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Previewing Purdue: Boilermakers are no small problem

Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

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Purdue Offense -- Four Factors eFG% (National Rank) TO% OR% FT Rate
2013-14 47.2 (267) 17.7 (131) 36.2 (30) 38.0 (244)
2014-15 57.3 (19) 21.3 (236) 36.0 (74) 56.2 (12)

Is Matt Painter's Boilermakers program ready for a return to form after a couple of seasons in sub-.500 purgatory? The Pomeroy Ratings suggest the answer is yes--Purdue is No. 36 as of Monday night, more than 60 spots higher than it finished the 2014 season.

Their offense is offering encouraging signs as well, with marked improvements in a bunch of places that have Purdue at No. 30 in offensive efficiency. The early-season schedule caveat goes here: some of the raw improvement is schedule-related since half their games have been against opponents ranked below 300 in the Pomeroy Ratings.

But they'll hang on to some of these gains even though they're working without two of their top three scorers from last year, brothers Terone and Ronnie Johnson. Purdue fans aren't losing sleep over the departures, and nor should they be considering the way these guys shot the ball; they were significant reasons why the Boilermakers' offense finished 267th in effective field goal percentage.

Jettisoning those two freed up a lot of possessions for returning players who actually did shoot efficiently last season, like seven-footer A.J. Hammons. It also opened up room for a freshman class that is off to a fantastic start, led by forward Vince Edwards.

Edwards was a three-star kid (per Scout) out of high school but has performed much more like a top-50 recruit, leading the team in scoring on 41.2% shooting from three and 71.4% (!) shooting from two. Center Isaac Haas is 24-of-32 from two this year and doing the typical things that very tall basketball players do, like rebound well and block shots.

While those two are due to see their shooting accuracy regress as the competition becomes more difficult, Purdue's offense should be able to weather it. The Boilermakers may not have a top-30 offense when the year is done, but they aren't going to slip back to where they were in 2014, either (122nd).

With a couple of effective seven-footers in the rotation plus Edwards and sophomore G/F Rapheal Davis, it's a safe bet that this team shoots a higher percentage inside the arc all season while continuing to grab offensive boards at an above-average clip. That's a pretty good foundation for success, especially if they can cut down on the turnovers just a tad.

I do think there are lingering concerns about how much production Purdue can count on from beyond the arc even though they're at 38.8% for the season. Thing is, they were below-average from deep last year (32.7%), and although Terone Johnson was a drain on the offense overall, he did shoot 35% from outside.

Kendall Stephens shot 37% from outside on 174 attempts last season, so he should remain reliable (plus he's at nearly 49% this year!), but Purdue's next most-frequent three-point shooters are three freshmen. Two of them are hitting over 40% and hey, perhaps that's representative of their true shooting skill and will hold up through the rest of this season and beyond. It's just tough to consider them reliable contributors with so little about them proven at this level.


Jon Octeus (6-4, 175) -- Octeus spent the last two seasons at Colorado State, where he was plagued by an inconsistent jump shot and an inability to score effectively inside arc. He shot between 41 and 42 percent from two in both seasons. He is also a career 30% three-point shooter. The good news for Purdue is it doesn't need him to be a primary option, and so far he hasn't been one. I'm sure his more selective shooting is partly responsible for his 57.7% two-point shooting this season. And I'm willing to buy that he's better, just not, you know, 58-percent-shooting better.

Kendall Stephens (6-6, 197) -- Three-quarters of the shots he's taken in his career have been from three, which I'd say qualifies him as a three-point specialist. This is not a bad thing since his career two-point FG% is below 30, more than 10 percentage points lower than his career 3FG%. He won't get to the free throw line much, as is usually the case with jump shooters, though he is excellent when he does have the opportunity.

Rapheal Davis (6-5, 217) -- A lot of Davis' value lies in his ability to draw fouls because he's been a great free throw shooter since the beginning of last season. He's also proven to be an effective shooter from two-point range ... his outside shooting, on the other hand, has been rough. If you're defending this guy you definitely don't mind him settling for threes.

Vince Edwards (6-7, 220) -- This dude right here, man, this here is the dude. (Picture me shaking my head as you read that.) In addition to his hot start from the field, he is 15-of-17 from the line, and has rebounded well at both ends--just as well as the team's seven-footers. Block rate is good too. I don't know how his freshman year eventually pans out but right now he is terrifying.

A.J. Hammons (7-0, 261) -- Hammons finished last season among the top 10 players in block percentage and is right back there again; he is also good at drawing fouls and grabbing offensive boards. His career 2FG% is 51.0, which is respectable but needs to be better. I mean you're seven feet tall, man, the rim's right there. He's been prone to both turnovers and committing fouls during his career--it would really help a lot of that remained the case for one more game.


Isaac Haas (7-2, 297), Dakota Mathias (6-4, 197), Bryson Scott (6-1, 206), P.J. Thompson (5-10, 188), Basil Smotherman!!!!!!!!!!!!! (6-6, 220). Yes, Basil Smotherman. No, he is not foreign. I'm disappointed too. He's still a cockney chimneysweep in my mind, though. No one's taking that from me. He is named after his father, which is to say that there are at least two Basil Smothermans on this planet. Hopefully a lot more. But a least two.

Isaac Haas (or "Shaft," as you people have already dubbed him because you are the best) does not play alongside Hammons, and thank the heavens for that. He is not quite the shot blocker that Hammons is, but every bit Hammons' equal on the glass. He also has more FTAs (41) than FGAs (32). He is essentially fouling out two opposing players per game, as he's averaging 9.8 fouls drawn per 40 minutes played. That is terribly inconvenient for the other team; he should quit doing that.

Purdue Defense -- Four Factors eFG% (National Rank) TO% OR% FT Rate
2013-14 47.4 (84) 16.7 (274) 30.5 (127) 41.9 (211)
2014-15 42.4 (37) 22.5 (74)
28.9 (107)
36.4 (159)

Purdue ranked 20th or better in defensive efficiency for five consecutive seasons earlier in Painter's tenure. Those defenses typically forced a lot of turnovers while defending the paint exceptionally well. This year's team has been good in those same ways, but considering that the Boilermakers are coming off three straight years of substandard D, they still have to prove that circumstances genuinely have changed.

Blocked shots are not going to be a problem, I feel pretty good about that at least. They say speed never slumps, and neither does height, buddy! Although now that I think about it ... no, no, I'm sure the coaches are keeping a close eye on their posture.

The Pomeroy Predict-O-Meter has the Boilermakers by five.