I know what you’re thinking. FINALLY! Shouldn’t this have been written about a month or so ago? Why yes it should’ve been but I’ve been busy moving across the country and then trying to forget that entire Purdue basketball season I just watched. As I sit here and watch the Final Four it strikes me how lacking this Purdue team was this year in any number of ways. Let’s take a look at a couple of those problems and see what help, if any, is coming to next year’s team.
Under Coach Keady and now Coach Painter the calling card of Purdue basketball has always been defense. Purdue prided itself on working harding than their opponents and physically wearing the opponent down on the defensive side of the ball. Purdue would then use that defense and turn it into offense. Rarely is Purdue a team known for offense. For flash. For run and gun offense. This year at times they tried to play that way. In reality what choice did they have? The defense was lazy. It was slow. It was…well…not present during many stretches during many games and sometimes not there during entire games. The question though is why? Quite frankly it was effort. Defense is often a product of effort. I’m not the most athletic guy in the world and no matter how much I train I’ll never be able to shoot the ball like anyone on Purdue’s team. What I can do though is learn a system, learn technique, and understand how an offense works thus working to stop or slow it. With time and effort anyone can play defense. With the athletic ability of the guys on the team and their basketball acumen there’s absolutely no reason the defense couldn’t have been better. Instead their was a distinct lack of hustle. Davis was one of the few players on the team to constantly show hustle. Even then he wasn’t a bastion of defensive intensity. With the defense all but gone Purdue lacked an identity. It was an identity they tried to fill with a run and gun offense. It failed miserably.
Calling any 18-23 year old selfish is not something I’m going to do here but I will say that at times certain players on Purdue’s team seemed reluctant to pass the ball to the open man. It doesn’t just fall to the point guard position here either. Fast breaks this year were simply atrocious. If someone kept a stat on number of fast breaks blown I’d venture to guess that Purdue would’ve led the nation. Purdue seemingly fought against making the extra pass and did their best to go one on three without slowing down. Purdue had a put your head down and get to the rim mentality at times this season. That’s all well and good if you’ve got a guy like Evan Turner on the team but Purdue didn’t have that guy. There was no one on these team who was consistently better than the competition in all phases of the game. It’s been pointed out time and again on social media and other blogs but it bears repeating here that Ronnie Johnson, now transferring to who knows where, was incredibly guilty of this. He said as much in his exit interview that he didn’t like the defense first approach and wanted to focus more on offense. Specifically it seemed like he didn’t like getting the ball inside to the only dominant player Purdue had on their roster. Now he leaves in search of a program that will allow him to play fast and loose with the offense in a more unstructured situation. Looking back now you wonder if this attitude impacted who he passed to and when. It certainly had a negative impact on the Purdue offense.
How long has it been since Purdue was an old team? The problem Purdue has right now is that each year they seem to be breaking in 3-5 new players that absolutely have to contribute right away. The transfer rate at Purdue the last few years has been absolutely horrible. Purdue’s had a nightmare of a time hanging on to a complete team. Check out the complete list over at Hammer and Rails but the gist of it is, that’s a lot of transfers. Some names like Scott Martin, Gordon Watt, Chris Lutz, and hell even the not really a transfer but a kicked off Kelsey Barlow could’ve helped this team. Others, like Dan Van, Uchendu (RIP), and Patrick Bade weren’t going to help out. Even those that weren’t going to help though bring a cost. There’s an opportunity cost associated with each player on the team. Think of it like dating. You can only be on one date at a time. So while you’re enjoying your night out with Julie it means you aren’t out with Jane. Purdue picked these players and when they leave the alternatives are already at other schools and have moved on. There’s no grabbing a player on the rebound in college sports. Unless you can find a loophole transferring from one conference school to another is a big no no. Painter got himself into this spot by recruiting the wrong type of player for a style of play that’s clearly been successful for him in the past. Getting away from that has been a problem for him.
Purdue will again be a young team as they lose Ronnie Johnson who was without a doubt the best returning point guard they have. It remains to be seen if AJ Hammons will return to Purdue or leave for the NBA but my gut says he’ll be back. Terone Johnson is gone to graduation, whether you’re happy or sad about that is a matter of opinion. Gone also are Sterling Cater, Travis Carroll, and Errick Peck. Also, don’t discount the loss of Jay Simpson. In their place come a whole crop of freshmen and possibly some transfers. The recruiting battle for fifth year players and transfers is just now heating up. One thing is for certain Purdue will be hurting at point guard with the inexperienced and reckless Bryson Scott as the leader with incoming freshman PJ Thompson the only other true point guard on the roster. Meanwhile Purdue adds a shooter in Dakota Mathias who will hopefully complete Kendall Stephens and take some of the pressure off of him. They also add an athletic forward in Jacquil Taylor, an all around basketball player that Coach Painter desperately wanted in Vince Edwards, and another big man who may be forced to contribute right away in Isaac Haas. I can only reiterate what I’ve read about these guys and that’s not fair to the guys who actually report this stuff for a living. Go over to Gold and Black if you’re interested in reading up on these guys. In the meantime lick your wounds and prepare for a long offseason.
