What’s so fascinating about this Purdue team is that what’s known about their roster is really known, and what’s not, is a total mystery.
Carsen Edwards will lead Purdue’s team in scoring. He did it last year by averaging 18.6 points a game despite sharing the starting lineup with four seniors. He is probably the best scorer in the Big Ten and one of the best in the nation. He’s already been a finalist for National Player of the Year and won Shooting Guard of the Year. He made a drastic improvement at every level last year. He took more shots. He made those shots at a much higher efficiency. He raised his field goal percentage from 38% to nearly 46%. He went from four three-pointers a game to over six, while going from 34% to over 40% 3-point shooting.
It’s his team, but he’s no longer sharing the starting lineup with a bunch of seniors. The focus will be entirely on him with a lot of unproven or underused talents around him.
So who will step up and be the secondary scorer? We start this series off with the candidates who has been waiting the longest.
Cline is the senior who has been stuck behind Dakota Mathias his whole career. He has always been a good shooter, a smart player, and a surprisingly good passer. He’s gotten better every year, adding a little more variety to his game and improving his defense to absolutely atrocious to ‘you know what, he’s not bad’ to almost good.
But he’s only averaged more than twenty minutes a game once in his career and that was his sophomore year. Despite being an offensive player, he’s always been more passive than a gunner. He was the man in high school, but he’s been admirably and perhaps frustratingly willing to settle into a guy who just does the small things on the floor.
He averaged 5.4 points a game his sophomore season. That’s his career high. As much as he looks like a scorer, he’s never asserted himself consistently on the offensive end. But it’s almost impossible to have confidence and rhythm with your jump shot if you don’t have consistent minutes or plays drawn for you. That should change this year. His size, shooting, and intelligence will be needed to calm a team full of youngsters. He’s now the sharp shooter on the team instead of one of many.
Ryan Cline is both beloved and dogged by fans. There is appreciation for the things he does well, but also a yearning for him to be more consistent game to game, to do more of it. He’s one of those strange players that disappear for long stretches, but has a history of making big shots at big moments. He’s not afraid, you can never say that. He made big shots as a freshman. He made big shots as a sophomore. He hit big shots as a junior.
But his consistency has almost been his curse. He’s always been a good shooter. He’s been incredibly steady. His freshman year he went 42-109 from 3. His sophomore year he went 45-109. His junior year, 40-101. Remarkably consistent despite his playing time not staying that way. But he’s been streaky. He started his junior year ice cold, going 3 of 20 in his first nine games. In the next 7 games, he went 18 of 29.
Does shooting well lead to more shots? Or does more shots lead to better shooting? This is the conundrum of the Ryan Cline experience. He has done everything asked of him. Coach Painter has said the lack of minutes isn’t an indication of anything Cline has done. It’s just that he’s been stuck behind Carsen Edwards and Dakota Mathias last year.
But he’s stuck it out and now he stands as the only senior starter and finally the chance for consistent minutes on an offense that will look for him.
Maybe he gets more minutes when he shoots well. Maybe he shoots well with more minutes, but the numbers are what they are. When Ryan Cline played 17 minutes or less last year, he shot 6 of 24 from beyond the arc for 25%. In games where he played more than 17 minutes, he was 34 of 77, over 44%.
The minutes will finally come for Cline after three years. The points should follow.
Casey gives Ryan Cline even odds to be Purdue’s second leading scorer. Feel free to make a wager below.