I've only been blogging for seven years and at Hammer & Rails for four years, so call me late for getting in on the mailbag gimmick. It is a staple of one of my favorite columnists, Bill Simmons, who is somewhat of a blogging hero for getting on it early and being the first to "make it" in the total online world.
So, with the basketball program in peril, here are some actual e-mails I received after sending out the call for a mailbag:
I think the 4 guard lineup is costing this Purdue team its only real advantage(rebounding!). If Painter went with a bigger lineup, Purdue could possibly benefit by getting a lot of 2nd chance points. Wondering about your thoughts on Painter sticking with the 4 guard lineup primarily instead of trying a bigger lineup?(Hammons, Lawson, Hale at the 5-4-3). - Matt Jones
This is interesting because I thought the forward rotation would work out much differently given that is where the team's strengths lie. I can still see A.J. Hammons and Sandi Marcius holding down the four, especially with the Chooch outplaying Hammons of late, and Jay Simpson, Travis Carroll, Jacob Lawson, and Donnie Hale at the four.
Simpson is obviously out of that rotation, but Carroll, Lawson, and Hale have each shown a bit of a midrange game that could open things up. Carroll works hard, while Hale and Lawson are decent rebounders. Carroll is not athletic enough to play the three, but I could see a super-big lineup where Hale plays a little three just to mix things up for a few possessions. The four-guard lineup has surprised me because of the way guards are struggling.
The most intriguing is Carroll. He may have the best jumper of all of them and he even stepped out and hit a couple of threes last season. Given his struggles to match up with bigger forwards why not develop him into a midrange and even outside shooter and pull him away from the basket? It can open things up for Hammons/Chooch too. I am not asking for Carroll to become Ryne Smith, but more like Nemanja Calasan where teams had to at least respect him as a shooter.
Are there any recent Big Ten or Purdue duos who have shown such a rapid decline on both ends of the floor as Byrd and Little AJ? I can't think of any who continued to receive playing time on their way down. Shouldn't we be blaming these two as much or more than Painter? - Josh Winrotte, Kokomo
I think little AJ would have to be at a peak for him to decline, but Byrd's fall has been baffling. It seems like ever since the Clemson game, where he went crazy and followed it up by shooting us out of the Xavier game, Byrd has been off. He only settles for threes and very rarely drives or attempts to get to the basket. As a bigger guard he could do so as well, getting himself to the line where he is at least a decent free throw shooter.
As for little AJ, he needs to do the opposite. There are multiple stories of how he could fill it up from long range in high school and he showed a bit of that at the end of the Indiana game. His driving and decision making is killing us, so run him off of some screens and see if his jumper starts to fall. We already have three penetrating guards that have a questionable outside shot, so it is time to try and develop someone that will be back next year.
Why does Purdue Sports contribute to my binge drinking so much and running up high bar tabs at Harry's? -- Unemployed post grad Boiler
I think that comes from being a Purdue sports fan ever since the Fumble. I mean it has been nine years but you can chart the rise and fall of our entire program's fandom to that point. Leading up to it Purdue had a National title and runner-up in women's basketball, and Elite 8 appearance in men's basketball, a Rose Bowl and near at large BCS berth in 2003 all within five years leading to the Fumble.
Since then, what? We had a Big Ten men's basketball title, but all major sports have regressed and Purdue has managed to find the banana peel every time it looks like success is coming. The women's program reached multiple Elite Eights before falling, you have the Hummel injury, Danny Hope, and even baseball having its best season ever before falling in the final two games of last year's regional. Even construction dropped the ball and we had to play that regional in Gary instead of West Lafayette
You're not saying anything I haven't said.
I know this has been a season with very few bright spots for MBB, but could this actually be a good thing for future seasons? Think about it: the class of 2013 is bonding on twitter, openly expressing their frustration with what they see. The current team will (hopefully) have a bad taste in their mouths after repeatedly getting their lunch money stolen while getting swirlies. A "return to competence" season next year shows that CMP is actually a good coach, while reminding him he can't rest on past success and has to lock up the recruiting trail EVERY YEAR, not just 1/3 or 1/4 years.
