So this series was supposed to be completed before Big Ten play resumed with Nebraska-Iowa, but I got sick, didn’t feel like writing for a few days, and then lacked self motivation to restart. But that doesn’t mean I’ve given up on the midseason Big Ten basketball check-ins. Just cause Northwestern is trying to show that its pointless for me to talk about their season doesn’t mean I won’t.
Today we talk about everyone’s favorite: the Purdue Boilermakers! The Boilermakers find themselves as the #1 team in the AP poll for the fourth week in a row and one of just two teams in the country that remain undefeated.
13-0 (2-0 in B1G play) - Torvik rankings as of Monday morning (Purdue is #8)
Wins: 13 Marquette (H), 14 West Virginia (N), 16 Duke (N), 19 Gonzaga (N), 81 Nebraska (A), 141 Hofstra (H), 175 Davidson (semi-home), 182 Florida State (A), 214 Minnesota (H), 232 Milwaukee (H), 264 Austin Peay (H), 348 New Orleans (H), 361 Florida A&M (H)
Purdue’s claim to fame this season is being undefeated and having four really good wins. Three of those came during the PK85 against West Virginia, Gonzaga, and Duke - the latter two by 18+ points. It was an impressive tournament that catapulted Purdue into the national conversation. A Gavitt Games home win against Marquette will look nice as well, and the road win over Nebraska may end up worth more than expected as they flirt with Q1 status.
Unfortunately, the Davidson and Florida State wins won’t end up as what they were hoped to be when scheduled as neither team has had good starts to the season. Purdue also scheduled four buy games. That’s one more than I would have been happy with, but this was supposed to be a rebuilding year.
Things I’ve Liked
Zach Edey put in a lot of work this offseason and developed into a very good rim protector in addition to improving his offensive game. No longer sharing minutes with Trevion Williams, Edey is now averaging 21.9 points, 13.6 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks a game while leading the team in minutes at 31/game. He’s staying on the floor by not fouling, discouraging opposing offenses from taking shots near the rim, and demanding double teams.
The team defense has improved by leaps and bounds from last season. Zach Edey’s drop coverage has been very good, but you also have Ethan Morton, Brandon Newman, Mason Gillis, and Caleb Furst playing at a very high level on that end of the floor. As a team, the Boilers have forced teams to shoot a lot of midrange jumpers, avoiding giving up many clean looks at the rim or behind the perimeter, and done so without fouling.
I figured the freshman guards would be good at some point in their career, but I didn’t know they would be this good so quickly. Fletcher Loyer is second on the team in scoring despite coming into the season as a shooter and not hitting his three point shots at a high clip. Braden Smith looks like Painter’s best true point guard since LewJack was running the show in West Lafayette.
Things I Haven’t Liked
It’s difficult to find things to be unhappy about for an undefeated team, but the three point shooting has been a problem so far in this season. The Boilers are shooting just 30.5% from behind the arc. I’m not really sure why: Mason Gillis, Ethan Morton, and Caleb Furst were all over 40% last year. I can understand Fletcher Loyer getting off to a slow start as a freshman - that’s not unusual for freshman shooters - but a lot of the teams shooting woes seem to be mental. They are getting good open looks, but not hitting them. That percentage is going to have to get to ~34% for Purdue to end up happy at the end of the season.
Fans saying Jaden Ivey was a problem. Jaden Ivey was not the main culprit for Purdue’s defensive woes last year. There were several players that were physically limited on defense and plenty of guys not named Ivey getting lost at times. Even if you weren’t happy with Ivey’s defense last year, that’s on Painter. I have no idea why a portion of the fanbase thinks its a wise thing to cast all the blame for last season’s lack of accomplishments on a player that represented Purdue well and still represents Purdue well in the NBA. Stop it.
Lack of a guard that can go get a bucket at any time. Purdue runs a post centric offense. Which is wise when you have Zach Edey on the roster. But who is the guy that gets the last second shot attempt when trailing by 1 possession or tied? Fletcher Loyer may develop into that role eventually, but that’s a lot to ask of a freshman and I don’t think Brandon Newman’s ball handling is quite good enough to be that guy.
Mason Gillis and David Jenkins both missed some time with minor injuries but appear fully healthy at this point in the season. Gillis had a back issue sustained in the weight room and Jenkins took an elbow from Gillis to the eye in practice.
The flu appeared to be sweeping thru the roster over the holidays resulting in Zach Edey missing a game. That’s the only thing that has stopped him from being the Kenpom MVP of the game in every single game for Purdue this year.
Schedule and What’s Left
A lot of the meat on Purdue’s resume came from the PK85. Part of that is because Florida State and Davidson are having very disappointing seasons, but an extra buy game was put in the schedule as Matt Painter was breaking into two freshman as starters this season.
It’s the second straight year Purdue has gone undefeated in the non-conference, but that doesn’t guarantee success in the Big Ten or a deep run in the NCAA tournament. It would be nice to get a B1G banner to hang at the very least after falling short on those last year.
As we look at Purdue’s B1G opponents, double plays exist against Ohio State, Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Michigan State, and Penn State, and Maryland. It’s not the most difficult B1G schedule out of the conference contenders, but there will be some losses in there. In fact, odds say the first one will come this week as Purdue hosts recent terror Rutgers and takes road trips to the house of horrors that is Columbus as well as the Palestra where Penn State has never lost. The back half of the B1G schedule is more threatening than the front half so if Purdue wants to win the B1G, they should probably hold a lead in the standings at the halfway point.
BoilerUp89’s Final Thoughts
I honestly don’t think Purdue is the best team in the country. I have them somewhere in the back half of the top 10. The advanced metrics agree with me. That being said, they do currently have the best resume out of any team out there and the non-conference resume mean Purdue is probably playing for seed, not whether they make the NCAA tournament or not.
I’ve been very happy with the defensive improvements, ability to get and make lots of foul shots, Zach Edey’s dominant offensive performances, great rebounding, low turnovers, and perhaps most importantly the team’s composure in close games.
But this isn’t a perfect team. There are some concerns that could bite their head and derail this train. The three point shooting has to improve if Purdue wants to make a deep run in the tournament. Teams have figured out they should double team Edey and the Boilers will need to find ways to manufacture offense on off shooting nights. Right now that’s been offensive rebounding getting to the free throw line. The defense is going to have to continue to get better, make sure they stay locked in on shooters, and adapt as more teams find a way to pull Edey out to the perimeter and away from the rim.
Overall though, its been a very promising start to what was supposed to be a rebuilding year and Purdue has the opportunity to make some serious noise in both the Big Ten and NCAA tournament.
Other Expert Opinions
MaximumSam: Zach Edey has been the best player in college basketball, and Purdue has been the best team in the Big Ten. That said, I’m not sure Zach Edey is the best player in basketball. and the cast surrounding him is iffy enough to give other teams hope that Purdue won’t romp through the conference.
MNW paraphrased: They are tall
Kind of...: Is this an Elite Eight heartbreak year? Or an first weekend dicktrip year? Tonight we talk Purdue hoops!
misdreavus79: Dearest Purdue,
Everyone who has played Penn State at the Palestra has been gracious enough to lose the game. Please abide.
Very Truly Yours,
A concerned Penn State fan.
This poll is closed
win the B1G outright
share the B1G title (tell us who in the comments)
struggle to earn the double-bye in the B1G tournament
Purdue flames out
This poll is closed
against a 16 seed
In the 2nd round
Did you miss this series?
This poll is closed
Yes, but do my team next