Three Things To Watch For in 2022-2023
The 2022-2023 season for Purdue Basketball will offer a bit of a reprieve from the unusual position of high expectations from the previous season. Boilermaker fans relish in the role of being the plucky underdog who doesn’t get the respect they feel they deserve. This year’s makeup of the Boilers will bring about players stepping into expanded roles and young players being expected to play at a high level. Let’s discuss some of the things to watch for this season from the Boilers.
1 | Point Guard Lacking Depth and Experience
Probably the biggest thing to watch this season and the one thing that will either push Purdue past the modest expectations from the media and fans or fall flat is how the point guard position evolves. Obviously Braden Smith is the flag bearer at point guard but the position will need to be bolstered by fellow freshman Fletcher Loyer, transfer guard David Jenkins Jr., and Purdue’s Renaissance Man Ethan Morton.
Smith has been a revelation this off season with Coach Painter stating that he was unsure how Smith wasn’t a top 75 type of recruit and that everyone would find out after the first month of the season. That’s great news for the biggest question mark heading into the season for Purdue but the fact remains that Smith is still a true freshman, playing point guard, in the most physically demanding conference in the country.
To bolster Smith, Painter has some options from what would be considered non-traditional point guards. Fletcher Loyer is a tall and skilled shooting guard who has some point guard skills that he used in AAU for one of Indiana’s best programs last year. David Jenkins Jr. is more of a scoring guard but he’ll be asked to do some things Painter asks from his point guards, namely jamming the opposing ball handler full court to slow down transition opportunities and allow Purdue to get set in its’ defense. The most important may be Ethan Morton as his length and size can really cause a problem for opposing teams to deal with and Morton may have the most natural point guard skills outside of Smith..
2 | Can Zach Edey Average More Than 24 Minutes Per Game?
Zach Edey only averaged 19 minutes per game alongside Trevion Williams but what he was able to do in those limited minutes was remarkable. 14.4 ppg, 7.7 rebounds, 1.2 assists, and 1.2 blocks while shooting 65% from the field. Without the presence of Williams this season, the paint is Edey’s alone and Coach Painter will give Edey all of the minutes he can handle as long as his efficiency and effectiveness remains. If you look at those numbers from a per 40 minutes basis, Edey’s numbers are staggering at over 30ppg, 16 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 4 blocks. If Edey can get to 25 minutes per game on average per night and maintain that trajectory, Edey could be looking at an All American type season where he could average 20ppg, 12 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 blocks per game. Painter has also said he is surprised by Edey’s ability to continue playing and not tiring out like previous big men he has had. If that’s the case, sit back and enjoy one of the great individual seasons in Purdue Basketball history.
3 | A Return To ‘Defense Lives Here’
Last season the biggest hole for Purdue was, oddly enough, a lack of defensive focus and intensity. That comes as a shocker for a program who wears the badge of ‘Defense Lives Here’ on the butt of their shorts and hangs a sign for opposing team’s turnovers. However ingrained that ideology has been for the culture of Purdue basketball over the course of nearly 40 years, Matt Painter seemed to just miss the mark on what made that team tick defensively.
Last season, Purdue averaged giving up 68.5 points per game which would place that as the second worst season under Matt Painter defensively (the worst being the disastrous 2013-2014 season of 71.4 points per game). You have to think a program who is built around the character of its coach as much as Purdue is will have a quick turn around for the foundation of a program that has enjoyed just two head coaches since 1984.
7’4 Zach Edey obviously comes with some defensive liabilities that opposing teams will look to take advantage of in the pick and roll/pick and pop but it stands to reason that Edey’s length alone along with a more cohesive defensive effort should alleviate some of those concerns (the blocked shot against Truman State flashed some improved movement). Purdue also will enjoy having one of the better perimeter defenders in the conference in Ethan Morton who turned the corner in that regard as the season progressed along with a litany of other players who simply seem to ‘give a damn’ on the defensive end. There are young and new players that will need to step into prominent roles on the defensive side of the ball if Purdue wants to return to the idea that defense lives here.