Then again, we may have already witnessed "the fumble" of the basketball world and now have to watch the bottom fall out for years to come... Sigh, it's 9 am on a non-football day, is it acceptable to proclaim today a personal Breakfast Club? - Geoff Davis
From the sounds of things Purdue can at least claim the disgruntled drinking championship of the Big Ten. This is what the 2012-13 basketball season has done to us followed by four years of Danny Hope and a graveyard full of ACL cadavers.
The men's basketball team is currently a disaster. Rumors are circulating that some players will leave. Will next year feature addition by subtraction in addition to addition by addition? - Ben Cotton
I think coach Painter's comments about guys questioning if they should really be at Purdue are telling. The three guys coming in are solid players and will be a great addition, but I am unsure of who would leave. The Chooch has always been discussed as departing after this season, but mostly because of him being the only player that could take advantage of the graduate transfer rule like John Hart did. He's come on of late too.
As far as other rumors I hear Jacob Lawson tossed around, who would be able to move with two years of eligibility. I think if someone were to leave it would be one of the freshmen or sophomores. I don't think Carroll is going anywhere and I would be surprised to see Terone Johnson leave with a year left. Little AJ and Lawson could leave with two years left.
The thing to realize is that Purdue gains three players that can contribute right away and loses one currently contributing very little. The addition of Smotherman, Stephens and Scott are definitely worth the loss of Byrd, who is a shell of his former self. I realize Dru Anthrop is also gone, but since he is currently out due to injury (just as he was likely about to see significant playing time) he can't really count.
My thought has been that it's not uncommon for first year CFB coaches to enjoy a bump in wins from the previous year due to new systems, newly excited players, lack of film against them, etc (buckystar may have proved me wrong, depending on how you interpret the data). Do you expect Hazell to see a bump in his first year, which would mean the team will see at least 7 wins next year? - Matt Wilson, Milwaukee
It will be interesting because Purdue is potentially going in with a freshman quarterback against a much tougher schedule. Last season Purdue did not beat a bowl eligible team in its six wins. This year Purdue faces three teams that played in BCS bowls (Wisconsin, Notre Dame, Northern Illinois), an undefeated team (Ohio State), a conference champion (Cincinnati), a Divisional champ (Nebraska), and the only team to beat the FCS champion in about the last 25 games (Indiana State). Only the I schools (Indiana, Illinois, Iowa) are "easy games", and Indiana is getting better.
I think it is possible we could see improved play in terms of not shitting the bed against even respectable opponents, but a worse record because the schedule is so tough. I see Indiana State, Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa as wins with a home game against Penn State as very interesting because it will be year No. 2 of their sanctions. Outside of that, the Boilers have a very tough road.
Then again, we do own Ohio State in Ross-Ade and get them at home.
Will we add another 2013 recruit? Can we return next year? Have you developed "inside sources" yet? - Matt Arthur via twitter
I don't see Purdue adding another 2013 recruit unless someone transfers, and we'll have to wait until the end of the season to see that. Right now the scholarship limit is completely full for the 2013-14 if every scholarship player with eligibility returns. Someone would have to leave to recruit a JuCo or one year graduate transfer. Purdue only has three slots in the 2014 class, so a two-year JuCo player knocks that down to two unless Purdue loses a transfer after next year or someone like Hammons goes pro.
A wrench could be Hammons deciding one year is enough and he jumps early to get paid while he learns. It is unlikely, but if he thinks he can go in the first round I suppose it is possible, especially since he has the two things, height and size, that cannot be taught in the NBA.
As far as returning next year I think it needs to be at least an NCAA Tournament season. As brutal as the Big Ten is this season I have a hard time seeing Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio State being as good after losses due to graduation and early jumps to the pros. There will be some regression to the mean. Purdue has to develop shooters and get back to playing hard-nosed basketball, however. We saw it a little on Saturday. Purdue played hard for about eight minutes and actually made headway against the No. 1 team in the nation. The effort absolutely has to get back to what we're seeing or it won't matter who is playing.
Finally, as far as inside sources goes I do have a few. When I started the blog I was actually working with Chris Summers' dad in a temp job. Since then I have spoken many times with the parents of either current or incoming players and I have a few sources, like Alex with the baseball team, that are close to the athletic department. I don't often get a lot of juicy news this way, but when I do I try to confirm it before running with it. I got burned once doing so (the infamous Ken Plue affair three years ago), so I try to be cautious going forward.