Big Ten Basketball Preview: Purdue
For just the second time in Matt Painter’s tenure in West Lafayette, the Boilermakers finished under .500. Purdue finished the season 7th in the Big Ten at 16-18 overall and saw its offensive and defensive numbers drop drastically.
Questions will still surface around the program if another disappointing season takes place, but if a young nucleus that gained experience last year can buy into Painter’s system, the Boilermakers should bounce back just fine.
Key Returning Players
Purdue will bring back four players with starting experience. Senior guard Terone Johnson led the Boilermakers in scoring last year averaging 13.5 points per game.
The second most important piece will be sophomore center A.J. Hammons, who will miss the first three games of the season due to numerous violations of team rules. Hammons is projected to be a first round pick in next summer’s NBA Draft and has the potential to be one of the most dominant big men in the Big Ten this year.
Sophomore guard Ronnie Johnson, younger brother of Terone, will take the point guard spot after starting 28 games last year as a freshman. His presence in the lineup most certainly gives the Boilermakers a much more up-tempo offense that Painter has used in the past with quick guards such as Lewis Jackson.
Sophomore guard Rapheal Davis started in 17 games last year and will be the main cog to help fill the void left by outside sharpshooter, D.J. Byrd. Senior forward Travis Carroll and redshirt freshman forward Jay Simpson will be the main returning players that will see time off the bench this year.
As just mentioned, D.J. Byrd was the main outside option for Purdue last year. That isn’t saying a lot considering the Boilermakers were 257th in the country and shot only 32% from beyond the arc last season.
Purdue was hit heavily by transfers as forwards Donnie Hale (Bellarmine), Jacob Lawson (Appalachian State), Sandi Marcius (DePaul) and guard Anthony Johnson (Northern Illinois) all left the program. All of the players listed played significant minutes last year for Purdue. The positive with all the transfers is that Painter will have four to six scholarships to help fill the voids in the 2014 recruiting class.
Purdue’s offense was very limited last year due to the poor outside shooting. It ranked sixth in the Big Ten in field goal percentage, 65% from the free throw line and 32% in three-point field goal percentage all add up to the 66 points per game averaged last year.
With Hammons, Simpson and Carroll back, Purdue will have no problem being strong on the glass where they were first in the Big Ten in rebounds per game. The shift to four guards in the starting lineup this year will hopefully raise the last ranked team in the conference in steals per game at just under five per game.
The non-conference schedule shapes up nicely for a team without a lot of major college basketball experience. Purdue only leaves the state of Indiana twice in non-conference play, once for the Old Spice Classic in Orlando and again when it travels to Morgantown to take on West Virginia.
The biggest test will be when Purdue opens up the Old Spice Classic against No. 8 Oklahoma State. Purdue could potentially see in-state rival Butler twice in the non-conference if both teams lose their first round game in the Old Spice Classic. The two will then square off in Indianapolis in the Crossroads Classic.
The West Virginia matchup on December 22nd will be the one for Purdue fans to keep an eye on. It’s the last game before starting Big Ten play and it will be against a West Virginia team that is also coming off a disappointing season. A road win could be what this young team will need going into Big Ten play, considering they open up with Ohio State at home.
Purdue’s conference slate will be as tough as any other in the Big Ten. The Boilermakers will only see Indiana and Michigan State at home and only have road games at Illinois and Iowa.
A January 21st road trip to Northwestern will be where it could all start coming off the tracks for Purdue. Between that and a February 20th home game Michigan State, Purdue will see Wisconsin, Minnesota and Indiana at home and have to travel to Michigan, Penn State and Ohio State.
During that eight game stretch, I can’t envision the Boilermakers doing better than 2-6 or 3-5. Outside that eight game stretch, I see Purdue finishing 5-5 getting at least one upset win along the way, but ultimately finishing 7-11. That will put Purdue around ninth in the Big Ten.
Coach's Hot Seat
We forget sometimes Matt Painter had to take over for one of the pioneers in college basketball coaching in Gene Keady. You wouldn’t think a guy who is signed on through the 2018-2019 season to be on the hot seat, but lets be honest; ever since the rumors of Painter leaving for Missouri arose in 2011, the results for Purdue have declined.
I’ll give Painter the hometown discount and say he’s only at a 3 on the hot seat at his alma mater. It will be interesting to see how the A.J. Hammons situation will be dealt with throughout the season with so many apparent issues coming about in the off-season.
There’s no way Painter gets fired if the season gets away from him, but if Purdue finishes worse than last year’s 16-18 mark, the hot seat will go up to a seven or an eight for sure.
The Purdue team that we’re used to seeing is tough, defensively minded one that always seems to have multiple difference makers on offense causing havoc. Even though they will always be the second best Division I program in its own state, Purdue always used to be a tough out when going into a packed Mackey Arena.
This team isn’t back yet to the typical Purdue teams we’re all used to seeing and it will show as the season progresses with many newcomers being added to the roster.
Two graduate seniors that will help bridge the gap between the returning players and the slew of underclassmen will be Cornell transfer Errick Peck and Seattle transfer Sterling Carter. Peck averaged just under ten points per game last season and will be a vital tall guard to implement in Painter’s offense. Carter averaged double digit points his first two years at Seattle and will be the primary backup behind Ronnie Johnson at the point guard spot. Like I stated before, Purdue will finish ninth in the Big Ten and finish with a record of 15-16, 7-11 in Big Ten play.
Ryan Stevens is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
About the Contributors
Senior / Broadcast Journalism
Ryan is a senior from Bloomington, Illinois majoring in broadcast journalism with a minor in english. He has been involved with numerous radio shows, play-by-plays, beat writes and producing various Penn State athletics events since his first days of being on campus in the fall of 2012 with ComRadio. Since the fall of 2013, Ryan has been involved with State College’s ESPN Radio 1450 as an assistant producer intern and high school football reporter.
During the summer of 2014, Ryan co-hosted Sports Central with Cory Giger streaming over Altoona, Pa. and State College Pa. markets. Ryan also assisted USA Basketball media coverage in New York for World Cup of Basketball exhibition games.
Ryan was the marketing & communications intern for USA Track & Field at the national office in Indianapolis, Indiana. He was the media contact for the 2015 USATF Hershey Youth Outdoor Championships as well as the 2015 National Junior Olympics.