It is finally basketball season! I admit, I am a bit down on this team because I still remember the shock from March. It is almost like the Little Rock game was too much. To me, it feels like it will taint everything Purdue accomplishes this season because we don’t have any chance at true redemption until March. That is a long time to wait.
This is still an obscenely talented team, however, and expectations are high. A top 15 preseason ranking means a second weekend appearance in the NCAA Tournament should be expected. Purdue, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Michigan State are a pretty clear top 4 in some order in the Big Ten. Because of that, I will do my best to get past Little Rock and look forward. This team absolutely can contend for a Big Ten regular season title, a top 3 seed in March, and a couple of wins when it really matters.
That all begins on Friday, where McNeese State comes to town and Purdue will be with, at most, eight scholarship players due to suspensions:
McNeese State Cowboys
From: Lake Charles, Louisiana
Date : Friday, November 11, 2016
Tip Time: 7:02 p.m. ET
Location: West Lafayette, Indiana
Arena: Mackey Arena (14,804)
Radio: Purdue Radio Network
SiriusXM Satellite: XM (Ch. 381); Internet (Ch. 968)
Live Stats: bit.ly/PurdueLiveStats
Odds: No Line Yet
2015-16 Record: 9-20, 7-11 Southland
Opponent Blog: Geaux Cowboys
Series with Purdue: First Meeting
NCAA Tournament History: 2 appearances, 0-2 all-time, last appeared in 2002 (Lost as 14 seed to Mississippi State)
If you’re going to pick a game to have two contributors suspended for incidents over the summer, this is it. Basil Smotherman and Ryan Cline will sit this game out. For Smotherman, it is the last of three competitions he will miss, the other two being last week’s exhibition vs. Southern Indiana and Sunday’s secret scrimmage vs. West Virginia. For Cline, he still has three additional games to miss.
It really should not matter. Purdue opens the season at No. 15 according to KenPom and McNeese State is at 312, meaning this should be an easy win. Last season McNeese State was 9-20 overall, but a respectable 7-11 in the Southland Conference. They did not have a Division I win outside of their conference and even lost to Louisiana College. In games against major conference teams they lost to LSU (81-70), Oklahoma (85-56), Indiana (105-60), and UCLA (67-53).
McNeese returns top scorer Jamaya Burr, a 6’ 175 pound senior guard who averaged 15.4 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 3.6 assists as their clear top player. He was also impressive defensively with 44 steals on the year. Jarren Greenwood had a good freshman season last year with 10.8 points as a 6’2” guard in the backcourt with Burr. The pair in the backcourt is talented enough to at least test Purdue’s backcourt, which is good, because we need to be tested. James Harvey, a 6’2” sophomore guard also averaged in double figures with 10.7 points per game.
As expected against teams of this caliber, Purdue has an overwhelming advantage in the frontcourt. The Haas-Swanigan-Edwards trio should be virtually unstoppable. Jacob Bonnington is a 6’10” 215 freshman from Sugar Land, Texas and he is their tallest player. He averaged 17 points and 8 rebounds as a senior in high school, but he is being asked to defend Isaac has in his collegiate debut if he starts. McNeese lost leading rebounder Craig McFerrin, but their most proven post player is 6’7” junior Stephen Ugochukwu. He averaged 5.9 points and 3.7 rebounds last season.
This is a game where Haas and Swanigan will be able to do whatever they want to do offensively. The Cowboys have little to no experience up front and they have to find a way to stop one of the best frontcourts in America. If Purdue is even in a modicum of trouble it needs to simply get the ball inside and dominate.
As expected, I want to see how Purdue’s guards fare in this one. Without Cline and Smotherman we can expect more minutes for freshman Carsen Edwards. He will probably play opposite P.J. Thompson in some situations and opposite Dakota Mathias in others. Also, what can Jacquil Taylor give us? I know he has missed some time with yet another injury, but being able to give some spot minutes in the post this season to give Swanigan and Haas a breather at times could be critical. I’d like to see Jacquil be able to give 5-8 minutes a night if possible. As good as Haas and Swanigan are, they are going to need rest at times.
This is a gam Purdue should win under any circumstance, and by a lot. Look for Grady Eifert to get a career high in minutes since Purdue us shorthanded with eight scholarship players (seven if Taylor is still out). Purdue 87, McNeese State 58