National writers continue to shovel coal into the boiler of the 2021/22 Purdue basketball hype train. The general consensus is that Purdue will not only be a contender in the Big10 next season, but also nationally. Yes folks, people who write about basketball for a living (some well, some...not so well) think Purdue has a shot to win it all. It’s silly to think about that at the moment, but I’ve got time to kill today and wanted to look further into Purdue’s theoretical chances of taking home the trophy. Based on a cursory glance of recent champions, Purdue will have to break the mold of recent NCAA Champions to get the job done.
As we all witnessed in Purdue’s ever-so-brief stay in Indianapolis this March, the Boilermakers had one guard capable of striking fear into the heart of the opponent. Yes, Jaden Ivey is preternaturally talented, but even his chiseled shoulders won’t be able to support a run to a championship alone. In theory, Tre Williams, and to a lesser extent, Zach Edey, are the two players capable of providing the scoring support for Mr. Ivey. Both are great players fully capable of helping lead Purdue to a Big10 Championship and a possible NCAA title, but that’s where things get tricky. It’s been a long while since an NCAA Tournament winning team relied heavily on a pure post player to score.
G - Jared Butler - 16.7 Pts
G- MaCio Teague - 15.8 Pts
G- Davion Mitchell - 14.1 Pts
G - Kyle Guy - 15.4
G/F - De’Andre Hunter - 15.2
G - Ty Jerome - 13.6
G - Jalen Brunson - 18.9
G/F - Mikal Bridges - 17.7
G - Donte DiVincenzo - 13.4
North Carolina 2017
G/F - Justin Jackson - 18.3
G - Joel Berry - 14.7
C - Kennedy Meeks - 12.5
G - Josh Hart - 15.5
F - Kris Jenkins - 13.6
G - Ryan Arcidiacono - 12.5
C - Jahlil Okafor - 17.3
G - Quinn Cook - 15.3
F - Justice Winslow - 12.6
G - Shabazz Napier - 18
G/F - DeAndre Daniels - 13.1
G - Ryan Boatright - 12.1
G - Russ Smith - 18.7
G - Peyton Siva - 10
F - Chane Behanan - 9.8
F/C - Anthony Davis - 14.2
G - Doron Lamb - 13.7
F - Michael Kidd-Gilchrist - 11.9
G - Kemba Walker - 23.5
G - Jeremy Lamb - 11.1
F - Alex Oriakhi - 9.6
Out of the 30 players on this list, 3 are centers. In reality, only Jahlil Okafor was primarily a post scorer. Meeks made his living on offensive rebounds and dump offs and Davis, well, he was (and still is) a totally different beast and could score from anywhere on the court, including the post.
Most team relied on a mix of point guards and wing scorers to bring it home in March. You’ll also notice that scoring has creeped up over the decade and become more balanced.
You need at least 3 consistent scoring options to win it all.
C - Trevion Williams - 15.5
G- Jayden Ivey - 11.1
G - Sasha Stefanovic - 9.3
This is deceptive because Ivey came on late in his freshman year, and by March I considered him 1a in terms of scoring with Trevion. Ivey averaged 17 points over the last 7 games of the season, including his 26 point outburst against North Texas. Over that same span of games, Williams averaged 15 points, but that’s also deceptive because he put up 28 against Michigan State and 26 against Ohio State, but failed to reach double digits in 3 of those 7 games.
The third spot is going to be crucial for Purdue next season. Over the last 7 seasons, the 3rd leading scorer on championship teams have averaged around 12 points a game. I’m not sure Sasha is that guy. North Texas played him off the court on defense, and he’s entirely reliant on a notoriously fickle 3 point shot. When he’s on, he’s on fire, but when he’s cold, he’s ice cold. I like him more as an X-factor than a guy you have to rely on game in and game out for points.
Zach Edey was Purdue’s 4th leading scorer, which is crazy for a player starting to figure out the game, but if Purdue is going to “break the mold” with Trevion’s scoring, adding a second low post scorer to Purdue’s top 3 seems untenable.
That leaves Hunter and Newman as the other 2 options returning from last year. I’ve lost a good bit of faith in Hunter’s ability to put the ball in the basket, and I think he has as well. I remember when getting Hunter the ball at the end of the shot clock to win games was an actual thing Matt Painter tried to do in the not so distant past. I’m not sure what happened to Hunter’s smooth midrange game, but it was M.I.A. down the stretch last season. Much like Sasha, I don’t think Hunter is a guy you can trust to put the ball in the basket on a consistent basis. He may occasionally have himself a game, but he scored a total of 8 points over Purdue’s last 4 games, while averaging around 30 minutes on the court.
Newman is the player that needs to step up and grab the 3rd scoring spot, but he’s going to have to find some consistency and confidence. Much like Sasha and Hunter, he fell apart down the stretch. I’m not sure what happened after his 10 point 7 rebound, 3 assist game against Nebraska on February 20th, but his minutes were slashed dramatically after that game. Over the last 5 games of the season he went from playing 25+ minutes a night to somewhere between 10-15 minutes a contest. He only logged 12 minutes against North Texas and attempted 2 shots.
Brandon has the talent. His 29 point breakout against Minnesota, and a few other scoring blips like his 17 points against Maryland and 21 against Oakland show he can put the ball in the basket, even if the consistency and confidence hasn’t caught up yet. If you’re looking for the third option in Purdue’s offense, out of everyone on the roster, Newman is the guy with the potential to jump into the 10-12 points a game range next season. If Purdue truly has a shot to win it all, strangely enough, it may come down to Brandon Newman and his ability to turn potential into production.
Looking previous National Champions, Purdue’s top 3 scorers need to look something like this next season.
G - Jayden Ivey - 16-19
C - Trevion Williams - 13-16
G - Brandon Newman - 10-13
Jayden must lead the way on offense, and that means getting him consistent shots. I’ll be interested to see if Matt moves Trevion out of the post more next season in order to utilize his passing skills around foul line and subsequently open the lane up for Jayden. In fact, Williams showing that he can play outside the post could boost his NBA prospects. His ability to rebound and pass are his elite skills, and showcasing that to NBA scouts should be high on his list of priorities. I don’t think we’ll see Painter get too far away from his low post, punch you in the face, offense, but a few tweaks could pay huge dividends moving forward.
I like Trevion more as a rebounder and a passer than a scorer in most games, and emphasizing those two aspects of his game while cutting down on his true low post attempts could allow the Boilermakers to play faster. Tre is going to to score, and when he’s cooking, absolutely feed the beast, but I see him becoming an important second option next season, instead of the primary scorer.
I talked about Newman a good bit already, but I think 10-13 points a game is easily attainable. Like Ivey, he’s going to need to get up more shots. That means he’s either going to take shots away from other players (Sasha, Tre, Hunter) or Purdue is going to have to pick up the tempo and get more shots up overall (more on that at a later date). Either way, someone is going to have to step up and provide more points, and Newman is a good candidate.
The excitement and expectations for the 2021/2022 is off the charts, and for good reason. Matt Painter returns a now experienced, talented lineup with an elite “go to” perimeter player and a bone crushing big man capable of gobbling up rebounds, scoring in the paint, and delivering precision passes.
Purdue’s ability to find a consistent third option, and finding a balance between the post-centric offense and Ivey’s uncanny ability to score at the rim will tell the story. I’m not sure Painter has ever had this much talent up and down the roster, and I’m dying to see how he utilizes everyone.
The season starts in 8 short months.