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Purdue Basketball and Where the Three Dies

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Expectations high, what we'll need to do to distance ourselves from our previous disappointments and get over that last hurdle.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

In a basketball world where the MVP just missed 13 three pointers in one game, the cornerstones of good basketball have changed. Defense is as important as ever - so is hustle. Discipline and control are preferred over rushing and panic. But, in this day and age, in this world of 3 is more than 2, spacing is the new king to success.

There are many vast differences between NBA basketball and collegiate basketball, but the most striking is spacing. It's not even a complicated formula. It's not a fundamental difference. It's simple. Everyone in the NBA can shoot. Very few in college can.

I don't even mean in some specialized - come hard off a screen and stop on a dime to rise up into a three - way. Just normal shooting. Watch a college team shoot around and you'll notice a lot of iron being clanked. Sure, there's your outliers, but there's so many more D1 basketball athletes compared to the number of NBA players that it makes sense the cream would rise to the top. It's just different. Give your everyday NBA center an open gym and watch him splash uncontested three after uncontested three. You just can't leave these guys wide open.

In the game, this difference doesn't strike quite the same contrast. For the most part, it is the same game. Five guys in one color jersey going against five guys in another, but all of sports is about inches. The three point line is closer in college and that brings everyone in a few more inches. There's less shooters on the floor and that brings everyone closer together a few more inches. Those shooters aren't as good at knocking down mid range or long range bombs and that brings the defense in a few more inches.

All of a sudden, those quick point guards used to finding lanes can't find any. All of a sudden, that seven foot behemoth in the post is being doubled before he even gets the ball. While those doubling can recover and close out on outside shooters quicker because of less ground to cover.

We are the land of hustle. Boiler country is known for producing and emulating Chris Kramer types. Hard-nosed, defensive vigilantes who make up for their lack of whatever with the entirety of their heart. Rapheal Davis is the reigning defensive player of the year, but that's not why we turned things around last year. We always knew where the D was, it wasn't until Rapheal found his 3 that we found the space to put together an effective offense.

According to Pomeroy College Basketball, we were 70th in adjusted offensive efficiency. (Scoring 107.9 per 100 possessions after adjusting for schedule.) Which is about as middle of the pack of possible and not good enough to get to any of the places we want the program to be. Defense wins championships, sure, but look at the last four teams left playing this year. Wisconsin was first in offensive efficiency. Duke was third, Kentucky fifth, and even Michigan State - the underest of underdogs - was fifteenth in the nation. Offense is important.

And here's where we tie this all together:

Duke's 3 pt% - .387

Michigan State's 3 pt% - .385

Wisconsin's 3 pt% - .365

Kentucky's 3 pt% - .349

Now, time for our ugly truth:

Purdue's 3 pt% - .327

It's even uglier than that. Kendall Stephens was our leader in three point field goal percentage at 38% on 190 attempts, but then our shooting falls into a crater. The next best shooter from range was Jon Octeus - who's now gone and wasn't that much of a threat from outside. Mathias and Edwards just broke the 32% seal respectively, and Rapheal was exactly 30% from deep.

Freshman get better. Stephens has been nothing if not inconsistent. We're bringing in Indiana's Mr. Basketball, but it's what the runner-up specializes in that might make even more of a difference than another big down low.

With Hammons, Haas, and Swanigan down low, teams will look to crowd the paint and double more than ever. Hammons and Haas will have to improve their passing, to say the least. Haas might be one of the worst passers I've seen at this level.

But mostly, our guards and Edwards need to hit the open shots our bigs and defense will create. We've got the hustle thing down, but if the Final Four is any indication, to get all the way we're going to have to become a school of skill, too.

Here's to hoping three can rhyme with D.