It’s Saturday so that means it roundtable day. I ask our staff a question and see what they have to say. We are sticking with Purdue basketball again this week.
Purdue Basketball is back at #1 for the 5th week this season, the most of any team so far this year, and sits alone atop the Big Ten. They aren’t a perfect team though. If this season goes off the rails what will be the reason? What is this team’s biggest weakness/liability?
It has to be the three point shooting. No one yet has figured out how to slow down Zach Edey. His production doesn’t worry me. What worries me is the three point shooting We’ve seen games where Purdue has struggled to shoot the ball and it’s no coincidence that those are Purdue’s worst games. The games where it really could have gone either way. If Purdue can shoot the ball like they did out in Portland I think they are unbeatable. That’s obviously a rare feat though. Purdue was firing on all cylinders out there.
If the guard play fails Purdue Edey will have to pick up more of the load and that’s asking a lot of a guy who already does so much and carries such a huge load.
I don’t think this team is at a lack for leadership and coachability so I don’t think the team will go off the rails unless we have some kind of big controversy amongst players and their personal lives. I have long said that for this team to be successful they need to be shooting 35% of above from behind the arc to operate efficiently on the offensive end. Purdue has had 20 games this season and in almost half of them they have shot below 35% from beyond the arc.
In the 11 games that Purdue has shot at 35% or better from behind the arc, only two games were decided by less than 12 points and both were away games at MSU and at OSU. In fact, in those 11 games the margin for victory is 15.8 points where as in the 7 games where Purdue played teams with a pulse (removing FAMU & New Orleans for obvious reasons), Purdue has won by only an average of 6.7 points. The difference for Purdue at that percentage of shooting is where things could get sideways for the Boilers if they can’t find some kind of relative level to their shooting. Shooting just 35% from behind the arc as a team would place Purdue around 100th in the country and that needs to be the standard moving forward as teams will likely move into more zone looks to clog the lane for Zach or continue to double him and hope Purdue has a poor shooting night (which is a 50% chance on the season).
Purdue is full of good to very good shooters with players like Morton (43.6%), Furst (42.3%), and Gillis (41.4%) all showing they can be very good shooters and last season Brandon Newman was the lowest % shooter at 32%, This year, that would place Newman 5th ahead of Gillis, Jenkins, and Morton. These guys have all proven they can make shots but I believe the roles they have been put into this year may have thrown off the mental aspects of shooting just a bit and after slow starts Smith (44.6%) and Loyer (36.4%) are starting to round into form. It is time for Purdue’s more veteran shooters to start doing the same because that is the team’s biggest weakness right now.
I think there are two different answers to these questions. Purdue has got enough talent that only one thing is going to derail the season: injury, specifically if Zach Edey gets injured. Other injuries would be tough but a lengthy injury to Big Maple would be a crushing blow. As for the weakness of the team, it appears to be 3 point shooting. If 3 point shots are falling, Purdue wins every game by 15 points, but Purdue hasn’t consistently made 3’s in a hot minute. In arguably the two worst games this year (Maryland and Rutgers), Purdue shot 2-13 and 7-23 from deep, respectively. Going full circle, because Purdue has Zach Edey, the wheels stay on despite the lack of consistent shooting from deep. If Purdue can hit 3’s like they did in the PK Legacy (38% or better in all 3 games) and Zach Edey stays healthy, watch out everybody else.
I’ll start off my answer by saying I love a young team. They play with a certain type of edge knowing this isn’t their last season; an everything to prove, nothing to lose type attitude. With that being said, it may be our biggest weakness as this season goes on as well. We start two true freshman that are playing well beyond their age but this is still new. Every arena they play in, team they play, place they go is the first time. This will be the first March Madness they experience and as the stakes get higher it would be hard not to get rattled in those environments. Their first rivalry game at Assembly will be a B1G test to see how they respond in what will be the most hostile environment they’ve seen thus far. They’ve been playing with house money and I think if they can keep that mindset throughout the season then they will be fine and not get to into their heads.
It comes down to Loyer and Smith. Zach is going to get his, it’s a question of Loyer and Smith getting theirs as well. In the only loss of the season Edey, Smith and Loyer combined for 36, with Edey outscoring the Smith/Loyer combo, whole “only” putting up 19.
The freshman wall is my fear.