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The Boilermaker Breakdown

Jeff Smith

The Purdue Boilermakers are facing a very unusual situation. They could be the first #4 seed in the history of the NCAA Tournament that hasn’t been picked to advance past the first round in majority of the nation’s office pools. Based on the performance that they put together in the Big Ten Tournament against Minnesota, I can’t say that I blame anyone who doesn't pick them. The Boilers brought the effort that they have been noted for since Matt Painter took over the club just a few short years ago, but unfortunately, they also brought the same lack of offensive production that plagued them during the early days of this new era.
The loss of Robbie Hummel changes the roles of everyone on the entire roster and no one seems to be comfortable with their new responsibilities. E’twaun Moore is the one guy on the Purdue roster who can get anywhere he wants to on the floor and is capable of creating his own offense, but when he receives the entire concentration of the defense he's going to have some off nights like he did against the Gophers (he began the game 0-9 from the field)and as a result the offense goes stagnant. JaJuan Johnson is definitely a low post threat (when he’s not on the bench due to foul trouble) but he still isn’t as strong as he needs to be with ball in his hands to dominate in a crowded post, and he’s going to see a lot of extra defenders in the lane since Purdue can’t stretch defenses like they did with Hummel on the court. The Boilers haven’t found a new third scorer as of yet to provide them with the extra offensive punch that they need. Keaton Grant has upped his attempts but he just isn’t a pure enough shooter to consistently knock down jump shots and he isn’t athletic enough to get to the basket with any regularity. Chris Kramer has returned to form after the brief glimpse of an offensive game that he showed a few weeks ago. I’m surprised that Coach Painter hasn’t just told him to stay under the opponent’s basket and catch his breath while his teammates trot to the other end and try to score. I don’t want to diminish his extraordinary defensive efforts, but it isn’t the Boiler’s defense that has the entire nation penciling #13 seed Siena into the second round, it’s their complete ineptitude on the offensive end. Lewis Jackson is perhaps even more useless than Kramer in the Boiler's offense. I can recall one sequence against Minnesota where he beat his man off the dribble and got to the rim but knowing that he couldn’t finish the play due to his height he took a page out of the Steve Nash and Chris Paul playbook and dribbled the ball back out along the baseline. He then turned to find himself 15 feet from the basket without a defender in sight, as his man was still caught up in the lane, and the closest man to him was more concerned about keeping a body on JaJuan in the post. Any guard in Division I basketball has the green light to take that shot and would knock it down at least half of the time, yet despite my screaming at the TV (which he honestly might have heard despite being 50 miles away in Conseco Fieldhouse) he refused to take the shot. If Jackson can’t finish after beating his defender and getting in the lane and he refuses to even attempt a wide open baseline jumper, then he might as well just stay at the other end with Kramer and make sure that they are the best fast break defensive team in the field of 65. I think Kelsey Barlow will be a star, and John Hart a serviceable Big Ten player, but neither are ready to fill those roles yet. I will plead the fifth on the other players who have found themselves in Purdue’s rotation (I’m talking about you Patrick Bade and Ryne Smith).
I know I’ve been pretty rough on a lot of guys who don’t get paid to play and despite all of their shortcomings, do give 100% effort every second they are on the court. But as much as they pain me to put down on paper, all of my observations are valid, and with Hummel sidelined, the Boilers have little chance to get past the first game, let alone the first weekend. Being a gambling man, and seeing that we are entering the best three weeks of gambling of the year, there are a few things that I would be willing to bet on for the upcoming game against Siena. I would bet that the game will be much closer than Saturday’s debacle against Minnesota. I would bet that I will be cheering my heart out from the opening tip. I would bet that Purdue will come out and give an incredible effort on the defensive end, and if you paid attention at all to what I wrote above, when it comes to total points, I would bet the under, no matter how low it may be.

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