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Debunking the myths about Purdue basketball

I am tired of this.

I've tried to watch a little more college basketball of late to see how we truly match up against other teams around the country. A few nights ago there was a good opportunity, as West Virginia, one of the last six unbeaten teams along with us, hosted Mississippi. There was a comment during the game that finally made me snap. They showed a graphic on the screen about Ole Miss averaging 85 points per game. The commentators then crowed about how they were a high scoring team.

These are the same people that think Purdue cannot score enough to hang with the "elite" teams. There have been comments on other boards <cough> Peegs <cough> that Purdue can't score either. Well, I am here to once again, prove people wrong with facts. As an explanation to those doubters and critics, facts are those things you use to back up solid arguments. They are the opposite of opinions. Watch as I use the "facts" to debunk your opinions.

Myth #1: Purdue can't score.

This is ludicrous. As I pointed out in the SIU-Edwardsville wrap, through 11 games we have had nine different players reach double figures in at least one game. Two of them are freshmen. We're averaging 79.4 points per game, good for 41st in the nation. Hmmm, if we can't score, why are we better than over 80% of all of college basketball at scoring? Let's look at our number one team in scoring. Surely it is Kentucky or some Big East team that is just a rampaging juggernaut that can't be stopped and strikes fear in the hearts of every opponent it plays. I mean, scoring is the most important aspect of the game and guarantees wins, doesn't it?

Your national leader in scoring per game is Virginia Military Institute. They average 93.2 points per game. They are 4-6. They haven't given up less than 86 points in a game and even gave up 134 in one contest. That was against the #2 scoring team, Seton Hall.

Kansas is third at 88.4. Texas is fifth at 86.5. Kentucky is 24th at 82.1. We're not scoring as much as these "elite" teams, but it is not like they are running away from us. Let's take a look at another category. It is one Digger Phelps and everyone else doesn't want you to see. It is a seven letter word they hate: Defense.

We're only giving up 59 points per game. Do you know what that tells me? It tells me I don't give a crap how many points we score. As long as we maintain that average, we need only score 60 per game for the most important statistic: a win. That is the point of the entire game: to win by any legal means necessary. Our defense is good enough that you can safely scratch 10 points off of a team's scoring average because they are facing us. You know what? Suddenly that evens things up quite nicely between us and the "elite" teams as long as we score our average.

Tennessee averages almost 83 points per game. We held them to 72. Wake Forest averages 76.4 per game. We held them to 58. Valparaiso is averaging 75.4 per game. We held them to 62. These are the teams ranked in the top 100 in scoring (a.k.a. teams that have proven they can score. We happen to be a member of this group) and we have safely held them well below their averages. If our defense is good enough to limit a team to 10 points less than their regular scoring average suddenly we have a team that will outscore every team in the nation (again, assuming we make our 79.4ppg average) except VMI. That tells me we can score just fine.

Some more facts you can file under the "uh-oh"category. West Virginia, the darling of the Big East that will surely topple our plodding Big Ten style, is averaging 76.3 per game. Hmm, they are a team that can score, yet 76.3 is a smaller number than our 79.4. Ours came against slightly better competition too. I'm not a math guy. It's been 12 years since I took Calculus in high school, but I seem to remember something about bigger numbers being more than smaller numbers. The Mountaineers only give up 58.9 points per game too. Yet they are considered by some as a serious Final Four contender while we are not. Look out, Digger, your beloved Big East leader looks an awful lot like a boring, defense-oriented Big Ten team.

Myth #2: Purdue has no depth.

This one is even more absurd. Last season we won the Big Ten Tournament and made the sweet 16 with an eight man rotation. We played Penn State in Happy Valley, a team that won the NIT and probably should have been an NCAA team, to a three point game with a six man rotation because our top defender and top offensive threat were injured. This year we have a 10 man rotation thanks to three good freshmen and the emergence of Mark Wohlford and Ryne Smith. As mentioned above, nine of those ten players are in the double figures scoring club for at least one game, and the tenth (Kelsey Barlow) will eventually join it. I ask then, what the hell is depth? If it is sheer numbers of players that play every game, we have that. If it is players that contribute every game in multiple phases, we have that too. If it is players that are a threat to be a scoring force in any game (and you can argue that scoring 10 points or more qualifies as "a scoring force") we have that too.

This argument simply doesn't hold any water. We have also done this with two players, Lewis Jackson and Sandi Marcius, having not played a single second yet. Both of these players were considered to be part of the rotation before their respective injuries. LewJack was even a starter. If both return we're not exactly going to tell Mark Wohlford and Patrick Bade, "sorry, LewJack and Sandi are back, have a seat!" If anything, we are a deep team that has the potential to get deeper! LewJack, if he returns, can easily be a guy that is capable of giving us 10 or more points in any given game. To further dispell the "can't score" myth he would make our already good offense more efficient. For crying out loud, we score almost 80 points a night while shooting poorly with no true point guard!

