Straight off the thrilling win over Ohio State last night I decided to ask some of the fellas for their input on what is the biggest weakness of this Purdue team. What is the thing that fixing would send this team to elite levels? Naturally with five different people answering you have some varying opinions. Let’s get right into them. I’ll go first.
Illogical as it may sound I think the lack of an elite scorer is what is holding this team back. Yes, Biggie is having a great season but for whatever reason I’m still not 100% confident in the ball being in his hands at the end of the game. Prior to the start of the season I thought Vincent Edwards was going to be that guy. He’s struggled this season but is coming on strong now. If he can build on his game from last season I would feel much more confident about this team going forward.
Defense. We just aren't a good defensive team. Our perimeter defense has improved from last season, but it still is not close to being elite. Mathias has helped, PJ isnt bad, but as you saw in the Minnesota game, they both have flaws. Minnesota’s Mason dominated the perimeter game. Obviously, our post defense has gotten worse as we lost the long and athletic AJ Hammons. Unfortunately, Haas isn't as talented at defending the rim while Swanigan is great in post defense but also struggles defending the rim. To get where we all want to be, the perimeter defense has to drastically improve to help with the lack of athletes defending the post.
This a hard question, mostly because we don't have many glaring weaknesses. This is one of the most balanced teams that we've had in years. Swanigan can be dominant in the middle, our guards can hit threes at a high rate, and we have the ability to slash to the bucket when needed. On defense, we don't create turnovers, but we play good team defense, force bad shots, and we don't allow offensive rebounds. With all that said, our biggest issue right now is one we've dealt with for years. Post turnovers happen at a high rate for this team, especially when you look at the low turnover rates from our ballhandlers. Biggie and Haas get more touches than a lot of interior players around the country, but too often they cough it up before getting a shot up. If we can start limiting these turnovers and get down to less than 10 total turnovers a game, then I don't see how any team in this year's Big Ten can compete.
Sorry that I wrote a long response. I didn't have time to write a short one.
I think the one thing Purdue needs is a vocal leader; someone who the rest of the team can look to when things are going south. For the last 2 seasons, Raphael Davis served that role well, motivating the team after losses to North Florida and Gardner-Webb in 2014-15, as well as when Purdue looked to be out of the game but came back and won. Same could be said about Chris Kramer when the Baby Boilers were still in town, especially after Hummel tore his ACL. These guys weren't the most productive players offensively, but they could still rally the troops and keep everyone focused.
So far, I don't think we've seen that with this team. Players like Swanigan and V. Edwards are leaders by example, but not too much vocally. Though Spike has the most experience, he has only been on the team for a few months as a grad transfer, and C. Edwards is still young as a freshman. The closest candidate might be PJ Thompson or maybe Dakota, but I don't see the latter being too vocal.
This team is extremely talented, especially behind the arc. But as we've seen in the last few games, you're bound to miss a few shots and suddenly end up in the hole without a strong presence in the paint. People underestimate the value of having such a leader, but without one, teams can fall apart and lose to anyone, regardless of how much talent they have. IU doesn't win the B1G last season without Yogi's leadership, Purdue remains an NIT team at best without Davis, and Purdue doesn't even get close to the Sweet 16 in 2010 without Kramer's leadership.
If Purdue wants to win the B1G, they need that guy who can rally the troops and hold this team together when a game starts going south.
Turnovers, specifically the unforced ones. Last night at Ohio State Purdue had a stretch where it turned the ball over five times in six possessions. Luckily, Ohio State was struggling at the time, but it cost Purdue a chance to really build its lead in the second half. Many of them stemmed from lazy, awful passes too. At one point we even threw an inbounds pass after a made basket directly at Ohio State for another made basket in the first half.
Turnovers have been the most common theme in every Purdue loss so far. they prevented Purdue from getting over the hump against Villanova and from really getting into the game against Louisville. Against Minnesota there weren't a ton, but what turnovers there were came at the worst time. If Purdue just cleans up the unforced errors it will be fine.