Tomorrow night the drive for a 24th Big Ten title gets underway. In many ways, it is a new look Purdue. There are a ton of new faces. Carsen Edwards might be the best player in America, but the biggest question is “Does he have enough around him for Purdue to make some serious noise?” The early season polls believe the Carsen effect to be real. We’re about where we were to start the last couple seasons. We’re in the “Good, could threaten to win a conference title and reach a Sweet 16, but not national contenders”. Of course, all it takes is the right mix in March. A year ago right now Loyola-Chicago was less than an afterthought. Then they were in the Final Four. Purdue, Villanova, and Virginia dominated large swaths of the regular season. One won the title, one was cut short due to injury, and one had the worst loss in NCAA Tournament history.
After three straight seasons where Purdue was a Big Ten contender and a Final Four threat this year is odd. I am not sure what to expect. I have had a hard time getting excited because the last two years had such promise and ended with such disappointment. They were our best shots in decades for a Final Four and we still came up short. With so much lost it is hard to see us being better.
But there is always Carsen. He’s going to be great, and he is going to give us a chance in every game. With that in mind, I wanted to do a preseason roundtable since we’re on the eve of the season. Let’s see what the staff thinks about this coming year.
1. Carsen is gonna be Carsen, but who will be Purdue’s No. 2 scorer?
Andrew Ledman: #2 scorer for me is obvious. It’s Ryan Cline. The guy is a dead eye shooter and now he’s going to take over the minutes that Dakota Mathias played last season. He might not be as good defensively, okay he’s definitely not as good defensively, but he can be just as good on the offensive end.
Juan Crespo: Based on what we saw in the exhibition game on Thursday night, I think Cline has the best chance to be our 2nd leading scorer. Now that he’s not stuck on the bench behind Carsen and 4 seniors, he has some more flexibility to distribute and score. He’s still going to have off nights, like any dedicated 3-point shooter, but at the end of the season I think he will be just behind Carsen in points.
Drew Schneider: Son, you ain’t heard of Ryan Cline and the RC4L and Clinelife grassroots movement sweeping through the Boilermaker fan base?
Casey Bartley: It’s Cline. It was always going to be Cline. The exhibition put any doubt of that away. He’s running the offense, pick and rolls and dribbble hand-offs, and taking shots he wasn’t taking his first three years. He doesn’t turn the ball over and he’s always been lurking as a guy who could be a go to option of offense, but he’s known his role and been willing to accept it. Now he has to score and he will.
Kyle: I think it will be Ryan Cline. He will benefit from consistent playing time this year and will find his stroke early. Think of Dakota Mathias type of production.
T-Mill: Fine guys, I will go unorthodox. I am gonna go with Matt Haarms. We’re not going to just forget that we have a really tall guy in the post to throw the ball too. I think he is going to shine as an inside-out guy too. Just wait until he starts bombing in some threes. He’s going to take a big step and could be a potential 12 and 7 guy.
2. Which of the freshmen, including the redshirts, do you think will have the largest impact?
Andrew Ledman: I’m inclined to go with Sasha here. I know Hunter is probably the majority choice here but I’m going slightly outside the box. Purdue needs shooters. Right now we know Carsen and Cline can shoot from distance but honestly who else do we know can do this? I’m drawing a blank. Purdue needs Sasha to step up and show that he can similar to Dakota and even Cline during their careers. We need him to come in, use his natural shooting ability, and hopefully be competent on defense. If he can shoot like we all think he can it will open up the offense for others and could change the whole look of the Purdue offense.
Juan Crespo: (Didn’t answer)
Drew Schneider: Eric Hunter, we need scoring. Eric Hunter is pure, distilled 180 proof scoring.
Casey Bartley: It’s Eric Hunter. I think Wheeler and Sasha will both have to be impact players for Purdue to be good, but it’s Hunter who has the highest ceiling on both ends of the floor. Purdue needs playmaking, especially when Carsen is on the bench, and that’s gonna be Hunter’s role to take.
Kyle: Eric Hunter is it for me. He is a pure scorer and will be asked to handle the ball a bunch with the second unit. Hunter will get more opportunities than any other freshman on the roster.
T-Mill: I am gonna pick Aaron Wheeler. I like a tall, freak of nature athlete that can shoot and I think he can be really, really good. He’s going to have some highlight reel dunks and probably at least one game with four threes.
3. Does Purdue win the Charleston Tournament, at Florida State, at Texas, or any combination thereof?
Andrew Ledman: Yes to all three. The field of the Charleston Tournament isn’t exactly bone chilling. Which is good because it’s early in the season and this Purdue team may not be well put together yet. The longer the season goes on the better this team will be. They haven’t had the luxury of playing together in an organized fashion over the summer like Purdue has had in recent years given the World University Games and the foreign trip. Once the season moves on to late November and early December I expect Purdue to be a much better team. The rotation will have tightened up and the roles will be more defined.
Juan Crespo: For Charleston, I think we should at least expect Purdue to make it to the championship game, and assume they’ll face Virginia Tech, and at least split between Florida State and Texas. Neither schools have intimidating atmospheres, but Florida State are already ranked and will probably offer Purdue a tough test. Texas is tough only because of Shaka Smart, but I think it’s time to get revenge for the 2011 VCU game.
Drew Schneider: I’m going to need a few more data points before I make such bold predictions, but sure, they’ll win at least 1 of those those.
Casey: I think Purdue will do well in Charleston, but going on the road as such a young team will be hard. Expect Purdue to drop two games early in their tough match-ups and then get better as the year goes along.
