The Purdue Boilermakers make their return to Mackey Arena following their victory over the previously unbeaten and #1 ranked Arizona Wildcats against the Jacksonville Dolphins. Following their victory, the Boilers again ascended to the top spot in the AP poll after falling down to 4th following their loss to the Northwestern Wildcats. Purdue will return home against a Jacksonville squad that is ranked 267th in Kenpom, the lowest of all of Purdue’s opponents on the season (Texas Southern is just ahead at 266th).
Jacksonville is led by sophomore guard Robert McCray who is averaging 16.8 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.5 steals per game but the Dolphins have three scorers averaging in double figures with Marcus Niblack averaging 12.8 and Bryce Workman averaging 12.3. The Dolphins shoot just 30.8% from behind the arc as a team but have some capable shooters on limited attempts in Bryce Workman (6-13) and Marcus Niblack (5-12) to pair with McCray and Jarius Cook who take a majority of the outside shots going 34.6% and 34.4%, respectively.
Let’s get into the ‘The Three Pointer!’
1 | Execution is Key
In games where it is obvious that the opponent is overwhelmed in all categories, it is imperative that the Boilers execute at a high level to generate easy shots. Jacksonville has put some points on the board against some lower quality opponents but against the three major programs they have faced, the Dolphins are averaging only 54.7 points per game (Xavier, Pittsburgh, UCF) and have lost by an average of 38.7 points in those contests. It is easy to get lackadaisical and play too loose in games where you may think the outcome has largely been decided before the tipoff.
That hasn’t appeared to be an issue at this point in the season but following some big time games against Iowa, Alabama, and Arizona and falling at a point in the season around Christmas with students off campus, a lack of focus wouldn’t be a surprise. Continuing to execute the offensive sets and defensive concepts that have been worked on all year in a game situation will pay dividends throughout the season. I doubt players like Braden Smith, Fletcher Loyer, Zach Edey, and really the entire roster need an excuse to play hard because they are gamers at their cores, but for the reasons listed above it would be easy to come in a bit unfocused.
If Purdue executes at their level of expectation that Coach Matt Painter has for them, no matter if that is the starters or the deep bench guys like Waddell and Berg sprinkled in with the walk-ons, Purdue should be able to generate open looks and score in bunches.
2 | Generate More Opportunities for Points in Transition
One of the reasons this team has a much higher ceiling than they did a year ago is that they have the ability to hit a different gear throughout the course of the game. A game against an opponent like Jacksonville is a great way to continue to evolve aspects like transitions opportunities in the open court off blocked shots, rebounds, and steals. Purdue has two high level ball handlers in the open court in Braden Smith and Lance Jones and allowing them the ability to get into transition has put some of the best teams in the country on their heels.
Purdue currently ranks 15th in the country in shooting percentage in transition at 65.5% while ranking just 189th in the percentage of their overall shots that they take in transitions at just 24.2%. It is one of the reasons why Purdue’s offense is so efficient this season as they are ranked 2nd in adjusted offense on Kenpom. This is an aspect that Purdue should look to exploit more this season as Braden Smith has some of the best court vision in college basketball with shooters like Lance Jones and Fletcher Loyer able to get to the wings and shoot off passes coming from an attacking Smith. It would also be nice to see Cam Heide and Myles Colvin be able to get out more in space to use their athleticism to finish at the rim.
Purdue has been very selective about the times it tries to get out and run as they have been outscored on fast break opportunities 97-78. Although that doesn’t quite paint the picture for transition points and opportunities, it does show how selective Purdue has been when it comes to trying to go a bit quicker this season. Some of that disparity does lie in the two games against Marquette (16-2) and Arizona (17-7) where the Boilers were outscored in fast break opportunities 33-9 due to turnovers and other mistakes, the Boilers were also very selective when they wanted to speed things up. It would be beneficial to see more of a concerted effort to quick quicker and get out into transition and fast break opportunities.
3 | Feed’ey the Edey
After the win against Arizona, whose roster features one of the other elite big men in college basketball in Oumar Ballo, I believe it is safe to say that no player has the skill, size, and determination to square up to Edey and stop him over the course of an entire game. Ballo is a 7’ and 260 pound athlete who, when put into one on one situations against Edey, just couldn’t do much to stop him. That’s what happens when players around Edey are playing well from the outside and hitting shots.