As for Marcius, I will concede we are not deep right now at his position. Bade, however, has grown and Marcius, when healthy, will give us that depth. Again, I am not a math guy, but 12 is a bigger number than nine or ten, which is the rotation that most teams play. The annointed Kentucky only plays 10 players per game on average. Syracuse has only seven players that have played in every game. Kansas has a nine man rotation. Sorry guys, but the depth argument doesn't add up when we're deep and we will get deeper as the season goes along.

Myth #3: Purdue doesn't have elite talent that will go to the NBA, therefore we can't compete.

Um, okay? Then why did JaJuan Johnson have to dispell rumors last year about coming out early for the NBA draft? Why did E'Twaun Moore outscore Eric Gordon (currently in the NBA) during their last game in high school. Why is it we have played or will play 12 of the 60 players found in this mock draft over the past three seasons, yet we have either won or held own in each game? Why is it we faced the team with the number one overall pick last season, yet with bigger depth issues and less maturity we took them to overtime and only lost because they shot almost 40 free throws more than we did?

The whole "you need NBA talent to win" is crap. The reason people say we don't have NBA talent is because our guys aren't likely going to the NBA this year! The only one that has been talked about as far as leaving early is JJ, and I think he has shown he isn't quite ready yet. Should JJ and Robbie get drafted after next season a team will get a polished player that <gasp> knows how to play defense.

There was another guy recently that played for Purdue that was considered undersized and not an NBA talent. Some team stupidly picked him in the second round on a throwaway pick. He only made the All-Rookie second team (as a second round pick, mind you), led his team in shooting percentage his first two years, missed just three weeks after getting shot in a driveby, and didn't miss a game after losing all or part of five teeth from a Dirk Nowitzki elbow. Oh, and in the game immediately after that he had a career high 27 points while Dirk sat out. The player's name: Carl Landry. JJ, Robbie, and E'Twaun are thought to be better NBA prospects than Carl Landry, who seems to be doing just fine in the NBA.

By the way, Julian Wright out of Kansas, a sure-fire NBA talent from an "elite" team was the 13th overall selection in the same draft as Carl. He is averaging 4.1ppg through his first two seasons while riding the pine pony in New Orleans. Julian and Carl are roughly the same size and play the same position. Just imagine how good Carl would be if he played for a team with elite talent.

I'm not even going to mention how we're one of the few top 10 teams with a win over another top 10 team. Purdue 73, Tennessee 72. Wait, I guess I did mention that.

Myth #4: Defense does not win championships.

Once again, this is absurd. North Carolina was a very good offensive team last year, but only gave up more than 70 points in two NCAA Tournament games. Michigan State, the slow, plodding, boring Big Ten team they played in that title game gave up 69 points or less in every game before the Final Four. 2008 champ Kansas held every team in the tournament below 68. Florida in 2006 held all six opponents below 62 points in tournament play (with NBA talent that supposedly doesn't play defense to boot!). The first team to top the 65 point barrier against them during their dynastic two year title run? Some boring, stodgy, Big Ten team that can't score named Purdue. It's a shame that even though they had all that NBA talent and we had just one guy that plays in the League (Carl Landry) we only gave them probably their toughest game in getting both titles.

I honestly don't get why teams minimize defense. It makes sense that if you prevent the other team from scoring as much as possible it makes matters easier for you to win the game. Isn't that the entire point of the exercise, to score more points than your opponent? Doesn't it then make sense that the less you let your opponent score, the less you have to score to accomplish the same goal? Did I miss the rule change that now decides the value of wins, especially in tournament play, based on style points?

Even one of the greatest run and gun teams of the last 20 years, the UNLV Runnin' Rebels, were finally undone by a good defensive team in the end. They have come to closest to winning an undefeated national championship since Indiana in 1976. When teams rely on their offense too much, however, they forget how to play when a team plays stout defense against them.

Great teams are ones that can adapt to another team's style or they can force other teams to play their style. Purdue has proven it can do a little bit of both. With a healthy LewJack (and he might be around NCAA time) Purdue can run and force tempo if they so choose. They can also for high scoring teams into a grind it out half court game. Ask Tennessee and Alabama how much our style of play can wear a team down. Ultimately, it is our ability to grind these games while still maintaining our offensive flow that will make us great.

So those are four myths about Purdue basketball that have been debunked. I am reminded of what coach Painter said after the Ball State win. He stated that he can only control what Purdue does against who Purdue plays. That is it. All we need to do is go out and win ballgames. It is a lot like what Chris Kramer said after last year's infamous Michigan game.

"We don't retaliate, we just get W's."

Just keep getting those W's, gentlemen. That is the best way to get rid of these myths.