Thursday, October 28, 2010

No. 11: Purdue Boilermakers

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Last Season: 29-6, 14-4 (t-1st Big Ten), lost to Duke in the Sweet 16

Head Coach: Matt Painter

Key Losses: Robbie Hummel (injury), Chris Kramer, Keaton Grant

Newcomers: Sandi Marcius, Terone Johnson, Anthony Johnson, Travis Carroll

Projected Lineup:

  • G: Lewis Jackson, Jr.
  • G: E'Twaun Moore, Sr.
  • F: Kelsey Barlow, So.
  • F: Sandi Marcius, Fr.
  • C: JaJuan Johnson, Sr.
  • Bench: Patrick Bade, So.; Terone Johnson, Fr.; Ryne Smith, Jr.; DJ Byrd, So.; John Hart, So.

Outlook: Its unbelievable to me that people are considering dropping Purdue as far down in the polls as I have seen. Jeff Goodman dropped Purdue all the way to 25th. Andy Katz dropped them to the 23rd spot. Gary Parrish says he will probably rank Purdue somewhere in the 17-22 range, while Winn slots Purdue between 15th-18th. Somewhere in the mid-teens I can understand, but 25th? What if I told you that a Sweet 16 team that returned all but two players from their rotation, including their all-american center and their all-american shooting guard? Where would you see that team? Top ten? Higher?

No Hummel hurts, but if there is a silver lining, its that Purdue never got to start the season with him. They don't have to reteach themselves how to play with one of their most important pieces. Matt Painter simply now has two more week to finish building a team without him. And, rest assured, he has the pieces.

JaJuan Johnson may just be the best center in the country. At 6'10", he averaged 15.5 ppg, 7.1 rpg, and 2.1 bpg on a team with two other stars. He's got a very good finesse game in the post -- knocking down turnarounds and jump hooks consistently -- and has range out to 17 feet. Oh, and the kid that was never strong enough is now benching 315 lb.

E'Twaun Moore is arguably the most underrated player in the Big Ten. He's a prototypical four year back court star. He's not a lights out shooter, but he's dangerous enough that you cannot give him an open look at the rim. He's not lightening quick, but he knows how to get by his defender. He's not the most explosive finisher at the rim, but he gets the job done. Its not easy to score 16.4 ppg in the Big Ten.

The diminutive Lewis Jackson will be back, healthy, to run the point. He had a promising freshman season, but struggled with a foot injury last season. Expect big things this year from Jackson. Also returning is Kelsey Barlow, the 6'5" sophomore that played the point while Jackson was out. Barlow showed signs of having the toughness and the moxie to at least partially fill the void Kramer left. Jon Hart, DJ Byrd, and Ryne Smith are all back to provide perimeter depth, while Terone Johnson, a point guard and top 50 recruit nationally, and Anthony Johnson, a top 100 two guard, will provide an infusion of talent on the bench.

The bigger issue may end up being depth behind JaJuan Johnson, as this wasn't a deep front court before Hummel went down. Patrick Bade is a big body and a sophomore that was in the rotation last season. Travis Carroll is a true freshman, although he doesn't seem like he will make an immediate impact. Sandi Marcius, a redshirt freshman that missed last season with a foot injury, may be the best option up front. He was the No. 14 center prospect in the 2009 high school class, and at 6'9", 257 lb, he is strong enough to bang with the Big Ten's big boys.

The Boilermakers may not be the national title favorite that everyone thought they were going to be, but this is still a very good basketball team. This is still a group that will get after it defensively. This is still a team that will execute offensively. There are still two all-americans in West Lafayette. I don't think Purdue will compete for the title in the loaded Big Ten, but I think this group is good enough that they can finish in the top four of that league and should have a very good chance to make it through the NCAA Tournament's first weekend.

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