The Purdue Boilermakers basketball team heads into the Big Ten season with a 10-3 non-conference record. The Boilermakers have had an up and down season so far, and have done little to inspire fans.
Purdue is looking at a rough start to the conference schedule. They host No. 3 Ohio State before heading to Minnesota.
Last week, the Boilermakers notched one of the best wins of the season with a three-point victory at West Virginia. The Mountaineers might not be the best of teams, but its still a better win than any of Purdue’s other victories. It was also important for this young team to get a W on the road in a hostile environment.
Over the season, we’ve seen the Boilermakers struggle with consistency. They have a tendency to under perform, let opponents hang around, and get lazy on both sides of the ball. They’ve faced a lot of inferior opponents and the score has ended up being too close for comfort.
Here’s what has stood out during non-conference play:
- Bryson Scott needs more minutes. The freshman has become a go-to scorer for Purdue this season. He’s third on the team in scoring (9.7 points) but seventh in minutes per game. He has also established himself as a solid defender with a steal per game to go with his deflections. He’s a bit raw, and backing up Ronnie Johnson is going to naturally limit his playing time. He has some work to do with his jumper, but is shooting 42-percent from the field. He’s also adept at getting to the free throw line with 60 attempts, second on the team.
- Will AJ Hammons Start? Hammons has a ton of potential, but so far Matt Painter hasn’t gotten him to live up to it. He is still easily frustrated, gets into foul trouble, and turnovers the ball over on nearly 28-percent of his touches. At the same time, he is a block machine (3.8 per game) and is an exceptional rebounder. If he can contribute consistently, it makes Purdue a dangerous team.
- Free Throws. If Painter doesn’t have this team shooting free throws after every practice, he’s coaching wrong. Purdue is hitting just 65-percent of its attempts from the charity stripe this season. That is an appalling number. The highest individual performance come from Scott whose hit 73-percent of his attempts. Its going to cost them multiple games in conference play if that percentage doesn’t improve.
- Rotation. Much like the Hoosiers, Painter needs to figure out his rotation. There are currently 10 players on the roster who are averaging more than 13-minutes per game. Cohesion is important with any team, and this Boilermaker unit could be all that more effective if the minutes were relegated to seven or eight players. The fact that they’re only turning the ball over 12 times per game is very impressive.
Dec. 31st – No. 3 Ohio State at Purdue, 1:00pm
The Buckeyes come to West Lafayette with a perfect 13-0 record. They currently have the best defense in the country and are a very deep, experienced team. They have held opponents to an average of 56 points per game.
The problem is that OSU’s offense has been inconsistent at times, lacking a go-to scorer. The offense wasn’t an issue just 10 days ago when the Buckeyes rallied down eight against Notre Dame in the final minute to win in New York.
The most likely scenario for this game is Purdue offense stagnating due to tight defense from the Buckeyes, leading to turnovers, missed shots, and bad plays. Purdue simply doesn’t have the talent to keep up with the Buckeyes right now. It would take a near perfect effort from the Boilers, and that is something we haven’t seen even against the dregs of the NCAA.
Jan. 5th – Purdue at Minnesota, 2:30pm
The Golden Gophers sit at 11-2, with a game against Michigan before they welcome in Purdue this weekend. If you can believe it, the Pomeroy ratings like Purdue at Minnesota less than home against OSU. This is a much more favorable matchup for the Boilers, but still one they’re unlikely to win.
Richard Pitino has a solid team in his first season at Minnesota. They lost two games at the Maui Invitational, one of which was to Syracuse, and the other against Arkansas (where they gave up 52 second half points). They have been dominating opponents ever since.
Purdue can win this game if they get Minnesota into foul trouble, a real possibility, AND hit its free throws. The problem is going to be keeping up on the scoreboard, as the Gophers have the 23rd ranked offense in the country. There are simply too many “ifs” for this team on the road to come away with a win.
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