I consistently see the comment on Purdue post-game wrap-ups: "We all know the talent level is there, but the effort is mediocre at best." I respect peoples' opinions and I don't want to come across as all doom and gloom, but I disagree. I think this team is working pretty hard, as evidenced by the obvious frustration from the players when things aren't working... but I just don't think the basketball skill sets are all there like we became accustomed to with 4-5 years of the Baby Boilers.
Let's assess some of the players who get consistent minutes: We have 1 talented shooter, but like Byrd from last year he doesn't have good shot selection (Although at least Stephens is only a freshman so he should be better than Byrd as a senior). We have multiple drivers (Ronnie, Terone, Bryson) who can't convert layups even on 1-on-1 or 2-on-1 fast breaks, and on the occasions that they draw fouls (Seems like 50% would be an accurate percentage) they are 60% from the FT line. We have one big man who is starting to figure it out on offense but still gets burned on defense and rebounding (Hammons), and another big man who is a talented passer but gets lost on both sides of the ball and doesn't have the stamina to play more than 3-4 game minutes at a time (Simpson). We have multiple "opportunistic" scorers who only get on the scoreboard when the defense loses track of them (Ray, Basil, and Kendall), but otherwise appear completely uncomfortable dribbling a basketball. We have a couple transfers (Peck and Carter) that can do some of the glue things and make a couple open jumpers every once in a while but they are never going to create their own shot or fill up the scoreboard. And we have a "leader" (Terone) who consistently makes horrible passes right to the defense and takes ill advised shots that often turn into run-outs for the other team because our guys get caught off guard by his random shot selection.
Outside of off-and-on brilliance from Hammons on offense, the talent is not there and 100% effort every night may not change this team from bad to Final Four worthy unless the skill levels improve. Major offseason work is needed again for all returners. Ronnie greatly improved his jump shot over this summer (Granted, it's by no means great and he still is hesitant to use it, but it's a big improvement from where it was last year). The talent level can improve. This goes for defense as well. Believe it or not, there is a certain finesse and talent required to be a smart and effective defensive player. Hustling up and down the floor is important, but you can hustle on defense and still make boneheaded decisions that hurt your team.
I hate to say it since he lit us up a bit last week, but these guys could benefit from looking at the home videos Nik Stauskas made of his personal offseason training on Youtube and the hours upon hours of ball handling and shooting he practiced every day to go along with rigorous weight training. Look at the improvements he has made in one year! He was purely a 3 point shooter last year and last week he was driving into the lane making up-and-under layups in traffic and cross-over mid-range jumpers against us. Effort without talent only gets you so far. Ball handling and shooting may be improved slightly over last year's team, but there's still a lot of improvement to be made if this is to become a regular NCAA tournament team again, let alone a Final Four team. It can be done, but it's important to remember that this is going to take time.