We're almost there. Exhibitions are now over. Our freshman are eligible. Our tickets are purchased. The only thing left to do? Play the games. College basketball is back, and there's only a few days left. What better way to spend them than to throw out some predictions?
A disclaimer: Sure, this is a prediction post, and I do think there's a case to be made for all these predictions, but by no means do I think they're all going to come true. Think of them as guidelines, themes to look for as the season progresses. I tried to hedge the line between crazy and crazy obvious.
1. Purdue will be in the top 20 for assists per game in the nation.
Last year, the Boilers were 37th in the nation in assists per game at 14.9 a game. That number will get higher. The shot clock has been moved to 30 seconds, and that means more possessions as well as shorter possessions. We'll get into our offenses quicker, won't have as much time for isolations in the post, and be more reliant than ever on ball movement. But the main reason...
2. As a team, we'll be in the top 10 for assist rate in the country.
We just don't have the type of players that are going to isolate and score, but we've got a roster full of smart passers. We'll struggle to drive the ball to the rim consistently, and the motion offense preaches ball movement. Our bigs have shown an ability to get the ball from the perimeter and make a move quickly to the hoop. We're going to be taking a lot of 3's this year - the most assisted shot in basketball. It wouldn't surprise me if 85% of our non-assisted shots come from one man breakaways and last second heaves as the shot clock winds down. Both our true freshman have shown a proclivity towards passing. A slight uptick in shooting percentages to go with all that should be enough to makes us an elite passing team.
3. P. J. Thompson and Johnny Hill will average within 4 minutes of each other in minutes per game.
I don't think either guy is good enough to take the spot from the other, or bad enough to lose it from the other. P. J. offers a little more shooting, an extra year in the motion offense, and is a better shadower on defense. Hill has the length and athleticism to get to the rim and break down defenses. It's likely they both float around the 14 to 20 minute a night mark, and night to night it's going to depend on the match up and hot hand.
4. When the Indiana teams meet at the Hoosier Crossroads Class, only Indiana will not be undefeated.
Purdue has to get past a very tough road game against Pittsburgh, Butler is on the road against a top 15 Cincinnati squad, and Indiana has to go to Duke. Notre Dame will get a relative cake walk to a 7-0 record with only an away game with Illinois to scare them. IU might coalesce into something, but on the road at Duke is not the place for a team that needs significant rehabbing before anyone should believe in them. Pitt is a good team, but in a rough and tumble kind of way that we won't be mismatched against. Butler was a top 35 offensive and defensive team last year who continue to exceed expectations.
5. Vince Edwards will lead Purdue in Minutes Per Game.
Frankly, he's our best player. Rapheal Davis lead the team last year with 31.3 per game last year, but Edwards can play and guard almost anyone on the floor. He's seemed to improve every faction of his game. Painter will not take him out of the game unless he has to.
6. Caleb Swanigan will lead our Big Men in Minutes Per Game.
I was fully prepared to predict that Haas's minutes would actually decline this year, but Hammons couldn't even make it through the exhibition schedule without getting benched. Haas's passing looked improved at the exhibition, and he is still a gigantic monster born to grab boards and get to the line. He's got a weirdly good turnaround jumper for a skyscraper and has shown a nice chemistry with Biggie. He'll inch closer to 20 MPG without such a significant drop off when conference play comes along. But Biggie is absolutely going to play the five for us when we need to juice our offense and put another shooter out there. Also, because of his rebounding and passing ability, I already feel like he's the most consistent of our bigs. Defense will be the only question.
7. Purdue will be top 8 in Offensive Rebounding %
Last year, Purdue was 22nd in offensive rebounding at 36.5%. We'll improve, significantly. Edwards extra athleticism has shown itself on some transition baskets, but more so on the offensive glass. He's everywhere on the floor and his long wing span is going to be a problem against any 3's he goes up against. Oh, and Swanigan is a beast on the glass. When Swanigan and Haas shares the floor, it wouldn't shock me if we rebound over half our misses. If that's not enough, Rapheal Davis is a bloodhound and his favorite game is orange. He might lead the team in easy put backs off of misses over the last three years.
8. Purdue's Offensive Rating will be in the top 45.
We're going to shoot a lot of 3's. We're going to have a lot of advantages at the basket. These are two of the most efficient shots there are. We're going to shoot a lot of free throws. We should hit more than we did last year, and there's always the transition looks. We were 61st in the country last year, and we're losing Octeus who was our best offensively rated player last year, but we're adding two offensive plus players in Cline and Swanigan, and our shooters failed to shoot as well as they're capable of last year.
9. Purdue's Defensive Rating will not move into the top 50.
Last year we were 57th, but this Hammons stuff scares me. Also, Smotherman redshirting is huge for our defense. It's not that he was an absolute lock down defender. It's that he was a versatile one. He's a match up problem on defense because he's long enough to guard bigger players, but quick enough to stick with little guys. He offered an ability to throw something new at a team and get them out of rhythm. Edwards will play that role a little, but he's still not as fleet of foot as Basil, and now our bench is full of mostly offensive guys. Haas looked improved on D against NW Ohio but he didn't even have to stretch his arm out to block their shots. It'll be different against B10 guards. Oh, and we lost Jon fricken Octeus. He had the length and athleticism to give any point guard problems, consistently. Also, no Bryson Scott - Yogi's personal kryptonite. There's reason to worry that there could be a drop off.
10. Rapheal Davis will match his 2014-15 3 pointers made before Conference play begins.
His shot improved as the year went on last year, and it looks even better at the start of this year. I think he's going to have a lot of open looks, particularly because I expect him on the floor whenever Cline is to limit defensive liabilities. He's also likely to guard point guards this season when P. J. and Johnny sit, and so teams will have to switch back on him in transition and that'll lead to a few more open looks. He also only made 18 3's last year, so it's not like he has to go all Ryne Smith on people.
Check back tomorrow for predictions #11-20.