Tuesday, October 21, 2008

No. 8 Purdue: 2008-2009 Team Preview

2007-2008 Team Record: 25-9, 15-3 Big Ten (2nd)

Key Losses: Scott Martin (8.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg)

Key Returnees: E'Twuan Moore (12.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg), Robbie Hummel (11.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg), Keaton Grant (11.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg), Chris Kramer (6.8 ppg, 2.3 spg)

Newcomers: Lewis Jackson, Ryne Smith, John Hart

I know that this is stating the obvious, but Purdue came out of nowhere to win 25 games and finish second in the Big Ten last year. A huge reason for that was the freshman class, which included E'Twaun Moore, Robbie Hummel, and Scott Martin, three of the Boilermakers top four scorers last year (Martin has since transferred out of Purdue). With Purdue, it all starts on the defensive end, where they are led by reigning Big Ten defensive player of the year Chris Kramer. Kramer is not all that big (6'3", 205 lb), but he is very strong and quick (especially laterally) and has terrific defensive instincts both on the ball and off the ball. He is also the type of kid that plays with reckless abandon (diving on the floor, flying in for o-boards, taking charges) and does not back down from anyone (remember this?). He is the guy that sets the tone for this Purdue team. Offensively, he struggles when forced to create his own shot, but he did lead the team in assists the last two seasons.

Purdue did not have a real prototypical point guard last year. There primary playmaker offensively was E'Twaun Moore. Moore is a lanky 6'3" kid who is an underwhelming athlete. But what he lacks in athleticism, he makes up for in craftiness, basketball IQ, and an outstanding jumper, which he can hit out to the NBA three. Keaton Grant is a very similar player to Moore, both in size and skill set, but is coming off of spring knee surgery. He missed the team's August exhibitions in Australia (although word is that he is back to 100%). Robbie Hummel is basically the same player as Moore and Grant, except bigger (6'8"). He is the ultimate college mismatch on the offensive end as he usually ends up playing the four. His offensive game is completely perimeter oriented, however. He was the Big Ten's leading three-point shooter last year (Purdue was the Big Ten's best three point shooting team), but is quick enough to get by just about any power forward that comes out to defend him on the perimeter. The biggest thing about these three kids is that they are all very smart players that have bought into Matt Painter's system. They play well together and generally make good decisions (combined, they averaged less than 5 turnovers per game).

The biggest change is going to be the addition of freshman Lewis Jackson, a lighting quick 5'9" point guard that can penetrate into the lane and find the multitude of shooters that Purdue has (Moore, Grant, and Hummel combined to hit 174 3's at an astonishing 44% clip). Also battling for time in the back court will be senior Marcus Green and freshmen Ryne Smith and John Hart.

Purdue's biggest weakness last season was in the paint. They really had no post presence defensively and were the third worst rebounding team in the Big Ten. Both centers, JaJuan Johnson and Nemanja Calasan, return. Johnson has a ton of upside, but he has a long way to go to get there. He is long, athletic, and mobile, but when you are 6'10", 215 lb is just too skinny to do any kind of damage on the block, especially in the Big Ten. He has a soft touch on his jump shot (he even hit a three in the tourney), but Purdue needs someone to bang on the block, not another jump shooter. Calasan is a 6'9", 250 lb bruiser and a solid player, but nothing special. That's it for their front court, and with no freshman coming in, an injury to Johnson, Calasan, or Hummel could be devastating to Purdue.

Outlook: Purdue is a very tough defensive team with a bunch of kids that can shoot, play well together, play hard, and have a high basketball IQ - pretty typical Big Ten team. Their most glaring weakness is inside, where they were a terrible rebounding team. But with the three-headed combo of Hummel, Moore, and Grant, the addition Jackson as a change of pace, and (hopefully) the improvement of JaJuan Johnson, the Boilermakers definitely have enough talent that they should be considered one of, if not the, preseason favorite in the Big Ten.

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