Big Ten Team Previews: Purdue BoilermakersPosted by jnowak on November 2nd, 2012
Throughout the preseason, the Big Ten microsite will be rolling out the featured breakdowns of each of the 12 league schools. Today’s release is the Purdue Boilermakers.
Where We Left Off: The last time we saw Purdue, one of the program’s most accomplished players — Robbie Hummel — was riding off into the sunset, marking the end of the “Baby Boiler” era that began when that class began its West Lafayette career in 2007. Purdue also loses fellow co-captains Ryne Smith and Lewis Jackson, leaving Matt Painter without three of the Boilers’ best scoring options from the last few seasons. So the cupboard is relatively bare, with a lot resting on the shoulders of senior D.J. Byrd and the Johnson Trio — Terone, Ronnie and Anthony. None of those four have much experience in leading the team, so scoring could be at a premium. It’s safe to call it a rebuilding year for the Boilermakers, but if they can build on the foundation the Baby Boilers set forth, Painter could have this team back contending soon enough.
Positives: After a pretty significant drop-off in recruiting since the stellar class of Hummel, JaJuan Johnson, Scott Martin (who eventually transferred) and E’Twaun Moore, Painter seems to finally have gotten it back with this incoming freshman class. Rivals has this group ranked No. 20 in the country, which also places the Boilermakers fourth in the Big Ten (Indiana clocks in at No. 5, Michigan at No. 7, Michigan State at No. 13). None of the newcomers — A.J. Hammons, Ronnie Johnson, Raphael Davis and Jay Simpson — were ranked higher than No. 77 (Hammons), but it’s a solid core and a diverse group, with each player listed by Rivals at a different position. All four should get significant playing time this season, giving Purdue fans a glimpse at what could be a very promising future.
Negatives: A Purdue team that was not particularly strong on the defensive end last year with stalwarts like Hummel, Jackson and Byrd does not figure to get a whole lot better with an influx of underclassmen into the regular rotation. The Big Ten could be at its deepest in years this season and it’s not the best time for young players to get their feet wet in a conference that is already built on the defensive end of the floor. Typically, it’s the toughest thing for freshmen to grasp when they arrive on campus, so Byrd and and Terone Johnson will be tasked with catching up the youngsters, and fast. The Boilermakers were ninth in the Big Ten in both scoring and field goal percentage defense last year and it may be tough for this group to top that in 2012-13.
Best Case: It’s highly unlikely that this team will be in the mix for the Big Ten title, but given the depth of the conference, the Boilermakers could have a shot at an NCAA Tournament berth if they take care of business in the non-conference portion of their schedule and earn a couple signature victories against Big Ten foes while cleaning up against lesser opponents. Their toughest non-conference games are probably neutral floor games against Villanova and Notre Dame, with a trip to Clemson on the books for the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, and a home game against West Virginia mixed into Big Ten play. They’re all entirely winnable games, leaving the Boilermakers with a good shot at earning a chance at the Big Dance even with a so-so showing in the conference.
Worst Case: That same brutal conference schedule that could boost Purdue’s strength of schedule ends up just hammering the inexperienced and overmatched Boilermakers. They drop at least two of those semi-marquee non-conference games and enter Big Ten play with at minimum of two losses. The freshman have some growing pains — showing signs of promise, but making it clear that it won’t really flourish for some time. They settle for 10th in the conference, ahead of only Penn State and Nebraska.
- F — Donnie Hale (Fr)
- F — D.J. Byrd (Sr)
- F — Sandi Marcius (Jr)
- G — Ronnie Johnson (Fr)
- G — Terone Johnson (Jr)
Key Reserves: Anthony Johnson (G, So), A.J. Hammons, (C, Fr), Raphael Davis (G, Fr).
The Lineup: There should be plenty of spots up for grabs in a Purdue rotation that figures to be pretty hefty. The Boilermakers will probably go big with their starting five, though neither Johnson is listed as taller than 6-foot-2, but Hale and Marcius are both listed taller than 6-foot-8 forwards and Hammons is a seven-foot center Painter can bring off the bench. With the inexperience of this bunch beyond Terone Johnson and Byrd, you have to figure that most any spot in the rotation is up for grabs. If any of the youngsters can establish themselves as a scoring presence early on in the season, they could earn plenty of minutes.