Four minutes. That’s really all it took for Purdue to lose yesterday afternoon’s game against Ohio State 63-61. Purdue played well enough to win for 36 minutes but in four minutes of game time it all went down in flames. Let’s take a look at that four minutes shall we?
- 6:08- Kendall Stephens banks in a three to tie the game at 54 and put momentum firmly in Purdue’s corner. 54-54
- 5:36- After an Aaron Craft miss Purdue has an empty possession of their own. 54-54
- 5:23- Two rebounds for Ohio State and a foul on Purdue lead to Ohio State retaking the lead. 55-54 O$u
- 5:10- Terone Johnson misses the front end of a one and one after his shot barely rims out. 55-54 O$u
- 4:13- After an empty O$u possession Ronnnie Johnson commits a turnover. 55-54 O$u
- 4:06- O$u scores an easy layup off the turnover. 57-54 O$u
- 3:52- Errick Peck turnover on an errant pass to a streaking Terone Johnson who would’ve had an easy two. 57-54 O$u
- 3:24- O$u again capitalizes on a Purdue turnover. 59-54 O$u
- 3:03- Two missed shots by Terone sandwiched in between an offensive board by Terone. 59-54 O$u
- 2:08- Purdue finally scores again after a four minute drought on two Kendall Stephens free throws. 59-56 O$u
You might look at that score and say this four minute span wasn’t that bad, but in my opinion you’d be wrong. O$u wasn’t playing particularly great at this point in the game. Purdue had them on the ropes and had taken O$u’s best punches. Then the offense disappeared and turnovers became the name of the game. In that four minute span Purdue was blanked on the scoreboard but O$u only scored five points. Imagine if Purdue had kept up the intensity and played smarter basketball. This would be a much different story.
John Wooden Memorial Player of the Game (JWMPOTG)- Rapheal Davis gets the nod today. You might look at the stat sheet and scratch your head as to why Davis gets the nod over guys like Ronnie Johnson, who had a great game, or even Kendall Stephens who made a couple big shots. The reason is hustle. One play alone is why Davis gets this and that was his running toward the sideline to save the ball from going out of bounds. He slammed into the press table and stayed down for a minute but it led to Purdue points at a critical juncture. His heart and intensity can’t be questioned and he’s going to need to be a leader on this team next year.
Ohio State isn’t exactly the high flying athletic Ohio State that had guys like Greg Oden or Evan Turner. They’ve slowed down quite a bit but are still pretty formidable on both ends of the floor. Purdue was able to stay in the game in the first half thanks to some shoddy free throw shooting by the Buckeyes and some smart passing and effective slashing by the Boilermakers. Of course with the good comes the bad as Purdue allowed Aaron Craft to wreak havoc on them as he got into the lane time and time again. Even when Purdue seemingly had him out of the play, such as after an AJ Hammons rebound, Craft found a way to slice into the lane and get the ball back. It’s incredibly frustrating to watch. I imagine it is how so many other teams felt when Purdue had Kramer on the team.
The second half for Purdue came down to those four minutes. Even with that lapse though Purdue still had chances to win the game with under a minute to play. With Purdue down just two and under twenty seconds to play Purdue had the ball. Ronnie Johnson drove toward his brother and they muffed the exchange. On the replay it looked like a good pass by Ronnie but Terone just couldn’t get a handle on it. It resulted in a turnover with roughly 14 seconds left. It was officially credited to Ronnie but to me it looked like Terone was at fault. Purdue had 17 turnovers on the day. Far too many. Following that Purdue was down two and had one final chance with just under two seconds left to play. Kendall Stephens inbounded the ball, a decision I agree with since he is a good passer and has nice length, to a streaking Terone Johnson whose three point shot was just slightly off the mark and fell harmlessly to the floor. Purdue went for the win and I respect that but sadly it wasn’t to be. The #12 seed in the Big Ten Tournament is the only seed Purdue will get this year. Purdue fell to 15-17 on the season for their second disappointing season in a row. Things aren’t looking good for this team right now with rumors swirling and anger in the fan base growing. We’ll take a look at that some other night.
As we head toward the start of the BTT today at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse let’s take a quick look at the field and see the only prediction that matters, mine. I’m going to go in chronological order of games. This is also going to count as my official prediction for the Purdue game. Killing two posts with one stone here. Let’s get to it!
