This has been a busy week for the Purdue Men's Basketball team. They played a secret scrimmage and won against Dayton, Caleb Swanigan was considered eligible by the NCAA, and the AP has us ranked in the top 25 for the first time since 2010-11.
So it makes sense that Basil Smotherman's decision to redshirt has gone a little to the way side. After all, Basil is just a bit player, and the Hoosiers are ranked eight spots higher than us!!!! ARE YOU KIDDING? DID THEY NOT SEE US MAKE LIVE SACRIFICES ON THE COURT AGAINST THEM LAST YEAR?!? WHY DO YOU NOT LOVE US? DO YOU UNDERSTAND WE ARE MADE OF GIANTS? Whatever.
Preseason polls are the epitome of a waste of time. You don't win anything in November, and you certainly don't beat an opponent because the AP tells you you're better. You win by having better players, by being able to adapt, and backing your youngsters with experience.
So let's do a little self Q and A to fully flesh out this Basil Smotherman situation.
Why did he redshirt?
The initial reaction seemed to be that Basil was doing this selflessly, and that it was big of him to offer himself up to a redshirt for the sake of the team. He's not. He's not redshirting for the sake of the team, he's doing it for the sake of himself. Good for him. You only get four years of eligibility, and Basil probably has basketball aspirations after college, and playing 8 minutes a night on a team that's not Kentucky is not the best way to get noticed. Of course, there is value to having him on the team in the next two years. With Swanigan possibly leaving early - same for Edwards - and Davis definitely leaving, we'll have a gigantic hole for a defensive stopper that Cline and Mathias cannot fill.
It makes sense, it's a totally logical long view approach for the team, and this team is potentially loaded, but you're not a better basketball team if Basil isn't on your team. We have a chance to do something special, and a 6-6 guy coming off the bench that can guard four positions at a high level is a huge advantage, especially come tournament time. Losing Basil might not hurt on the day to day, but he would have absolutely had the chance to single-handedly change some games this year with his length and energy.
But a handful of games is definitely less than the impact he can have the next two years. You'd imagine he slides right into the Ray-D spot, and Painter probably came to the conclusion that he doesn't need Basil this year. The ceiling is definitely lower without him, but it's hard to tell a twenty-year old kid who's starting to see his eligibility slip away to lose a year for the sake of 10 minutes a night.
Why could this not be a big deal?
Because Ryan Cline is ready to play significant minutes from Day 1. Smotherman does not redshirt if Painter doesn't think Cline is going to be a major contributor to this team. That means instead of Smotherman's defense - a possible redundancy with Davis and Hammons on the court - we get Cline's shooting which we desperately need. The same thing can be said for Mathias and Stephens, Painter would only be comfortable sitting Smotherman if the other wings have shown improvement that would make it hard for Basil to make it on the court.
Also, Basil did not improve from his Freshman season to his Sophomore. He's long and athletic, but his shot is still not there. He played 6 less minutes a game in his sophomore year, scored 2 less points, grabbed 2 less rebounds, and double his three point percentage to 19%. His offensive rating actually dropped from 119(a shockingly high number - 153rd) his freshman year to 105.7 last year. To be fair, that's still a pretty good offensive rating, but he played less with better players around him, any decline is a concern.
Is he the only player redshirting?
When it was announced Smotherman would redshirt, word soon followed that either Weatherford or Cline would probably redshirt as well. It'll be Weatherford. I would bet large sums of money I don't have on it. Cline will take some of the minutes Smotherman leaves, and Weatherford wouldn't. Weatherford did not look ready to play on a B10 team at the scrimmage, and Hill and Thompson are locked in as the two point guards.
Who takes Smotherman's minutes?
A lot of people, obviously. Swanigan was going to take most of the minutes at 4 anyways. Edwards is our starting 3 and backup 4. Without Smotherman, there will be more pressure on Mathias to become a better defender because him and Cline will have to play together more without Smotherman covering for their defensive liabilities on the wing. Rapheal Davis probably doesn't play any 4 if Smotherman's on the team this year, but now he becomes a possibility to fill in for heavy minutes at the 4 if Swanigan gets into foul trouble.
Expect a lot of Vince Edwards this year. He's going to lead the team in minutes played because he's now the starting 3 and the preferred back up 4. That's a lot of minutes, especially if Swanigan struggles with fouls early as most true freshman do. Ray D won't be far behind, especially if his 3 point stroke is consistent. They'll be the only players averaging 30+ minutes a game.
So, is his redshirting a good thing or bad?
Both. It'll mean more Edwards - good. It'll mean more shooting on the floor - good. We'll be worse on defense - bad - but it shouldn't be significant. Our ceiling won't be as high, but Smotherman also wasn't going to get on the floor that much. Losing elite athleticism scares me, particularly when we get to tournament time, but I don't blame Basil for wanting to make the most of his amateur eligibility.
Hopefully, we're good enough without him, but that doesn't change the fact we'd be better with him.
There is a darker concern, one that I think should concern us, if he's willing to redshirt to get more playing time, what happens if he's not a start his junior year or heading into his senior year? If he's willing to sit out this year, why wouldn't he be willing to go somewhere else to play his senior year?
Loyalty won't get you paid, especially if it doesn't get you played.