Kyle: That is a tall task, but it can be done when you have Carsen Edwards running the show. I believe we would see Wichita State in round 2 of Charleston, which is probably the biggest hurdle of the games listed.
T-Mill: I think we can take two of three. The Texas game is kind of tricky because Shaka Smart ran us out of the damn gym eight years ago, so I still have some nightmares. I think we can have a very good run in Charleston and Virginia Tech is the strongest challenger there. Buzz Williams is an excellent coach and will have them ready. Making the final there and losing isn’t bad, but we can definitely win at FSU and Texas.
4. What player makes “the leap” as an unexpected contributor?
Andrew Ledman: I know that Nojel Eastern came into his own toward the end of last season but he still wasn’t a huge factor in the offense. His defense was raw but could lead to turnovers and some easy buckets. The less that’s said about his free throw shooting the better. I think he’s going to be the biggest surprise from last year. I’m kind of twisting the question because I don’t think he will be an unexpected contributor but I think his contribution will be much greater, on both sides of the ball, than people are assuming.
Juan Crespo: (blank stare)
Drew Schneider: It won’t be that unexpected, but Eastern is going to do a bunch of little things for Purdue that will make a huge difference.
Casey Bartley: It’s gonna be Haarms. I think he was a little too hyped last year. He had little refinement to his offensive game in the sense that, he looks like he can do everything on the offensive end, but he couldn’t really get into his moves or use them efficiently. This year he’s by far the most rounded of the big guy options with defense and ability to really hurt a defense on the pick and roll. He’s put up a lot of points quickly to start the season, that should continue.
Kyle: Haarms will have to make a jump for us. We need his production. He will be forced to play a bunch of minutes this year as well. He can play the four or the five for us, but I prefer him at the 5.
T-Mill: I already picked Wheeler above and I am going to stick with him. I think he surprises a lot of us early on. If he could seize the starting role as a stretch four by the end of the season that would open up a ton of things.
5. Where does Purdue finish in the Big Ten?
Andrew Ledman: I hate questions like this. If you follow our football predictions you know I’m absolutely terrible at this. I think if you force me to make a choice I’ll say they finish 4th in the conference. I think the teams I would put in front of Purdue are Michigan, Michigan State, and Wisconsin. I don’t buy all of the Nebraska hype, I think Maryland will disappoint (again), and I don’t buy that Indiana is going to suddenly destroy the opposition this year because of one recruit. I just don’t. I’ll settle for 4th.
Juan Crespo: I think Purdue will finish within the Top 4 of the Big Ten this year. Other than the 2 Michigans and IU with that one player, the Big Ten is kinda “meh” this season. Ohio State lost quite a bit of talent over the offseason, Wisconsin still depends on Happ, and no one else excites me. Granted, there’s a lot of basketball to be played between now and March, and a team could be much better than advertised. But for now, Purdue’s expectations are at least a Top 4 seed in the B1G Tournament for the 5th straight year.
Drew Schneider: Upper tier
Casey Bartley: They’ll finish in the top four and be one of the two or three best teams in the conference. They’ll drop some games they shouldn’t, youth and inconsistent shooting and all, but they’ve got talent and Painter does a good job at putting teams together and letting young players both learn and not get left on a ledge.
Kyle: Upper half.
T-Mill: I’ll go top three. I think Ethan Happ is hilariously overrated at Wisconsin, Nebraska is Nebraska, and Indiana is coached by a guy that got absolutely pantsed by Indiana State and IPFW last year despite having 10 times more talent. That leaves Michigan and Michigan State. Beilein is a great coach and MSU seems to always get the best players. I think we can do something like 15-5 in the league and probably be in the top 3. I don’t think there is a runaway, hands down favorite this year and we could be in for a wild season.
6. Does Purdue make the NCAAs and how far do we go?
Andrew Ledman: Yes, Purdue makes the NCAA tournament and I think we make it to the Sweet 16. I know that’s not exactly and Earth shattering pick and it’s going to make a certain percent of our fan base mad and yell about a ceiling and how Purdue just can’t break through but I don’t buy that. I think this is a transitional year for the team and that if not for Carsen Edwards I’m not sure I would pick this team to make the tournament at all. This sort of season is going to happen from time to time but thanks to Edwards this season won’t be a low point.
Juan Crespo: This Purdue team feels a lot like the 2011-12 team, except we have a fully healthy star. I think Purdue makes the tournament, but somewhere between and 6 and a 10 seed. I would prefer a 7 or 10 seed just so Purdue (assuming they win the first round game) can face the tough opponent in the 2nd round. Sure, it doesn’t mean we’ll have a guaranteed Sweet 16 appearance again, but win that game and it could give Purdue great momentum to make a tournament run.
Drew Schneider: Yes, and I’m going to really need more data before making that prediction.
Casey Bartley: Elite Eight. Don’t @me. I’ve been saying it since last year. We’re finally going to be a team that gets hot late and it’s gonna carry to success we haven’t seen in a long time.
Kyle: Purdue will make the tournament on the shoulders of Carsen Edwards. If he has a great year, which he will, we will have a great run in the big dance also. A young, athletic team with a plethora of shooters can lead to a deep run.
T-Mill: The bare minimum expectation each season at Purdue is to make the tournament. When you have a player like Carsen Edwards there is no excuse to not make it, really. What do we do once we are there, as always, depends on matchups. It has been an incredibly long time since Purdue was gifted a broken bracket. Look at last year. Put us as the 2 seed in Virginia or Xavier’s region and we walk to the Final Four even with the Haas injury. With Carsen, we could be the hot 6 seed that makes a run with a couple upsets clearing the way.