One month from today Purdue basketball tips off in Mackey Arena! Even with the glow of an actual football win in a Big Ten game that is a great phrase to hear. It also means we get to preview one of the returning leaders:
Dakota Mathias – Jr.
Elida, OH (elida HS)
6’4”, 200 pounds
2016-17 Projection: Starter at Shooting Guard
Mathias is simply a Purdue basketball player. That’s the best way to describe him. He is a smart, savvy player that rarely makes mistakes, plays hard, can shoot, and fits in well with the offense without being one of the big stars. Because of his three-point shooting prowess and his Northwest Ohio background he drew parallels to Ryne Smith when he came in, but his game is more well-rounded. Whereas Ryne as almost exclusively a three-point threat, Dakota is a great passer and can make some things happen going to the basket.
Mathias also has a penchant for hitting a big shot when Purdue needs it. Late in the Little Rock game he hit a huge three-pointer that appeared to stop the bleeding, only for Little Rock to come down and hit a three of their own.
Last season Dakota shot 38.6% from three, but I would like to see him go over 40% this year. Once again, Purdue is going to have a strong frontcourt, so Dakota can reap the benefits from passes back out to the perimeter. He was not exclusively a three-point shooter, either, as he had 43 attempts inside the arc as opposed to 114 outside. He was also one of Purdue’s best free throw shooters at 86.4%, but only got 22 attempts. He was third on the team in assists (83) behind Vince Edwards (100) and P.J. Thompson (93).
That last stat is critical to Purdue’s motion offense. Purdue’s offense is at its best when any player on the floor, not just the point guard, can make the pass to set up a basket. If you have Edwards, Thompson, and Mathias on the floor at the same time you have three players that not only can score themselves, but are perfectly capable of making the pass to set up a teammate. The motion offense dictates that all five players have to be able to move and set up teammates. That’s one thing Mathias is really good at.
I would love to see Dakota become a better defender this year. Purdue’s perimeter defense has been lacking in recent seasons and the Boilers need someone to step in and fill the defensive void left by Rapheal Davis.