"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Monday, October 17, 2022

Purdue Preview, 2022-23

Purdue Boilermakers

November 15, 2022, Mackey Arena

Head Coach: Matt Painter (409-197, 384-192 at Purdue)

Three-Year NET Average: 24.3

Three-Year kenpom Average: 21.0

Projected 2022-23 T-Rank: 28

Projected Starters: PG Ethan Morton (6'7" Jr), SG Braden Smith (6'0" Fr), SF Fletcher Loyer (6'4" Fr), PF Mason Gillis (6'6" Jr), C Zach Edey (7'4" Jr)

Zach Edey is a tough matchup for most any opponent

Photo from Getty Images

A month into the 2021-22 season, Purdue looked like a team on a mission to end Matt Painter's streak as arguably the best coach to never make a Final Four. After powering past North Carolina and Villanova, teams that would eventually reach the Final Four, the Boilermakers climbed to the #1 spot in the AP Poll, but then they started a trend that would follow them the entire season long of losing to teams that on paper they shouldn't lose to. First it was Rutgers, then Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, and Wisconsin again. While all of them played in the NCAA Tournament, half were double-digit seeds and only Wisconsin managed a top-4 seed, largely because of those wins over Purdue. In the Big Ten Tournament final, Iowa upset Purdue despite the Boilers completing the regular season sweep. When they crashed out of the NCAA Tournament in the Sweet 16 to St. Peter's, the team found themselves missing out on the Big Ten regular season title, Big Ten Tournament title, and the elusive Final Four. The team was left with more questions as four of the top-five scorers, including top-5 NBA pick Jaden Ivey, departed for a mix of professional and collegiate opportunities.

The biggest questions will be about how the lineup shakes out. Ethan Morton is more of a natural wing, but backed up Ivey at the point last year and will most likely get first crack at the position. David Jenkins, Jr joins the Boilermakers from Purdue after previous stops at UNLV and South Dakota State. He is a reliable shooter, but definitely looks to score first and his productivity has declined as the level of competition he's faced has improved. Gillis mostly played the four last year but will likely need to be both more assertive offensively and play down to make room for Caleb Furst. The talented sophomore adds another proven shooter (everyone at the 1-4 shot over 39% from deep last year) but will need to improve his perimeter defense, or he could simply be relegated to Edey's backup. Edey is the lone returning double-digit scorer and provides a massive post presence that is high usage, high efficiency, dominant on the glass, and a constant shot-blocking threat. Off the bench, Painter has a number of talented but unproven options, with junior guard Brandon Newman and former top-50 recruit and redshirt freshman Trey Kaufman-Renn the most likely options to provide extra minutes or crack the starting lineup.

Offensively, Painter has been a genius at adapting to his personnel. For the past two years, much of his offense ran through the Trevion Williams, maybe the best passing big man since Draymond Green (and now appropriately joining Green with the Golden State Warriors). The combination of two dominant bigs sharing time and ultra-talented guard Jaden Ivey gave Purdue a brilliantly balanced attack. Painter excels at teaching both post and perimeter skills, a motion offense, and the secondary break. While his teams tend to play slow, they are still attack-minded and can be rapidly lethal when they have a guard that can attack like Ivey. Expect the pace to stay similar this year, but with so many shooters, Purdue will likely be less break heavy and more perimeter focused. They don't use much pick-and-roll, instead running motion off the ball and reversing their passes to create open looks and a wealth of catch-and-shoot opportunities at the arc. Expect a lot of four-out around Edey, with shooters everywhere and Edey working to clean the offensive glass (he was #1 nationally in offensive rebounding percentage, nearly two full percentage points ahead of Oscar Tshiebwe). Where they may struggle is against pressure. With few proven ballhandlers, it may take time for Purdue to sort out their back court rotation. Defensively, Painter's teams typically are effective at shutting down the paint and chasing teams off the three point line. However last year it was their #93rd ranked defense that proved their Achilles' Heel too often as they struggled to get key stops. This is where losing Ivey, who was at best defensively inconsistent, could help Purdue. Aside from Jenkins, they are able to put a lot of length at every position and the majority of the roster has been in they system for a couple years now so this should be a much improved unit that focuses on getting back quickly and manning up once opponents get across half court.

Painter's teams have been top-30 in kenpom seven straight years and thirteen of the last sixteen. It feels safe to say that even a relatively inexperienced team like this one will figure it out as the season goes on and comfortably find their way into the NCAA field. However guard play is certainly something to worry about. Jenkins is the only proven guard on the roster, and he's a ball-dominant scoring guard. The rest of the team is made up of wings and bigs, which will lead to some interesting lineup combinations. As talented as guys like Furst and Kaufman-Renn are, will they be able to get on the court if Painter puts his trust in the juniors? Aside from Edey, no one here has served as more than a role-player, so is someone ready to step into that massive alpha role left behind by the likes of Ivey and Williams? In terms of coaches that have earned trust, Painter is near the top, but while he's a consistent Big 10 winner, inexperienced Purdue teams tend to struggle in non-con play. Since kenpom has been recording Minutes Consistency in 2008, Painter's teams have ranked in the top-100 on 6 occasions. Those teams have lost just 7 non-con games (1.2 on average), never more than 2 in a single season. The average rank they lost to was 16.9, none worse than #47 Western Kentucky in 2017-18. Painter's teams have ranked outside the top-100 on 9 occasions, losing 33 times (3.7 on average), never fewer than 2 in a single season. The average rank they lost to was 74.6, including more than half the losses (18) to teams outside the top-50. Quite simply, when Painter has an experienced team, they tend to run over their non-con opponents, but when he doesn't, they are very beatable. This team will not be experienced. While Marquette has only ever beat Purdue once (the Koby McEwen game in 2019-20) this is a team that just hasn't played enough together to be trusted one week into the season. Particularly without much experienced ball-handling against Shaka's high-pressure Violence defense. This will be the first big test for this Marquette team, but in terms of opponent and timing, they couldn't be better situated to pull off what would be an early season upset.

What We've Learned: Edey has largely been as advertised, averaging 21 ppg/14 rpg with two double-doubles in their first two outings. He posted career highs in rebounds (17) and blocks (6) in their opener and followed that up with a career high in points (30) in their second game.As unstoppable as he can be when isolated in the low post, he does sometimes struggle with double teams (as UW-Milwaukee demonstrated) and is a liability on defense due to getting exposed in pick and roll and having trouble with opposing bigs that can put the ball on the floor. They are starting two freshman guards, Braden Smith and Fletcher Loyer. Smith forced 7 steals against Milwaukee but turned it over 7 times himself in their first two games. Loyer didn't have as many turnovers and is the more prolific scorer, but he demonstrated a loose handle and had a number of times where he nearly lost his dribble against Austin Peay. One other thing that stood out in both of their first two games is Purdue is deep, with at least 9 players logging double-digit minutes in both games. Whether that's Painter trying to keep his guys fresh or just not being set on who his best options are remains to be seen.

Marquette Connection: This will be the third time Purdue has taken on Marquette in the Gavitt Games. Considering this is Purdue's fourth and Marquette's sixth appearances in the Games, these teams have seen quite a bit of each other. When last we previewed this tilt before the 2019-20 season, Purdue held a gaudy 9-0 all-time record against Marquette. After the Boilermakers started on a 9-0 run before doubling that lead to 38-20 later in the first half, it looked like another Purdue laugher as Marquette trailed by 13 at halftime. Then Koby McEwen took over. He scored 18 second half points, outscoring Purdue ALL BY HIMSELF as Marquette used a 40-17 second half domination to turn an 18-point deficit into a relatively comfortable 65-55 victory.

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