2014-2015 ITH season preview: Purdue Boilermakers

  • 09/22/2014 8:40 am in

With the start of college basketball season on the horizon, we’ll be taking a long look at the conference at large as well as Indiana’s roster over the next month. Today, we continue our look at the Big Ten with the Purdue Boilermakers.

After a CBI appearance two seasons ago and missing the postseason altogether last season, it may be a make or break season for Matt Painter in West Lafayette. The Boilermakers finished just 15-17 a season ago, which led to a candid speech from Painter following a home loss to Northwestern on March 9.

“First of all, it’s my fault,” he said. “It’s my job to get guys to play together, it’s my job to get guys to play, it’s my job to get guys to play smart, and we don’t do any of those. And so that is my fault. When you start off, people will always give you a break. But when you’re somewhere for nine years, they shouldn’t. They absolutely shouldn’t, because it is my fault we are in this position.”

If Painter is to orchestrate a turnaround this season, he’ll have to do so with a made over roster. Last season’s leading scorer Terone Johnson graduated, point guard Ronnie Johnson transferred and three other rotation players are gone.

A.J. Hammons opted to return for his junior season, which was a major offseason victory for the program and three sophomores who showed promise a season ago — Basil Smotherman, Kendall Stephens and Bryson Scott — are all back as well. Purdue also welcomes a five-man recruiting class that includes a 247Composite top 100 post player in Isaac Haas, a solid point guard in P.J. Thompson and Vince Edwards, another top 150 recruit.

The centerpiece for Purdue is clearly Hammons, who has been an enigma over his first two seasons. The 7-footer averaged 10.8 points, 7.4 rebounds and 3.1 blocks as a sophomore, but played just 25 minutes per game. Assuming he’s focused and in shape for his junior season, Hammons should be the Big Ten’s best true post player.

On the wing, sophomore Kendall Stephens looks like a potential candidate for a breakout season after averaging eight points and hitting 37 percent of his 3-pointers as a freshman. Sophomore Bryson Scott figures to get the first opportunity to replace Johnson, who transferred to Houston, at the point guard, but could be pushed by Thompson, a Brebeuf product. Sophomore Basil Smotherman and junior Raphael Davis also figure to remain in the rotation, with Smotherman (58.5 eFG percentage) the more efficient offensive player of the two.

Purdue was one of the Big Ten’s worst teams on both ends of the floor last season, but the defense, a staple of Painter’s successful teams, is particularly concerning. The Boilermakers gave up 1.08 points per possession in league play and were the league’s worst team at creating turnovers. Whether Purdue can fix that problem with a relatively young team could determine the outcome of its 2014-2015 campaign.

Bottom Line: The program Painter built that competed for Big Ten championships won with toughness and unselfishness, which are two traits he’ll try to infuse back into the program for the upcoming season. While Terone and Ronnie Johnson were the team’s leading scorers a season ago, neither is a major loss and the hope for Purdue fans is that more efficient players like Hammons, Smotherman and Stephens can step into more prominent offensive roles. Moving up in the Big Ten hierarchy is no easy task and with programs like Northwestern and Penn State both coming off similar seasons record wise, cracking the top ten in the league standings could be a tough task in West Lafayette.

Quotable: “We’re going to put the best offensive team out there at some point, even if they’re not the best lock-down defensive guys. I don’t feel like we have that at this point. We’ve had that throughout the years. If we don’t have that, I think we’re going to have to have something better from an offensive standpoint to be efficient, just putting so many guys out there who can shoot and then change things up defensively. I think it makes a lot of sense, but we’ll see.” — Painter in early July.

Previously: Rutgers, Penn State, Northwestern

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  • Aiken_Hoosier

    No worries……I actually took no offense to your post. I’ll be the first to admit it doesn’t exactly require the same level of work/attention that a Purdue Eng. degree does. Just happened to be where I ended up with all the variables in my life in that time and place in the world.

    However, the reply to your post from HoosierGrampy basically compared it to “The Psychodynamics of Managing Prepubescent Synergisms in a High Stress Socio-Athletic Setting” and implied it was along the same lines.

    I’m not saying this to defend myself personally because I couldn’t care less what anyone on a message board thinks about my degree, considering it has “qualified” (to use Grampy’s phrase) me to provide for myself and my family.

    My point is with everything that’s going on in this era of collegiate athletics, I think we should be taking every opportunity to celebrate student athletes who make an honest commitment to pursue a degree (regardless of major), keep themselves out of trouble, and still give time and effort to athletic pursuits.

    Not everyone who is born with a gift to play basketball/football/baseball/etc. is also awarded the intellect to pursue an Engineering degree. Facts of life. Some are lucky enough to get both. Some aren’t. But to diminish in any way a kid’s pursuit of a college degree because the major doesn’t meet your personal standards is a bit shortsighted to say the least.

    Just my $0.02.

  • calbert40

    We’ve all been talking about Purdue’s past, but what do we think about this year’s team? I was discussing this with some of you the other day, and we disagreed. Some said they thought that PU would be improved and have a good season. I think Painter should get COY votes if they finish above 10th.

