#20 – Purdue Boilermakers College Basketball Preview & Predictions

The loss of Hummel is killer but Etwaun Moore and the Boilers still check in at #20 in our preseason rankings
For the Purdue Boilermakers (29-6, 14-4 Big Ten), who last season finished tied for first in the Big 10 and then made it into the Sweet 16, so much depends on the health of star forward Robbie Hummel, who last season suffered a torn ACL.  Many feel that Purdue might have gone to the finals of the Big Dance if it had not been for his mishap. The bad news for the Boilermakers is that Hummel tore his ACL once again this October, which probably knocks him out for the season and diminishes much of the luster on Purdue’s potential championship season.

The frontcourt is anchored by forward/center JuJuan Johnson (6-10, 216 lbs., SR, #25, 15.5 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 0.7 apg, 31.2 mpg, .507 FG, .000 3PT, .718 FT). Many thought that Johnson, who offers various scoring moves in the post-position, might turn pro after last season.  He returns having extended his scoring options to the perimeter and looking to develop his outside game even more. Johnson commands his spot on the court when on offense and his long wingspan makes him a massive shot blocker on “D.” He was second in the Big Ten in blocks with 72. He may be the most skilled center in college basketball.

The plan was to have Hummel (6-8, 226 lbs., SR, #4, 15.7 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 2.1 apg, 30.3 mpg, .456 FG, .364 3PT, .902 FT) play the power forward position again. The Boilermakers go with two in the frontcourt and three guards in the back. Hummel was going to be the other stellar player in front. He can hit from inside and out and his foul shooting is amazingly accurate. But Hummel offers more than just points and stats. The senior power forward is a huge go-to force on the court. But he’s no longer an option.

The solution to the Hummel dilemma may be found in one of three possibilities—Patrick Bade, Travis Carroll or Sandi Marcius, with the most likely player to fill the power forward spot being Bade. Bade (6-8, 231 lbs., SO, #41, 1.5 ppg, 1.6. rpg, 0.1 apg, 7.3 mpg, .365 FG, .250 3PT, .632 FT) is the only one of the three who is not a freshman and that means he’s the only one with any experience, limited though it may be. He’s got some decent bulk and size but his shooting needs to be much more accurate.

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E’Twaun Moore rules the backcourt (6-4, 190 lbs., SR, #33, 16.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.7 apg, 31.5 mpg, .445 FG, .349 3PT, .730 FT) with skill and poise. Moore, a very cool and calm shooter who can float them in from the lane and connect on his mid-range jumper, led the team in scoring last season with 16.4 PPG and in assists with a total of 93. Moore, who looks to become Purdue’s fifth player in history to score 2,000 points, is going to have to upgrade his defensive chops to make up for the loss of the team’s former stopper Chris Kramer. Kramer was ranked 76th in the nation in steals, averaging 3.6 per game.

The point offers depth. Expect to see Lewis Jackson (5-9, 165 lbs., JR, #23, 2.4 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 3.4 apg, 19.3 mpg, .340 FG, .100 3PT, .444 FT), who last season lost his stride due to a broken foot, in that spot. In the 16 games Jackson appeared in last season, he revealed amazing quickness.  Kelsey Barlow (6-5, 193 lbs., SO, #12, 3.4 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 1.6 apg, 16.0 mpg, .442 FG, .000 3PT, .466 FT) will also see plenty of time at guard. Barlow offers a more accurate shot from the floor.

The third guard spot will most likely be someone who can drain threes. Last season, the Boilermakers shot just 32% from downtown. They need to up that percentage in order to take the defensive heat off the frontcourt. What that means is that both Ryne Smith (6-3, 190 lbs., JR, #24, 2.6 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 0.7 apg, 12.2 mpg, .325 FG, .297 3PT, .917 FT) and John Hart (6-2, 199 lbs., SO, #32, 2.4 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 0.5 apg, 10.3 mpg, .338 FG, .306 3PT, .500 FT) must turn up the accuracy meter from beyond the arc.

If there’s a wild card in the mix, it’s in the backcourt. 6-2, 212-pound guard Terone Johnson is expected to be an impact player immediately. The combo guard came in second for Indiana’s Mr. Basketball Award. Along with being a solid shooting guard, he’s got the vision and ball handling skills to play point. If he can turn out threes, that would be a huge help.

Last season, the Boilermakers excelled on scoring defense, limiting opponents to an average of 61.3 PPG. That was second in the conference and 30th in the nation. And their defensive efficiency was ranked third nationally. They were also sound on turnovers, producing them on “D” at a rate of 23.7% (23rd).

Their offensive rebounding percentage stood at 29.6%, ranking them 277th nationally. They were better on defense, pulling down 36.8%, putting them at 157th. A major part of their defense was their shot blocking as they stuffed an average of 12.2%, which rated them 38th in the country. With Hummel out, you have to wonder if they’ll be as effective in that area.

There were two problems for this team when it came to shots from downtown. The first, which was mentioned earlier, was the fact that the Boilermakers hit just 32% of their threes. But the second was that opponents connected on 35.3% of their shots from beyond the arc. Purdue did the smart thing on offense as they made 55.1% (88th) of their scores from the two-point area and just 22.7% (279th) from downtown.

The result was that the Boilermakers hit 8% more of their twos than their opponents, which put them at +8, while they made 3.4% fewer threes. But due to the fact that they shot three percent fewer threes than their opponents, the gain by opponents was negligible.

Head coach Matt Painter (137-61 overall in six years, 112-56 in five years at Purdue) has certainly brought the Purdue basketball program back, making them a national force once again. In his first season with the Boilermakers, he took them to a 3-13 conference record. The next season, Purdue was back at the Big Dance after going 9-7. In the last two seasons, they’ve made it to the Sweet 16 twice. Of course, what fans and supporters want is a shot at the title, and things looked good for this season until Hummel went down again.

So where will Purdue end up this season? Before Hummel got hurt, people were picking them anywhere from first through fifth. And although this is still a good team, with half of what was an ultra-dynamic frontcourt out for the season, there are certainly doubts about how good this team really can be.

They will only be as good as their new starting power forward, their three-point shooters and their bench. Those are the unknowns and they are presently unstable components. The lower end of the top 25 looks to be where the Boilermakers will be. That is if JuJuan Johnson can maintain his productivity and stamina now that Hummel is no longer there to divert some of the heat. Purdue starts the season ranked 20th nationally.

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