In a game that is going to feature nobody taller than 6’9 and nobody weighing more than 230 pounds, getting the ball to the Boiler big man in positions where he can catch, drop step, and hit his shots is key. It was something Purdue struggled with in their loss to FDU a season ago as the pressure from the defense forced Purdue players into very long post entry passes that allowed the double and triple teams get themselves established underneath Edey. With good ball movement (see point 1), Purdue should be able to isolate Edey in deep post positions where he can turn and get to his jump hook from 5 to 8 feet away.
What surprised a lot of people from outside the program against Arizona was Edey’s ability to feel the pressure coming, remain patient, and pass out of the double teams to someone who could do something with the ball (dribble, pass, shoot). Outside of a few possessions where he was doubled in the corner, Edey made great decisions from the post to the tune of a career high 5 assists against Arizona. That’s the gravitational pull Edey has in the post and simply getting shots onto the rim from other players should be part of feeding Edey opportunities. The 7’4 post will enjoy a likely 7 to 9 inch height advantage most of the night in the post and the opportunities for offensive rebounds for kick outs or put backs serve as chances for Edey without generating him a post touch.
And 1 | Extended Playing Time for Cam Heide, Myles Colvin, Ethan Morton, and Will Berg
Coach Painter was quoted earlier this season as saying he needed to find minutes for these three specifically because they are starter caliber players who may not get the kinds of minutes they deserve because of the depth Purdue has at the 2 and 3 positions with Loyer and Jones eating up 25 or more minutes a night. That doesn’t leave a whole lot on the bone for Heide, Colvin, and Morton on most nights but they need to be ready because their ability to come off the bench and provide solid minutes is an incredible boost for the Boilers.
The game against Jacksonville falls on the schedule at a time when the B1G calendar is quickly approaching and the extended minutes opportunities will become a bit more foggy versus known like it will against Jacksonville and Eastern Kentucky (barring something weird happening). These are opportunities to for these guys, especially Heide and Colvin, to get film for them to watch and learn from. The other two guys are a bit of a different story though.
Will Berg is a player who has shown an incredible amount of growth during his time at Purdue. In his opportunities so far this year, he has flashed as a big man who plays with incredible effort and is in the right positions to be successful. During some extended minutes against Samford, Texas Southern, and Morehead State, Berg’s effort allowed him to score a total of 18 points and grab 9 rebounds in 18 minutes of game action. Those are some solid numbers for a player who is coming off a redshirt season that was hampered a bit by injury. He is still squarely behind Caleb Furst and Trey Kaufman-Renn, but his development continues to be a point to follow as Edey leaves following this season.
The player on here that doesn’t need any film for himself is fourth year guard Ethan Morton but he deserves all of the extra minutes he can get. He has gone from a player who made 29 starts and played 25.1 minutes per game to averaging just 12.6 minutes per game this season and has only seen more than 13 minutes of action against Samford, Iowa, and Texas Southern. The kid deserves some extended minutes in his final season and these next two are great opportunities for him.
The Boilers will continue to work on small things that will allow them to improve from now until the tourney and likely the biggest improvement they can make is the ability of these roles players to step up in big moments. They get more confident to do so in games like this one against Jacksonville where they can get more minutes.
Listen, this one shouldn’t be close and although I haven’t seen the line for this game it could very well be 35 points. Do the Boilers win by that much? If they played their regular allotment of minutes they might be able to win this game by 60, but to be honest that is about as remote of a possibility of happening unless the game gets really sideways and the deep bench and walk-ons prove to be too much for Jacksonville. Edey will get his stats and find his way to the bench while Smith and Loyer will get there eventually as well as those three likely don’t see usage over 23 minutes. This’ll be one where the deep bench will get extended minutes and guys like Heide and Colvin may be in the 18 to 20 minute range. That likely means the lead, which may balloon to 35 to 40 points, may eventually come down to 20-25 points. That’s the way that Coach Painter rolls and he isn’t about making another program look bad for his own gain.