    I am not a believer in Hammons. He is great in short bursts, but he seems to lack something that keeps him from realizing his full potential. I think their “promising” sophomores are not that great at all. I am certain that none of them would start for IU, and I don’t know that all of them would even be considered rotational players…maybe just one or two of them. And I say that with the understanding that we aren’t a title contender. We are middle of the pack in the B1G.

    I just don’t think they are going to enjoy more success than they did last year. I don’t know who is on their pre-conference schedule, but I would think 6 B1G wins sounds about right.

  • Rkeg

    We need to get Ole Man a hobby – anyone know of a good cross stitch store in Btown?

  • Alford Bailey

    Quick question.What if Purdue was having the success in conference of a Wisky, OSU or UM lately? Would us IU fans still be fairly satisfied with our current mediocre program? Or, would a long term successful Purdue program drive IU to HAVE to perform at a much higher level than we’ve seen for 15-20 years now. You know kinda like Auburn and Alabama are doing with football. The competitiveness of such great in state rivals is driving each program to success on the national level to the point of each team winning national championships. Could that happen here? Lord knows we have the in state basketball talent for such a thing to happen. Thoughts?

  • Alford Bailey

    I was around for the Anthony Thompson years and to a lesser extent our local product, the Alex Smith years. Its like the football program quit trying after that. When its been that bad for so long like you said that mentality is a huge issue.

  • Alford Bailey

    How about a rocking chair, pocket knife and a big stick?

  • HoosierGrampy

    My comment on the Pop Warner Football CLASS was merely intended to serve as an example of a fluff course invented years ago to keep some “athletes” eligible at a school that wears a lot of blue…it had nothing to do with the pursuit of a degree.
    For someone who (to use your words) “couldn’t care less what anyone thinks of my degree”, you spent a lot of time defending yourself. You might have used a little of that time trying to comprehend what I actually wrote instead of what you thought I implied. My questioning of what an Organizational Leadership and Supervision degree qualified a graduate to do was about as simple and straightforward as I can ask and implied absolutely nothing. I’ve been out of college for some 47 years and never heard of that being a course of study. It sounds as if it would be an interesting and useful major– especially in today’s workplace. I commend anyone who pursues a college degree, and for your information, have never denigrated anyone’s major field of study nor tried to impose my personal preferences on anyone.

  • MillaRed

    It is rumored Ole Man sends his ITH posts to a nearby collocation via pigeon cause he “don’t like them fancy computers!”

  • dwdkc

    I think if Purdue was consistently near the top, it would raise the bar for Crean and the rivalry would be good for IU basketball. IU/Crean does seem to have what it takes to recruit for championship potential; I don’t think Purdue picking off a few more really good players changes that–those guys they used to get went to some combination of UM, MSU and OSU. As a Wabash grad I don’t have the obligation to hate Purdue and in fact tend to root for them outside of IU games, and I do miss the good old days when Knight and Keady were at the top of their games. I’d like to see Painter turn it around as I think he’s a good guy and has the ties to those old days.

  • ForeverIU

    Now let me not ask you about DePauw and Brad Stevens, lol.

  • ForeverIU

    Maybe we should start engineering programs! Which makes me wonder, why doesn’t IU have engineering programs?

  • marcusgresham

    Since Mallory was run out it’s seemed like there was usually promise on offense and nothing on defense. Think about the Randle-El years—I always got pissed because IU had teams that were 10x better than Louisville (those were the C-USA years,) but I’d have to watch IU go 5-6 while U of L went to a bowl game.

  • marcusgresham

    From the looks of the inside of that crap hole Mackey Arena, they don’t even fork over money for light bulbs.

  • marcusgresham

    The best is UNLV, whose roster seems to consist of one major–hotel management.

  • marcusgresham

    I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again. While it’s fun to make jokes about Purdue, it’s hard down here in the far bottom of the state to truly hate them. You guys in the Indianapolis area and north have no real way to get a complete understanding of dealing with Kentucky fans on a daily basis. Purdue people are just regular dudes for the most part.

  • Alford Bailey

    No room with all those high paying journalism degrees.

  • IUJeff

    Wow. You could almost not be more wrong. PUkes as a whole have the biggest case of pen15 envy for IU imaginable. It is almost sickening the jealousy the average Puke has for IU.

    A Turdue grad would rather hire a middle school grad than an IU grad. There is no fork in the tree once a Purdont gets into management. Resumes with IU on them go into the trash first and only PUkes are hired ever after. Trust me. I work with more Purdorks than should be allowed.

    And Purdue and regular dude don’t belong in the same sentence.

  • HoosierGrampy

    Good one–LOL!

  • CreanFaithful

    Hammons would start for IU…

  • Eugene Debs

    Yuck.

  • IUfanforever

    Milla…..wow your still not excited about our off season!? Really…..Seriously??? Let’s see we got rid of a player that either went to the NBA or players who only cared about themselves and we picked up a McDonald’s American with JBJ and a very good player with Robert Johnson and 4 pretty good decent players who can play and shoot! I again liked our off season more then any season CTC has orchestrated!

