The Purdue Boilermakers are looking to replace stars JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore as we will now see what Matt Painter is made of as he prepares for life without his two stars. So we continue our look at each team in the conference as we look at Matt Painter’s Purdue Boilermakers. Will Lewis Jackson and Robbie Hummel help Purdue stay among the Big Ten’s elite or will the losses be too much for Purdue to overcome?
Conference Record/Finish: 14-4 (2nd)
Postseason: NCAA Tournament Third Round (Lost 76-94 to Virginia Commonwealth)
Head Coach: Matt Painter – 7th year (138-64); 163-69 in eight overall seasons
Returning Starters: 3
-D.J. Byrd (Junior, Guard/Forward); 5.2ppg, 3.0rpg, 2.0apg
-Lewis Jackson (Senior, Guard); 8.0ppg, 4.0apg, 3.2rpg
-Ryne Smith (Senior, Guard); 6.0ppg, 2.4rpg, 1.8apg
Newcomers: Rapheal Davis, 6’5” 200lbs. (Fr., Guard); A.J. Hammons, 7’0” 260lbs. (Fr., Center); Ronnie Johnson, 5’10” 160lbs. (Fr., Guard); Jay Simpson, 6’9” 250lbs. (Fr., Forward)
Purdue has had a very good run the past few years with players like JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore, but those players are now onto the NBA (whenever it starts back up). The cupboard is far from bare, though, as it returns Preseason All-Big Ten forward Robbie Hummel and defensive stopper guard Lewis Jackson. However, Hummel is returning from back-to-back ACL injuries, so it is unknown how effective he will be this season. Purdue was encouraged that he had 18 points and seven rebounds in 15 minutes in the Boilermakers exhibition win over Northern State Nov. 1.
The Boilermakers don’t return anybody who averaged double figures last year, but Purdue does return three starters and a talented and experienced bench. This is a veteran team led by three seniors and four juniors. The season ended on a sour note last year, but this group is determined to not let that happen again.
Obviously the biggest question is Hummel’s ACL. If he is even close to full strength, Purdue is a much more dangerous team. If Hummel can’t come back, though, one will have to wonder who the scoring will come from. Ryne Smith will be an even bigger part of the offense now, much like Jason Bohannon a couple of years ago for the Badgers. The sharp-shooter shot 44 percent from behind the 3-point line last season, a vast improvement over his sophomore campaign. Jackson is more of a distributor than a scoring guard, which is why he worked so well with Moore.
We all know Purdue is a good defensive team, but will the team be able to score enough to still be considered of the Big Ten’s best?
Non-conference schedule highlights: 11/17 vs. Iona (5-hour Energy Puerto Rico Tip-off), 11/18 vs. Temple/Western Michigan (5-hour Energy Puerto Rico Tip-off), 11/29 vs. Miami (FL) (Big Ten/ACC Challenge), 12/3 @ Xavier, 12/17 vs. Butler
-The schedule has plenty of under the radar games, and they are spread out between neutral site games and home and road games. Iona is the preseason pick to win the MAAC this year and forward Mike Glover is the preseason pick to win Player of the Year in the conference after scoring 18.4 points and grabbing 10.1 rebounds per game last season. Temple is coming off another NCAA Tournament appearance and I expect them to win against Western Michigan. The Xavier game will tell us how much of a chance Purdue has in the Big Ten. A key road win will help its chances of getting a high seed in the tournament and will prepare them for conference play.
Conference schedule: This has to be the easiest conference schedule in the Big Ten. Purdue only has to play Wisconsin and Ohio State, the preseason top two teams in the conference, once. Three of the first four for Purdue in the conference are on the road, including a trip to Carver Hawkeye Arena 12/28 to face Iowa, where Purdue was upset last season in the last regular season game. That stretch also includes a trip to Minnesota 1/8. The toughest stretch of games for the Boilermakers is from 2/7-2/25 or 26, where Purdue plays six games, including trips to Columbus 2/7, Champaign 2/15 and Ann Arbor 2/25 or 26, not to mention home games against an experienced Northwestern team 2/12 and Michigan State 2/19.
For Purdue to have a successful season, it all is on the shoulders of Hummel. He needs to stay healthy for Purdue to make the NCAA Tournament. The Boilermakers will need players to step up and be scorers for them to make a deep run in the tournament.