Welcome back to Indy
Game 1- #8 Indiana vs. #9 Illinois
As much as it pains me I’m going to have to go with the Hoosiers here. Illinois has stumbled so much as of late while Indiana has been on a bit of a roll. Though they lost to Michigan most recently they were in control of that game for the large majority. IU advances
Game 2- #5 Ohio State vs. #12 Purdue
Ohio State is 2-0 vs. Purdue thus far this year. Purdue put up a pretty decent fight in both games even if the score doesn’t really say that. Ohio State honestly isn’t a terrible matchup for the Boilermakers. The biggest issues Purdue faces are the three point shooting of the Buckeyes and Aaron Craft. Purdue’s perimeter defense has been absolutely abysmal for the entire season and a team like Ohio State that’s clogged with shooters can easily take advantage of that. They don’t necessarily have to be shooting lights out for this to hurt Purdue. Then there’s Aaron Craft and for whatever reason Purdue’s inability to stop him. He tends to take over each Purdue game at a certain point. He does this not necessarily by scoring in bunches but rather by creating turnovers and dishing to wide open perimeter shooters. I’d love to say the Boilermakers will go on a magical four day run but there’s a reason they are the #12 seed. O$u Advances
Game 3- #7 Minnesota vs. #10 Penn State
Minnesota is the clear favorite here even if you take the seeds out of this. Penn State, minus that one magical year, has struggled for roughly a decade. Minnesota is getting slightly better under the tutelage of young Pitino. They are by no means where they want to be or expected to be but just on paper Minnesota has the much better team. Minnesota Advances
Game 4- #6 Iowa vs. #11 Northwestern
Let’s be honest here people it’s Northwestern in the month of March. Iowa Advances
Game 5- #1 Michigan vs. #8 Indiana
This should be a pretty good game right here. IU shocked Michigan in their first meeting this season and nearly knocked off the Wolverines during senior day. IU will be fighting for their NCAA tournament lives while Michigan will be fighting for seeding. While I think Indiana has one hell of a chance to pull off the upset I’m picking the chalk. Michigan Advances
Game 6- #4 Nebraska vs. #5 Ohio State
Nebraska has been the surprise of the conference season. I expected Nebraska to be somewhere between the 10-12 seed come tournament time yet here they sit with a first round bye. I did not see that coming. Tim Miles has done one hell of a job and would’ve gotten my vote for the coach of the year. That being said I think the bandwagon starts to get a little wobbly during this one. I think Ohio State gets revenge on their last loss to Nebraska and comes out on top and gets the first “upset” of the tournament. Ohio State Advances
Game 7- #2 Wisconsin vs. #7 Minnesota
This one’s for Paul Bunyon’s Axe…wait right? I don’t know either way I expect an axe to be used at some point. Wait what’s going on? Oh right basketball not football. We’re talking about Wisconsin here. Football or basketball those guys are tough and they like to rub people’s nose in it. Minnesota is getting better but they aren’t there yet. Wisconsin Advances
Game 8- #3 Michigan State vs. #6 Iowa
If anyone can pull off an actual upset it will be Iowa. Iowa kept both games close during the regular season and I think that they break through during this game and pull off the upset. Iowa is an incredibly talented team and they have really impressed me this year. Iowa Advances
Game 9- #1 Michigan vs. #5 Ohio State
These two had an epic battle a few years ago in the tournament which featured Evan ‘the villain’ Turner hit an ice water in his veins half court shot to win. Let’s hope this game is just as good. Michigan won the only meeting this year by a 10 point margin. I don’t think Michigan can pull it off by that much but I do think that Michigan will be able to pull off another victory over their hated rival Ohio. Michigan Advances
Game 10- #2 Wisconsin vs. #6 Iowa
Wisconsin won both games during the regular season and at this point Iowa will be playing their third game in three days. I would imagine Iowa will be pretty gassed. So even though I think Iowa would have a good chance of taking them down I think the advantage of getting a bye rears its head. Wisconsin Advances
Game 11- #1 Michigan vs. #2 Wisconsin
This is the chalkiest chalk of a game you’ll ever see. The #1 and #2 teams will face off in the finale. These two teams split the series with each team winning on the other team’s home court. I’m inclined to go with Wisconsin here as they seem to be playing better at the moment minus the season finale loss to Nebraska. In fairness to them Nebraska was nearly unbeatable at home at the end of the season. I’m going to pick the slight upset here and go with Wisconsin Wins the Big Ten Tournament
Despite my hope of a pumped up Purdue team fighting for their pride and anger at this season Purdue absolutely fell flat on their faces losing to Northwestern 74-65. This is a Northwestern team that scored 32 points in their previous game. At home. Against Penn State. Today they dropped 74 on Purdue. That speaks volumes to the “defense” this Purdue team has shown all year. There’s just no excuse for the way this Purdue team plays. There are young players on the team of course but that’s absolutely no excuse. A Matt Painter coached team should never play defense like a matador. With that loss Purdue finishes 12th in conference play in both football and men’s basketball which is something Purdue has NEVER done. So there’s that. History!
