This will be Purdue’s final non-conference game of the season before the bulk of B1G Conference play begins after the new year. This is the worst team according to Kenpom metrics with the Rattlers coming in at 357th out of 363 teams with an adjusted offensive rating of 358th and an adjusted defensive rating of 314th. Purdue, on the other hand, is sitting at 7th overall with an adjusted offensive rating of 5th and adjusted defensive rating of 26th.
Let’s take a look at the key matchups for the Boilers final tune up before the new year.
1 | Zach Edey vs. Florida A&M’s Double & Triple Teams
Again, this is going to be a theme for this years team throughout the entire season until Purdue can prove they can make opponents pay for putting double and triple teams against Edey. Since Nebraska started doubling low on Edey Purdue has shot a putrid 15/73 (21%) although the shots they are creating are he really wide open ones. Braden Smith has really been the only consistent shooter from behind the arc the last three games going 4/7 for 42.8%. No other Boilermaker has shot well from deep with Loyer going 6/23 for 26%, Morton shooting 3/10 for 30%, and Newman struggling at 1/9 for 11%. These guys need to be hitting these open opportunities to free Edey up even more but until that starts to happen, Purdue will struggle moving forward after this game.
2 | Outside Shooters Not Named Braden Smith & Mason Gillis vs. the Three Point Arc
There are only two players right now through the entire season that are shooting better than 35% form behind the arc: Braden Smith at 42.4% and Mason Gillis at 36%. The rest of the Boilermakers check in at 32.5% or below and that is a number that needs to improve significantly for a couple of players if Purdue wants to continue towards a 25th B1G title and moving past the second weekend in March.
Loyer is a somewhat proven commodity as a shooter but has shot just 32.5% but he has shown an ability to get to the rim or make mid-range jumpers when his outside shots haven’t been falling. It’s hard to fault a freshman’s struggles when they are also finding other ways to score when the outside jumper isn’t going.
Where Purdue really needs to get going is with the second string of players coming off the bench in Newman and Jenkins Jr. These players have shown an ability to shoot 40% or better from behind the arc but are instead just 31.8% and 21.7%, respectively. Purdue has a depth advantage they need to make use of but that can’t be fully exploit that with those two wings shooting poorly.
You also have seen two 40%+ shooters from last season in Ethan Morton and Caleb Furst shooting well below what they have shown in the past. As mentioned above, Purdue can’t keep missing open looks when hitting them means Edey would be getting more one-on-one opportunities and those are ones Edey will win 75%+ every time.
3 | Purdue’s Complacency vs. an Inferior Opponent
The last three opponents Purdue has faced in Nebraska, Davidson, and New Orleans should not have been remotely close games but when Purdue appeared close to a blow out, they appeared to be content to just play evenly instead of stepping on the throat of their opponent. That works against teams that you are just physically more gifted than but there will be teams in the B1G that will suddenly get hot and the 12-15 point lead is down to 3-5 points in the span of 4-5 minutes.
That tendency is a bad habit to break, especially for a young team that is enjoying being ranked number one. If the Boilers want to play up to their ceiling this year they have to extend that 12 point lead to 20 and when they come out of a timeout, quickly put the game out of reach by getting to 25 points. That is the next step for a team that is suddenly looked at as a contender for a B1G title and a deep run in March.