It wasn't supposed to be this bad. Purdue returned most of the important pieces from a team that went 8-10 in conference play and seemed to improve as the season progressed. Instead, this season was even worse than the previous one. The Boilermakers finished in last place with only five conference wins.
How was the non-conference season?
Not terrible. Purdue beat some really terrible teams (some just barely), and ended up with three non-con losses. This was a marked improvement from the previous season, when the Boilermakers were barely .500 coming into conference play.
Looking back, while the non-con wasn't a disaster at the level of 2012-13, it was mostly due to playing awful teams. Two of the three teams that beat Purdue (Butler and Washington State) ended their seasons well below .500. A blowout of Boston College in the ACC/B1G challenge was a highlight, but BC finished near the bottom of the ACC standings.
A win at West Virginia might have been the highlight of the non-con season, as WVU went on to play in the NIT. That is how bad this season was; a win over a NIT team qualifies as a highlight of the season.
How the was conference season?
Awful. The Boilers played in 11 games against tournament teams and managed just one win. That win was against Nebraska, who were still bad at that point in the season.
The highlight of the conference season, and of the 2013-14 season of a whole was a beatdown of Indiana in their only meeting this season. It was nice to see, but IU was awful this year as well, so it's not like it was that great of a win.
After the Indiana game, Purdue lost seven games to end the season. The only one that was close was the Michigan game where the Boilers managed to lead pretty much the entire game and lose in OT. That result was a repeat of their game at Northwestern earlier in the season.
What went wrong?
After showing improvement throughout his freshman year, AJ Hammons didn't make a major leap in his sophomore season. He was inconsistent as most college players are; getting into foul trouble was a big problem again this season. He was still a pretty good center, but he wasn't a dominant force. The guards never seemed to do a good job of getting him touches in the post, which should have been one of the their top priorities.
Free throws were again a problem for the Boilermakers. Leading scorer Terone Johnson, while not being as atrocious as in previous seasons, still only shot 58%. Purdue ranked last in FT% in the Big Ten; it's not a huge coincidence that they also finished last in the standings.
The new foul rules seemed to be called inconsistently during the season; when the refs were calling tight games, Purdue had trouble adjusting. This was part of the reason that the Boilers ranked 11th in fouls per game, but certainly not the main reason. The main reason is that the team was bad at defense and the "hope AJ blocks the shot" strategy was not effective at all. Purdue ranked 3rd in blocks per game, but still managed to get a negative block margin. Purdue was blocked 12 times more than any other team in the conference.
Guard play was a concern. Terone Johnson was an effective scorer at times, but his FG and FT % were low. His brother Ronnie was more efficient offensively, but seemed to have a knack for taking a bad shot early in the shot clock. Purdue's guards as a whole didn't do a good job of taking care of the ball; the Boilers ranked 10th in TO %.
Purdue had two fifth-year transfers last season; Sterling Carter and Errick Peck. Carter was a streaky three-point shooter and seemed to play with an intensity that was lacking among most of the team. He missed the last five games of the season with the most Purdue of injuries; a torn ACL. Errick Peck didn't quite have the impact that Boiler fans were hoping for when he transferred here in the off-season.
What does the future have in store for Purdue basketball?
The immediate future does not look bright for the Boilers. Jay Simpson, who had shown improvement backing up Hammons, had to quit playing basketball because of a rare heart condition. Ronnie Johnson announced that he was transferring at the end of the season. He and Coach Matt Painter apparently didn't get along very well. Last season there were three players that transferred; this is an alarming trend.
Johnson's departure means that either Bryson Scott or freshman PJ Thompson will take over the point guard position. AJ Hammons announced that he will return for his junior year, which is nice. Without him, the outlook for next season would be very bleak; with him there is at least some hope of decency.
Purdue will be a very young team next season; there are five incoming freshman, three sophomores and two juniors. Hopefully the young guys can turn things around. I really don't want to root for a team whose ceiling is the NIT year after year.