One of the most important pieces of a team is, of course, the coach. It starts and ends with him. He gets the glory and praise when Purdue is playing well but he also takes the hit when they lose to a 16 seed in the first round. It comes with the job and he knows that.
I’ll preface this by saying I’m a big Matt Painter fan. I think he does things the right way and produces results. I know the recent March losses is what we and everyone else remembers but he’s also won the Big Ten 4 times, made 15 NCAA tournaments, been selected as the Big Ten Coach of the Year 4 times, and has had Purdue ranked #1 for multiple weeks the last two seasons.
Some people seem to think if you like him you can never be critical and then there’s the “fire painter” crowd that comes to out of the woodwork after every loss. It’s similar to politics, it doesn’t need to be far left or far right, the answer is usually somewhere in the middle.
With that being said, our March success (or lack there of) can’t be overlooked. It’s what you’re judged upon, the coveted holy land in which national media talks about and is detrimental in the type of recruits you can bring in. Like I’ve said before, you can like Painter but also think there is room to improve, the two feelings don’t have to be mutually exclusive. But losing to the same team over and over come tournament time is unacceptable and needs to be addressed.
I know Painter has been doing his own homework and may have even made some calls of advice this off-season so he really doesn’t need mine but I’m going to give it anyways. Here are my top three things I’d like to see Matt Painter’s team improve upon this year:
Break the Press
Why? Why does Purdue seem to struggle with this every year. They get so tight and uncomfortable anytime the defense puts pressure on leading to turnovers and dumb mistakes. If you remember, Iowa laid the blue print for it last year and I got vilified for saying that because “we won’t play Iowa in March.” Well, maybe not but we’ll play FDU or North Texas or St. Peter’s who will use that exact same game plan to break Purdue down. And I’m not just saying get it to half court, make them pay for pressing. If you can get it down the court and find yourself in a 3-2 sitution take it to the basket and score. So many times last season we’d get it to half court then slow down and let the defense get set before running an offense. MAKE THEM PAY and they’ll back off.
We were so good at this in the beginning of last season, running multiple sets and not getting pigeon holed into throwing it down low and relying on Edey. I get it, he’s good and he’ll get his but you need more than him to win the big games. Painter can’t make their shots for them but being flexible and making more in-game adjustments to what the defense gives you. Along with that, cutting the guys loose a little and letting them play their game; although he’s been better with that as of late with guys like Carsen and Ivey.
Faster style of play
This kind of goes with the two above but I’d like to see Purdue play faster, more up tempo basketball. Every time I see teams like Kansas or North Carolina play I always notice how fast they’re passing the ball, making cuts, and getting down the floor. Purdue seems to always slow it down (not to the likes of Wisconsin) but certainly not up to speed as other teams. Play more in transition and get those easy buckets that gasses the opponent. I think with the athleticism we’re bringing in with guys like Colvin and Heide they can help speed up our game.
I asked some of my followers on Twitter and here were some of their thoughts:
The entire team is designed around his system. Which means it often lacks a lot of individuality and talent.— Rocket Haverland (@RocketHaverland) August 15, 2023
It's a good system so it's strong in the season but coaches will change entire schemes mid-game in March. Just look at the TTU v. Virginia title game.
Per carsen edwards, relax. The team gets tight as March approaches; the common factor over the years is CMP. And relax about winning each regular season game as opposed to developing the team for March. Let them play: back to Carsen, relaxing control had the best result. So far!— The Vortex: An Iraq War Story (@ThomasMowle) August 15, 2023
When the favorite, play to your strengths and make them adjust to you. Too often, we adjust to smaller teams, especially come tournament time. Throws us out of rotations and causes obvious issues in March. But I won’t doubt Painter and what he means to Purdue. #BoilerUp— Rob Kessler (@Kess21) August 15, 2023
Flexibility: We have the talent and athleticism to play multiple speeds and styles better than almost any team. I think Painter needs to show some flexibility in recognizing what a team is giving us and out playing them at whatever style that may be. They want to run? Let’s run.— Smitty Werbenjägermanjensen (@burkah0lics) August 15, 2023