Monday, September 15, 2008

2008-09 Preview: Purdue

Purdue (Last season: 25-9, 15-3, #23 Pomeroy ranking): Fueled by an outstanding freshmen class, the Boilermakers enjoyed their best season in ten years. That leads to high hopes for this season, and predictably enough, Purdue is the popular favorite to take the conference title this season. And why wouldn't they be? After all, they enjoyed a 0.11 Efficiency Margin in conference, and return 82% of the minutes from last year.

The entire freshman class, sans Scott Martin, will return to West Lafayette, and put up productive seasons last year (in-conference numbers):

At #62 RSCI, Robbie Hummel was probably underrated. Along with these freshmen, the Boilers return junior guard Keaton Grant, who also had himself a pretty good sophomore campaign. So again, why would anyone expect the Boilers to do anything but burn right through the Big 10, and leave all other teams in their wake?

Well, depth.

Imagine you're Matt Painter. You're trying to put together a starting lineup. Moore, Hummel, and Grant are definitely in there. All three are likely to make the All Big Ten 1st or 2nd teams. Easy enough, and now you've got three guard positions settled. At center, you start Johnson, who's not only the team's tallest player, but as a freshmen was also a capable rebounder (16.0 DReb) and a formidable shot blocker (7.2 Block%). Four outta five, and we're almost home. Just scan the roster, find a forward, and we're done.

Matt Painter is still looking.

Scott Martin wasn't a world-beater, but he was more than capable. He struggled shooting the ball, an affliction not all that uncommon to freshmen. He also showed he could rebound well, get to the line, and hold onto the ball. He was also pretty good defensively. Purdue has plenty of scoring options heading into next season, but what they need is someone to do those other things.

Now, what's likely to happen is that Chris Kramer will step in at a guard spot, and shift everyone down the line, effectively leaving Robbie Hummel to play the 4 spot. This isn't the end of the world - Hummel is 6-8 - but it's not ideal. Still though, the lineup of Kramer/Moore/Grant/Hummel/Johnson figures to be one of the Big 10's best, if not the best. But beyond those five lies the problem. On the bench, there's 6-9 Nemanja Calasan, about whom the best thing you can say about the guy is that he shoots over 60% on free throws. After him? No one taller than 6-4. Can Hummel guard a post player? Can Johnson consistently stay out of foul trouble? These things will determine how far Purdue will go. The starting 5 will play a lot of minutes this season, and a lot will be asked of Hummel and Johnson defensively. If everything breaks right, this team could end up in the Final Four. But no team's success in the Big 10 is more dependent on staying healthy and out of foul trouble than Purdue.

Projected Purdue rotation (statistics are for conference games only):

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