michigan graduate transfer, Spike Albrecht, will also help at point guard. As long as Spike can stay healthy (double hip surgery), he will add much-needed experience to Purdue. Spike has been to the National Championship where he scored 17 points vs Louisville. The next year his Michigan team went to the Elite Eight. That experience along with his three-point shooting will be a great asset for the Boilers.
Dakota Mathias will likely take Raphael Davis’s spot in the starting lineup at shooting guard. Mathias and Ryan Cline should see a lot of minutes at the two guard. Because of Ryan Cline’s four-game suspension, freshman Carsen Edwards will see a lot of minutes early on this season. Edwards is a quick guard who can score in a few different ways. He projects as a point guard in the future, but will start his career off the ball. Purdue made 268 three pointers last year which was second in school history. With the attention the big men should see this year, that number should rise.
Purdue had two major flaws last year: not being able to handle getting pressed and the inability to finish games. Painter tried to address the press problem by adding a closed scrimmage with West Virginia. The addition of Spike and Carsen Edwards will hopefully help with solving that issue.
I have a feeling defense will be a work in progress throughout the year. With A.J. Hammons, guards were able to be more aggressive out on the perimeter because they knew they had help protecting the basket. Haas may be bigger than Hammons, but he doesn’t move nearly as well. The guards will have to do a better job out on the perimeter, keep their man in front of them and fight through screens. The loss of Davis and Hammons will take some adjustment time.
Purdue plays a relatively tough non-conference schedule. Purdue plays Villanova at home, Utah State and Texas Tech/Auburn in Cancun, at Loiusville in the ACC/Big Ten challenge, Arizona State in Madison Square Garden, and Notre Dame in Indianapolis. That type of schedule could really help Purdue’s resume come selection Sunday. The Big Ten will once again be one of the top conferences in college basketball. The Boilers play Indiana and Michigan State twice and Wisconsin at home. After a long and painful football season, I think we can all agree we are ready for Purdue basketball.