We’re back baby! Purdue basketball officially kicked off today for their first practice. We’ve had a lot of hype going into certain years but there hasn’t been this much expectations for a team in my life time.
In every preseason poll they are ranked between 2-4 nationally. Not that you need reminding, but we didn’t know what to make of last years team with lots of new faces.
The Boilers came out dominating the Phil Knight Legacy Tournament, winning the Big Ten, winning the Big Ten tournament and seemed to have the capabilities to make a run in March. Then Purdue did Purdue things and became the second ever #1 seed to lose to a #16 seed in the first round of March Madness.
Well, here we are again. But this year we have expectations. Those freshman now have a season under their belts. Zach Edey, the most dominant player in college basketball is back along with Furst, Gillis, TKR, Morton and Waddell. Plus we are adding some fresh blood. Cameron Heidi and Myles Colvin will have plenty of opportunities to showcase their abilities and bring much needed athleticism to the guard spot.
I think everyone probably has different expectations for a season, for me the only redemption of last year is a final four. Of course I want to win it all, but at the very least, my expectations lie there.
Of course, winning the Big Ten would be great, sweeping IU, and the Maui Invitational but at this point none of that matters if we don’t get it done in March. I know it’s not an easy feat. It takes a team to be playing good at the right time, a good draw, and maybe a little luck, but if not this year then when?
I expect Painter to play with the rotations to start the year like he usually does to see who gels where and who plays best with who. I hope (expect) him to be more flexible in his game planning as the season wears on. Teams figure Purdue out and we never seem to adjust to that. I hope (expect) to see us handle ball pressure, that wasn’t all on the freshman, we had experienced guards looking like deer in the headlights when the press came. And I hope (expect) Purdue to know that on any given night they can be beat, and I think a loss like last March is one that sticks with you a while.
We’ve had the three amigos, the baby boilers, the Haas injury, one of the best tournament performances ever by Carsen Edwards and Jaden Ivey all come along and fall short. They don’t have a catchy name but if this teams finally does it, I’m trademarking them “The Chosen Ones.”
What Will The Difference Be?
Purdue will look different this season and not because of adding a couple of pieces here and there. Yes, adding the athleticism of Cam Heide and Myles Colvin will jump off the page as compared to last season. More than that though, the team will simply be...older. It’s really as simple as that.
Braden Smith was about as fantastic as you could have expected from a true freshman point guard playing in a major conference. An undervalued and underrecruited point guard out of Westfield, IN, Smith showed up on campus with a savvy aura of confidence that belied his age. With the experience of a full year under his belt and another full off season of work, the biggest difference for Purdue may in fact be Smith’s continued evolution.
At times last season in some critical moments, Smith took over games with the ball in his hands and Matt Painter trusted his true freshman guard to go and make the right play. This was done alongside the eventual National Player of the Year in Zach Edey and a set of experienced wings in Ethan Morton and Mason Gillis. Expect more of that kind of trust in the second year player who could easily become an all B1G caliber type of guard this season who can average 14/6/6 this season after averaging 9.6/4.2/4.4 last year.
You don’t happen to come upon a point guard that caliber of Braden Smith all too often when you are Purdue. Sure, Purdue has had some incredibly shooting guards and wings over the course of the Matt Painter era. Guys like Jaden Ivey, Carsen Edwards, Dakota Mathias, The last time Purdue had a point guard that had this type of ability to control the game pace, play tough as nails defense, and go out and put up 20 on any given night was probably Willie Deane in the early 2000’s. That’s how rare this type of player is for Purdue to have on their roster and it’s likely the biggest difference for them in this upcoming season.
Who Starts Where?
As of right now, there are only two locks in the starting rotation for the Boilers. Zach Edey and Braden Smith will likely be the only two in the coming weeks who may not feel pushed for a starting role this season and rightfully so. Edey’s accomplishments and domination speak for themselves and Smith’s were spoken about above. The question then moves forward of who starts at the other three positions?
The easy answer would be to just roll out Fletcher Loyer at shooting guard, Ethan Morton at small forward, and Mason Gillis at power forward. That’s how most of the season played out last year but that is unlikely to happen this season. Why would you flip the starting roles around for a team that is coming off one of the most successful in program history? The easy answer isn’t always the best one though.
Loyer struggled mightily last season once the calendar seemed to turn the page to February whole Morton’s inconsistent ability to be a scoring threat rendered him some what useless at times in games. Gillis is the most steady and effort driven player on the roster but there are just better options this year, even if the season doesn’t start out that way. The differences for this year is the depth that is behind what was last year a thin position.
Myles Colvin enters his first year at Purdue as one of the most highly touted prospects to come into Purdue in recent years. His involvement with Team USA on the 3x3 and U-19 team opened some eyes over the last year and a half. A long, athletic wing like Colvin who can elevate to create his own shot is desperately needed. When you compound that with Cam Heide who appears to have made a giant leap into his second year in the program would suddenly make Purdue an athletic bunch who can hit outside shots enough to prevent double teams inside on Edey.
Will Colvin supplant the established Loyer for the starting position? I think after the struggles that Loyer had last year and the kind of shot making and athleticism that Colvin brings, there may be a much shorter leash than we all may expect to be there. The biggest issue may not be on the offensive end but in the defensive liability that Loyer proved to be the last several weeks of the season.
The major question then becomes the starter at the power forward position. By all accounts, that will likely be Trey Kaufman-Renn, who has had as good of a summer as any big has had under Painter. He has expanded his ability to step out and shoot the three along with becoming a better defender in space on the defensive end. Having another incredibly talented low post scorer really helps Edey prevent a backside double as Kaufman-Renn can drop down to the opposite block and take most opposing forwards easily into the post with all of the focus placed on Edey.
Point Guard: Braden Smith
Shooting Guard: Fletcher Loyer
Small Forward: Cam Heide
Power Forward: Trey Kaufman-Renn
Center: Zach Edey