I’ve written for Hammer and Rails for quite a few years now. I’ve had a couple good takes, plenty of bad takes, and a few atrocious takes during my blogging career, but no one is able to ring a bad take out of me like early season Matt Painter.
This year, however, I’m on to Coach Painter and his wily ways. I watched last nights game with the calm of a Zen Buddhist after a handful of Xanax. In the past, every missed free throw, every bad call, every stagnant offensive possession would coax my blood pressure up a notch until I would have to turn up the T.V. so I could hear it over the pounding in my ears. Last night I watched with mild indifference as Marquette jogged past a laboring Purdue squad that appeared to not understand they signed up for the 200 yard dash and not the 100.-
The fact of the matter is that Purdue looked like a bad basketball team in the second half. All of the preseason question marks turned into exclamation points.
The Boilermakers looked lost late in the shot without Carsen.
Nojel, despite his size advantage, avoided the post like the lane was hot lava.
It appeared that Trevion was attempting to play while carrying Luce on his back.
When Wheeler went to the bench, Purdue hemorrhaged offensive rebounds.
Purdue looked like they were shooting free throws on trick carnival rims.
These are all legitimate criticisms for the Marquette game, because they’re all true. The thing is, they won’t always be true. That’s where I’ve gone astray over the years in my criticism of Matt Painter and Purdue basketball in general.
When Purdue lost to a marginal Notre Dame team in a that didn’t feel as close as the 8 point deficit to go 6-5 last year, I thought Purdue was done.
Carsen was gunning stupid shots, going 8-22 from the field.
Grady Eifert played 30 minutes and grabbed 3 rebounds.
Nojel was in foul trouble all game and was a non-factor on offense.
Matt Haarms played 11 minutes and scored 2 points.
The defense was pathetic. Notre Dame put up 88 points, including 11 3’s.
These were all legitimate criticisms for the Notre Dame game, again, because they’re all true. Later, as the season progressed, we saw everything start to fall in place. Carsen, for the most part, started letting the game come to him. Grady turned into a huge piece of the Purdue puzzle. Nojel ended up being a lock down defender with a sneaky offensive game. Haarms turned into a point center, running the game out of the high post and erasing shots on defense. The defense, while never great, tightened up. Purdue ended up a Virginia miracle away from the Final 4.
I’ve accepted that this team is a work in progress, and I expect to see a totally different team in February/March than I see in November. Painter will figure out his rotation. Williams will be back in shape and play a crucial role (or maybe he won’t and someone else steps up and fills his role). The late clock/game strategy will come together. The free throws will fall. Nojel will find his new place in the offense. The defense will tighten up.
Maybe, just maybe, this is the year that things fail to come together, and that the Marquette and Texas games are signs of fatal issues with the coaching and roster this year. More likely, however, is that things will play out the same way they’ve played out in recent years.
The Boilermakers will end up as a 4/5 and a dangerous team in March.
That’s where I’ve got my money, and when that happens, I won’t have to look back at a November “the sky is falling” article and shake my head.....
At least I hope so.