Purdue’s season in a nutshell
John Wooden Memorial Player of the Game (JWMPOTG)- Travis Carroll gets the award today for his first half performance that saw him score 7 points. Sure that doesn’t seem like a lot but it was a great performance off of the bench for the senior as he subbed in for the foul prone AJ Hammons. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again Travis Carroll isn’t the most athletic guy on the team but he goes out there and he busts his ass every opportunity he gets. If the rest of the team played like him Purdue wouldn’t find themselves at the bottom of the conference. Rapheal Davis gets an honorable mention here for also giving a shit. Kudos to him.
At long last this train wreck of a season is over. Purdue struggled mightily all year and ended the regular season 15-16. The point can’t be emphasized enough that Purdue doesn’t even qualify for the NIT. That means if Purdue chooses, and honestly why would they, Purdue could play in the CBI at BEST barring a miracle in the BTT. Two years in a row with no NCAA Tournament and no NIT berth. I don’t even know how to react to this as a Purdue fan. I just don’t know what to do. Watching this team struggle night in and night out was just brutal. For the majority of the season I didn’t even enjoy watching this team. I can handle losing but what I can’t handle is not actually giving a shit. This team was one of the most disappointing in my memory as a Purdue fan. Even Keady’s last year and Painter’s first year showed heart. They put the scare into a lot of teams despite not winning. This team just folded.
I’m going to write a post-season wrap after the BTT but for now let’s just focus on some of the terrible stats from today’s game.
- Purdue was 5-26 in the first half from the floor. They made five shots. Five. The entire first half. I can’t say five enough. Five shots in twenty minutes. That means they made just one shot every four minutes on average. Hard to wrap your head around that.
- Purdue was 2-10 from distance. Those two that dropped came courtesy of Carroll and Peck. Ugh.
- Only good thing statistically in the first half was that Purdue was 9-11 from the free throw line.
- Purdue finished the game 4-18 from distance with many of those not being even close. Stephens was 1-6.
- Ronnie Johnson was 0-6 from the floor with just three assists. Ronnie really stumbled down the stretch of the season.
The team just didn’t deserve to win the game. Kudos to Northwestern for getting better as the season went on as Purdue regressed. With this loss Purdue now is the #12 seed in the BTT with the game being in Indianapolis around 2:30 on Thursday. That will more than likely be the last game Purdue plays this year. A four game in four days miracle is the only chance that Purdue continues into a meaningful post-season.
In a headline I didn’t think I’d ever type as long as Painter was at Purdue but yet here we are. Purdue and Northwestern face off this afternoon in a battle to avoid the basement in conference play. The loser falls to 5-13 in conference play and becomes the 12th seed in the upcoming B1G Tournament. Should this happen today it would also mean Purdue finished last in BOTH football and men’s basketball. Not exactly a distinction I hope for my team.
If you’ll recall Purdue lost the first meeting between these two teams this year in double overtime. Purdue had every opportunity to win that game but kept shooting themselves in the foot. Stop me if you’ve heard that one before. Terone Johnson struggled mightily from the floor that day ending up 4-17. Somehow Northwestern came clawing back into a game that Purdue by all rights should have won. The team fizzled out as the game went on. Today is Purdue’s last chance in front of the home crowd to show that they can grow as a team. Show improvement from game 1 to game 31.
For four seniors this will be their last game, unfortunately Sterling Carter will be unavailable due to the knee injury that was inevitable once he enrolled at Purdue. Terone Johnson, Travis Carroll, and Errick Peck have one final opportunity to show what they can do. Terone has taken a beating all season on this blog and every other outlet for Purdue fans. His leadership skills and heart have been questioned time and again this season. As the supposed leader of this team today is a great chance to show what he can do. There’s no reason a team with this talent should finish dead last in the conference, absolutely none. Terone Johnson needs to take this game over and will this team to a victory. Travis Carroll hasn’t gotten near the minutes he has in past years thanks to the improvement of AJ Hammons but he’s still been able to maximize the minutes he earns. Carroll is the consummate team player. For Errick Peck and Sterling Carter even though they were only at Purdue for a year they truly made their mark on the program. They infused some much needed maturity and Carter saved Purdue’s bacon, and almost single handedly won the IU game for the Boilermakers. Today is their last chance. Today shouldn’t be about the opponent, it shouldn’t be about the crowd, today is about pride. Does Purdue have any? Will Purdue fight off the basement? Let’s hope so.
Purdue 71, Northwestern 66 (My record 25-5 misses WSU, Butler, WVU, Minnesota, @NW)