There's not much need for preamble. Here's some thoughts on 'trends' that we've seen through the first three games, and whether or not they're likely to continue or be something to worry about.
Point guard play has been as good as we could have hoped for.
Hill has 11 assists to 4 turnovers, and P. J. still doesn't even have a turnover to go with his six assists. They've both been solid to very good on defense. They provide a nice 1-2 on defense. Thompson shadows his assignment with arms spread wide and quick feet, while Hill uses his athleticism and quickness to get into his man. Hill's recorded multiple steals in each game, a total of seven for the year, and Thompson's added in another three. They've each played about 48% of the available time, and Thompson's offensive rating of 162.6 would good for the 32nd best in the nation if the season stopped today. That's not sustainable, but smart, efficient play and good defense is.
5 Purdue players are shooting over 40% from three.
Last year, not a single player shot over 40% from three. In fact, only Stephens shot over 35% from that beautiful space worth an extra point. Of the five players with double digit three point attempts, only Swanigan is shooting under 40%, and his 3 pt% of 36% would have been second on the team last year. Obviously, this is very very very early in the season, and a very very very small sample size, but the trend is there. We're shooting a lot more threes, and we're making a much higher percent of them.
It's not just ball movement or improving on mechanics and shot selection. We now have three legitimate threats on the inside, and teams are not going to be able to take away the post and come out and guard the three. You cannot guard Haas with just one guy right now. We'll run into teams that can handle them better, but they'll keep creating space for our shooters - which, there seems to be a lot of them.
We're the 27th ranked defensive team in the nation.
This is going to go up, and dramatically, if we don't have some major improvement. We have not played good teams, particularly on the offensive end. We haven't had Hammons before tonight, and his return will definitely help, but we are giving up a lot of open looks deep. Incarnate Word just shot 12 of 30 on us, and Kyle Hittle absolutely lit us up going 5 of 6 from deep.
My concern comes with guarding the pick and roll. We switch everything on the perimeter, which is something we can do because of our collective length, but it becomes trickier to do when we play against teams that have actual weapons that can take advantage of getting a switch that results in Cline guarding the opposing team's best playmaker instead of Davis. Which, you can game plan for obviously and not switch, but the problem is we're not great at getting around screens.
On pick and rolls with a guard and a big man, we like to go under them with our guard, and have our big drop way down. This leaves the pull up 3 open, but also the pick and pop for a big man that can stretch the floor. Hittle got a lot of his threes off setting a simple screen and popping out for a wide open shot as the big man was still back pedaling. Against better teams, this will be death, especially if we continue to struggle to cut off driving lanes to the basket. Hammons will help here more than anywhere, but he's also prone to picking up bodying fouls on driving guards, like any big man, when that guard gets his momentum going to the basket. This is a concern.
Haas is our best post presence.
He's been an absolute monster. I'm not sure Hammons will win the starting job back. A. J. hasn't had the chance to shake off the rust, but a couple of his shots - hello, banked in jumper - were absolutely terrible decisions. A. J. is still one of the best defensive players in the nation, but Haas' improvement offensively has made him more of a consistent weapon than A. J. ever was in the past - and that's coming from a guy who thought Hammons was incredibly underrated on the offensive end. It also makes sense defensively. Hammons can anchor a defense as the lone big man on the court better than either Haas or Swanigan, and it allows another shooter on the floor for spacing.
Swanigan is a selfish rebounder.
You know the type. There's a few in the NBA now, definitely on pick-up courts all over the nation. They want that rock, and they want it bad. They don't care what color your jersey is, what side you're on, if you're between them and the ball, they're going through you. Also, these types of players get a little perturbed when they don't come away with the rebounds, especially when it's between them and another player. Not saying this is a problem, or an issue, or some character flaw, but the smart play some times is to let your teammate get the board, damn your double-doubles.
Old Dominion is a better team than we've faced, but they still don't match up.
I'll be honest, my knowledge of Old Dominion isn't that great, but I keep hearing that they'll match up a lot better with size than the teams we've played. Talent wise, yes, they are a huge step up, but while they do have a 7 foot 1 guy and a 6 foot 10 guy on their roster, neither of them have played this year. Their tallest player to play is 6 foot 8 inches, and three 6 foot 7 guys. Despite this, they have the 348th slowest pace in the country, and an offense outside the top 100 despite playing a schedule easier than ours to start the year.
We just turned over the ball 22 times against Incarnate Word.
That many turnovers is never good. The problem? We're bored. If you haven't watched the game, then watch it, but when it gets to the ten minute mark in the second half, turn it off, immediately. It gets even more sloppy than the first 30 minutes. Our team is bored and trying stuff they just don't do. No look, left handed skip passes from half court, oops that have no chance, thirty foot bounce passes, and whatever a couple of those Biggie passes were. We need better competition, and we need it now before that trend becomes habit. We need to be tested. We want to be tested.
They'll come soon. For now, enjoy another big win Saturday.