Quick, name a player on the Purdue roster.... still waiting... O.k., give up yet? Ya, that's exactly the problem facing Matt Painter and Co. in the post Robbie Hummel era. This team is decidedly young, could be immensely talented, but VERY young and in a conference as deep as the Big Ten is this season that could spell trouble for the Boilermakers.
This team returns only two players who started more than 10 games in forward Travis Carroll and guard Terone Johnson and they lose the heart and sole of last years NCAA tournament team in Robbie Hummel along with veteran point guard Lewis Jackson.
What that means for this Purdue team is they must find their own identity and they also must grow up fast in the backcourt. If this team wants to make the upper half of the Big Ten they will need to do some serious growing up in the non-conference slate, something that won't be the easiest of tasks with the schedule Painter has put together.
However, the hope for Painter is that the growing pains come in that non-conference slate and this team is ready to take on the toughest conference in the country. A lot of what happens this season will depend on the six man recruiting class coming in to West Lafayette and it's a hope that the Boilers trip to Italy this summer will help gain them experience early on.
It's hard to deal in unknowns sometimes, but hey, that's why we get paid the small bucks, right? So, can this team grow up fast or are Boilermakers fans in for a long season ahead?
Let's not forget we are talking about a team with a 3 time Big Ten coach of the year in Matt Painter, so perhaps miracles can be worked in one season?
2011-12 Record: 22-13 (10-8)
Postseason: NCAA round of 32
Head Coach: Matt Painter - 8th season at Purdue (160-77), 9th season overall (185-82)
Returning Starters (games started): 2
F Travis Carroll (20), G Terone Johnson (12)
G - Raphael Davis: 6-5, 211lbs., (Freshman, Ft. Wayne, IN/La Mumiere School)
F - Donnie Hale: 6-8, 221lbs. (Freshman, New Albany, IN/Redshirt 2011-12)
C - A.J. Hammond: 7-0, 280lbs. (Freshman, Carmel, IN/Oak Hill Academy)
G - Ronnie Johnson: 6-0, 160lbs.. (Freshman, Indianapolis, IN/North Central)
F - Jay Simpson: 6-9, 268lbs. (Freshman, Champaign, IL/La Lumiere School)
G - Stephen Toyra: 6-3, 165lbs. (Freshman, Lafayette, IN/Faith Christian)
Team Stats (Big Ten ranking): 71.8ppg (6th), +5.8 scoring margin (6th), -1.0 rebounding margin (10th), 37.7%3pt (3rd)
To see full roster, click here.
Projected Starting Lineup:
G - Ronnie Johnson (Fr.)
G - Terone Johnson (Jr.)
G/F - D.J. Byrd (Sr.)
F -Donnie Hale (Fr.)
F - Sandi Marcus (Jr.)
Welcome the great unknown for the Boilermakers in 2012-13. There simply isn't experience of significance up front. The biggest positive is this team has a lot of bodies at 6'8" or taller, in fact six of them to be exact. That should help at least find some viable options to cure what ailed them a season ago - a lack of rebounding ability up front.
Only junior Travis Carroll has started significant games up front last season, but he only averaged 2.6ppg and 2.9rpg a season ago and with one of the best recruiting classes in the conference coming on board those numbers have to increase for him to really see much in the way of playing time this season.
Speaking of that recruiting class names like A.J. Hammond and Donnie Hale are ones to keep an eye on. Hammond is a 7 footer that could be a shot blocking machine and a huge space eater for the Boilermakers. Look for him to play a bigger role if this team struggles on the boards like they did a season ago.
Hale redshirted last season and through the exhibition season so far he's been a starter and a good one for this team. It was really his performance on the teams trip to Italy that really helped solidify his starting spot, averaging 11.8ppg and 7.5rpg on the trip while also shooting 57.1%.
The guy that most intrigues me amongst this group is swingman D.J. Byrd. He made 6 starts last season and played the 2nd most minutes of any returning player on the roster. He also averaged 8.9ppg in those 19.5 minutes per game last season and could be a key scorer for this team. He is also the best outside shooting presence on the team, shooting 43% from deep, so clearly his performance will be key to this teams success.
If Purdue is having issues on the boards expect Hammond in, but also look for sophomore Jacob Lawson to be on the court more often than not. He's probably the most athletic big man on the roster and can be a spark defensively if this team needs it.
It's the Johnson & Johnson show in West Lafayette, IN this season as team leader Terone Johnson will team up in the backcourt with his younger brother Ronnie Johnson to form what Painter and pundits alike see as a potentially dynamic combo in the backcourt.
Terone Johnson is the leading returning scorer, averaging 9.2ppg last season while making 12 starts and playing 23.7 minutes a game (also leader in that stat amongst returning players). Expect those numbers to go up dramatically , especially if he can increase his 31%3pt shooting from a season ago.
Luckily for him he'll have his familiar strike partner to play with in his brother Ronnie who is an assist machine on the court. He's also one of the better creators with the ball in his hand and very well may actually be the best at that with just a bit of proving to do on that front at the collegiate level.
Outside of those two expect freshman Raphael Davis out of Ft. Wayne, IN and sophomore Anthony Johnson to be the guys off the bench most often in the backcourt. Davis could be a nice shooting presence at 6'5" and could also be a nice option off the bench to play a bit in the lane if things aren't working well on the perimeter from time to time. Johnson on the other hand is a pure two guard, but he needs to up the anti from deep where he only shot 28% last season.
Strength of Schedule: 6
Purdue could have an advantage having gone to Italy to play games this summer, but Painter will also challenge with his out of conference schedule, however if there is any easier schedule inside the Big Ten I'd like to know where it is. They never have a stretch of more than two games that aren't winnable come conference play and so that makes this a much more favorable schedule for a rebuilding squad.
Swing Games (non-conf.): vs. Villanova, @ Notre Dame, vs. West Virginia
This team is challenging itself with a few tough games against mid-level teams of the Big East and Big 12 in these three games. The Villanova game is a good early test and if they can pass that and a tricky out of conference game in the middle of conference play versus the Mountaineers this team could well be an above .500 squad, but it'll take that scenario in my book for them to do that.
Swing Games (conf.): vs. Illinois, vs. Iowa, @ Illinois
Painter feels he's got the talent to be competitive, well if they want to prove it winning the series against Illinois and taking the home game against the Hawkeyes would surely prove that point. No matter what happens looking at the results of these three conference games could well tell you all you need to know about where they finish.
Record: 15-16 (5-13)
Big Ten Finish: 10th
I am inclined to believe head coach Matt Painter when he says this team is talented, because the recruiting rankings say so, but I'm also a man of the eye test and in a season where there are 8 teams that are really, ridiculously good it's hard to trust in such a young roster with many unknowns behind it. This could be the biggest miss or I could be right on, that's how little we know about this team.
Beer Pairing: Sunlight Cream Ale by Sun King Brewing Co.
Hey, this beer is from the best Indiana based brewery I've ever heard of and like the Boilers this beer is easy on the eyes and easy to go down. A perfect combo for sipping and watching Matt Painters crew go to work at Mackey Arena and around the Big Ten. Now, the tricky part is getting this beverage or following this team outside of Indiana right now. Let's face facts, Purdue basketball isn't exactly the most sexy of names in to the casual fan of the game at this point.
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