I owe a hat-tip to charliespig, who is the reader that has created the annual basketball forecast here at the site. It has been such a good idea I figured I would get into it, especially since we're 16 days from the first regular season game and about a week from the first exhibition game. Instead of responding to his post, I decided to expand on my picks in a post of my own.
What is the starting lineup in the first REGULAR season game?
This is the season opener on November 8 against Northern Kentucky, the newcomer to the Division I level. It is pretty easy to pick three of the starters. Terone Johnson, Ronnie Johnson, and A.J. Hammons will be starting at the two guard spots and the center spot, respectively. The other two spots will probably a smaller lineup since NKU is not a team with much size. I think we see Errick Peck make his Purdue debut as a starter at the four spot and Rapheal Davis starts at the three to allow Purdue to expand the floor.
What is the starting lineup in the first B1G Tourney game?
Call this wishful thinking, but I want to see Jay Simpson emerge as "the most talented player" on the team and live up to that by giving Purdue two near seven-footers in the post. Simpson can play more inside out than Hammons, while Hammons is more of a back to the basket true center. I think their games could compliment each other very well and provide the boilers with a size mismatch we have rarely been able to have. Simpson can draw bigger defenders away from Hammons or create mismatches of his own because of his size.
That's why I would like to have RJ, TJ, AJ, Simpson, and Ray D. as the starters by the end of the season.
How many wins? (Just the regular season, excluding B1G Tourney or any other post season games)
I can break this down in a few ways:
Locks: Northern Kentucky, Central Connecitcut State, Rider, Eastern Illinois, Siena, Eastern Michigan, Maryland Eastern Shore - These are seven games where Purdue is going to be an overwhelming favorite. There is no excuse to lose any of them.
Favored: Any Old Spice game not featuring Oklahoma State or Memphis, Butler, Boston College, Minnesota x2, Nebraska x2, Penn State x2, Northwestern x2. - Theses are 12 more games where I think Purdue will be the favored team at game time, mostly because of talent and how I see the other teams going. The four Big Ten teams on this list are likely the bottom four, but they are teams we have to beat to be in contention for an NCAA berth. Something like 7-1 against them is a very good start towards an NCAA bid. In the non-conference I think 3-1 in those games would be very good.
Toss-ups: West Virginia, Illinois, Wisconsin x2, Iowa, Indiana - Does Purdue have the talent to win these games? Of course! Playing a West Virginia will be tough and the Big Ten teams here are NCAA caliber teams we will likely be measured against when Selection Sunday gets here. The more of these wins we get, the better. I think a 3-3 mark against these eight games is reasonable, getting us to 20 wins.
Underdog games: Oklahoma State, Ohio State x2, Michigan x2, Michigan State - These are easily the six toughest games on the schedule. Getting any of them is a huge resume win against a team that will likely be a top 25 RPI victory. I also think Purdue is good enough to get one of them.
So, I am going with 21 wins, which is likely enough for an NCAA berth.
What place we finish in the B1G?
I think Purdue is somewhere in the crowded middle of the Big Ten and finishes something like 10-8 or 11-7. I don't think a top four finish is quite in the cards, but a finish in the 5-7 range can be enough to reach the NCAA Tournament.
What will be our last game? Be specific such as B1G Tourney First round, Round of 32 in NCAA, NIT Final Four, CBI champ, etc)
The goal should always be to reach the NCAA Tournament and win at leas tone game. As a major program this should be the absolute minimum for any season. Purdue has a history of winning a game there, as we have won 14 straight opening games in the NCAAs. Beyond that, anything else is gravy.
Rank our 4 frosh by productivity (For simplicity, Productivity = TOTAL points + rebounds + assists + steals + blocks - Turnover; and yes, Simpson is considered a frosh)
Kendall Stephens - 5.7 points, 1.5 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.3 blocks, 0.5 turnovers
Jay Simpson - 5.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.3 steals, 0.7 blocks, 1.0 turnovers
Bryson Scott - 5.4 points, 2.3 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.4 blocks, 0.9 turnovers
Basil Smotherman - 3.2 points, 2.5 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.4 blocks, 0.8 turnovers
Rank our 3 sophomores by productivity (Same definition for productivity as #6)
A.J. Hammons - 13.7 points, 10.5 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.4 steals, 1.2 blocks, 0.8 turnovers
Ronnie Johnson - 10.1 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.2 blocks, 2.1 turnovers
Rapheal Davis - 9.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.4 blocks, 0.9 turnovers
Rank the top 3 scorers (0.5 for getting #1 right, 0.3 for #2 and 0.2 for #3)
I think Purdue is going to lean on Hammons because he is a difficult matchup for almost anyone. I think he can get the inside-out game working and shooters like Sterling Carter, Stephens, etc. will be much better because of it. I think Hammons needs to eat though, with TJ second and Ronnie third in scoring.
Rank the top 3 rebounders (0.5 for getting #1 right, 0.3 for #2 and 0.2 for #3)
If Hammons really think he is NBA ready he needs to be a nightly 15-10 guy, so he should lead Purdue in rebounding. I think Simpson will be second because he'll get a lot of minutes and I can see Travis Carroll busting his but to be third in rebounds.
Who is the breakout player of the year? (This is a bit subjective, but think of it as the player who outperforms general expectation the most, going from good to great, or from a bench warmer to a solid contributor, or maybe a 3* HS recruit making all-B1G frosh team. Think Ryne Smith in 2010-11, DJ Byrd in 2011-12, and Hammons/Sandi in 2012-13.)
I am going to go with either Simpson or Carroll. I think Carroll is a hard worker and it will pay off with a higher contribution in the box score. As for Simpson, he has been built up by coach painter and has been in the program for a year. The time for him to contribute is now.
Tie breaker: As a team, what will be our FT%?
It has better be over 70%, because anything less is ridiculous.
I'd also like to use this opportunity to ask four more questions to get the fans' sentiment:
i) How would you define a successful season for this year's team? Top five finish in the Big Ten and an NCAA berth with tournament win.
ii) In order to achieve that success, what is the ONE critical factor that is absolutely the MOST important? Shooting MUST improve from the perimeter.
iii) What is the absolute minimum that you want to see from this team or else it is just unacceptable? At least a .500 record in big Ten play and winning record overall.
iv) Will Hammons go pro after this season? Not unless Purdue wins the Big Ten and/or reaches the Final Four.