I find Purdue's 2014 recruiting class so fascinating. Because they are all on the same graduation track it reminds me a lot of the group that was playing when I was at Purdue. In 2000 Purdue had five seniors in Mike Robinson, Brian Cardinal, Jaraan Cornell, Chas Kerkhoff, and one of the McQuay brothers. They nearly took Purdue to a surprise Final Four, but I remember the posters promoting how they were a very close knit group that kept that team together.
That's kind of how this group feels. The 2014 class had one player at each position on the floor. Jacquil Taylor had to use a redshirt year, but the Thompson-Mathias-Edwards-Haas group feels like one of those rare groups that is going to play together for four years and win a lot of ballgames. They are throwback Purdue players in that they are not elite talents, but when you put them together they form a hell of a group.
They have already proven they can have a good regular season and reach the NCAA Tournament, but as they enter their junior seasons now is their time to move forward.
5.5 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 2.3 apg
2015-16 was a season of growth and improvement for Dakota. He played in every game, averaging an even 19 minutes per contest, and even drew five starts. Normally he was one of the first off the bench depending on how early A.J. Hammons got his first foul. Unlike Ryan Cline, he was not strictly a three-point specialist. Yes, the majority of his looks were from three, but he did occasionally drive to the basket and showed a decent midrange game.
From his freshman to sophomore year Dakota's scoring increased from 4.8 to 5.5 per game and his passing skills showed up in the assist column, where he moved from 1.4 to 2.3 per game. His overall percentages were up too. His FG percentage jumped from 32.7% to 40.8% and from three he went from 32.2% to 38.6%. He also seemed to have a flair for the moment. If anyone was going to hit the dagger three it was Dakota, and he appeared to do just that in the final minute against Little Rock. He finished that game with an impressive 12 points, 4 assists, and 5 rebounds, and his triple with 35 seconds left appeared to save our sorry asses from a meltdown before Soshi's ridiculous rolled in three.
Dakota's best game of the season came against Maryland in West Lafayette when he finished with 17 points and was 7 of 10 from the field. He also had 17 points against Vermont when he connected on five three-pointers. Overall, he finished second on the team in made threes with 44, two behind Vince Edwards.
So what do we need from Dakota going forward? He has proven to be a solid player on both ends of the floor. He was third on the team in assists and led the team at the line by hitting 86.4% (even though one of his few misses was a critical one in the second overtime against Little Rock). He is often compared to Ryne Smith, which is an apt comparison. Smith only averaged 1.1 ppg and 2.6 ppg in his first two seasons though. He also never moved much beyond three-point bomber (albeit a very good one). Mathias is a bigger player and has shown more of an ability to create his own shot as well as set things up for teammates.
That ability needs to flourish going forward. He also needs to continue making strides defensively. I don't think anyone expects Dakota to become a Kramer-esque lockdown defender, but general improvement and not getting beat regularly by his man is fine. I think we will see his three-point percentage go over 40%, his overall shooting get over 45%, and his scoring go up as he gets more minutes thanks to Rapheal Davis graduating.