  • Bryce Kepner

    Well I used to live close to Purdon’t country and it was pretty bad. Lots of people I went to school with were Purdon’t fans. They have tons of bandwagon fans that obvious had no idea about anything. So since you don’t live around West Lafayette, you have no real way to get a complete understanding of dealing with Purdue fans on a daily basis.

  • HoosierGrampy

    I watched Basil Smotherman a couple times last year on the BTN and the young man’s got game. Don’t be surprised to see him have at least as good a year as Troy, but I wouldn’t trade our #5 for their #5.
    Watching Hammons play reminds me of Andrae Patterson who incurred the wrath of one RMK for habitually taking plays “off” because he seemed to believe that he’d “done enough” on the other end of the court. I think AP never really understood how much better he could have been had he done the work. Ditto Hammons.

  • ForeverIU

    Grampy just admit you were being sarcastic and apologize, lol. It will get you good karma!

  • dwdkc

    If he ever made his way to Bloomington, I’d manage to overlook the Dannie connection

  • ForeverIU

    Don’t wear the Wally Wabash lol.

  • HoosierGrampy

    One of the top items on my Bucket List is to drive the “karma bus”. I’m happy to say that there is no plan to drive by your house just yet :)…

  • ForeverIU

    “This train is bound for glory, this train.” LOL.

  • HannerTime Hoosier

    Same reason CTC sux @ in-game coaching, lack of skill/talent! One needs great minds for great outcomes . . . 🙂

  • HoosierGrampy

    Like many who post on here, I’ve watched more than a couple ball games and listened to a few post game interviews/press conferences. However, my recall isn’t as good as yours, because I am unable to cite specific poster’s comments such as you did w/hoosierfan33. Kudos. When CTC said that he’d have booed himself last year, I guess that some consider that to be taking responsibility for the way the team played last year. While I don’t think it’s necessary for him to hang himself on a cross every time IU loses a game, there were occasions (like Purdue) when he could have accepted some responsibility for the outcome but didn’t.
    I’m not particularly concerned with what Kevin Wilson, Teri Moren, Todd Yeagley or any other IU coach does or doesn’t do…the focus is usually on the basketball program here…js

  • Snookafly

    I’ve lived on both ends of the state and can honestly say nothing is worse than UK fans. Purdue fans have just as much contempt for us, but since they have no shot at ever winning a title, they don’t bother me at all.

  • ForeverIU

    Never assume a target does not move, lol. Nice lesson.

  • Aiken_Hoosier

    You can backtrack if you want, but I have re-read your post and my reading comprehension was just fine the first time around.

  • CreamandCrimson

    I tend to agree with you. 6 wins seems about right for them. I think Basil Smotherman is a good role player and I think Kendall Stephens is capable of doing good things. Scott and Davis have never done much for me. Dakich talked a lot about how “tough” Bryson Scott was…he might be really tough but he didn’t look like anything close to a good basketball player last season. AJ Hammons is, as you say, “great in bursts”. They are going to be relying quite a bit on PJ Thompson to play some point guard for them and I thought he was good, not great, in high school. Dakota Mathias was regarded as a good shooter and they have high hopes for Vince Edwards and Isaac Haas (don’t think either one is ready to help them much this season). I think they will flirt with .500 overall, get a few great games from Hammons to surprise a couple of teams and probably wind up out of the basement but not much higher (5-7 B1G wins).

  • IUMIKE1

    Since only one upvote can be given per comment, without going to more trouble than I’m willing to go to, please consider this my way of officially getting my other 99 upvotes your comment deserves counted. I’ve been around large numbers of both and had to deal with large numbers of both and PeeU people may be abrasive at times but the pUKe fans are like showering with 32 grit sandpaper and no water. I’d still be typing tomorrow at this time if I was to list all the reasons why this is true. Let’s just say that I hate them so vehemently because………

  • calbert40

    I was refering to the three “promising” sophomores. I don’t think any of them would start, and maybe only one or two would be rotational players. Hammons would start…provided that he would work, which I’m not sure he would.

  • calbert40

    I think Smotherman and Stephens would get minutes, but I still don’t think either would start. Scott would ride pine at IU.

  • hagster

    HAHAHa If pigs had wings they could fly too…………..

  • calbert40

    I watched Scott play his senior year against a junior All-Star who eventually made the Indiana All-Star team as a senior, so he was/is very talented too. Still, this kid (Persons from Kokomo) owned him. OWNED him. If I recall, I think Persons got a D-1 scholly, but to low major Northern Kentucky. Scott got so frustrated that he started a fight with another kid on the team, got T’d up in the closing minutes, and then started arguing with his coach on the sideline when the coach removed him from the game.

    Needless to say, I was not impressed at all with him. I thought his brother played better, but wasn’t as athletic.

  • calbert40

    Good point. I mistakenly left him out of that class. He only played there as a freshman before transferring, correct? He was a really solid player at ND afterwards, though.