Saturday, December 20, 2014

Boilermaker Basketball Pre-Game Primer: Notre Dame

Today is the Crossroads Classic, an event in which Purdue has not won a game in the 3 years since it's inception. To complicate things the opponent tonight for the Boilermakers is the 21st ranked Irish of Notre Dame. Here's the breakdown:

Saturday, December 20th
5:15pm Tipoff - Bankers Life Fieldhouse
BTN 
Purdue vs. Notre Dame

Projected Starters
Purdue
     C     Isaac Haas               Freshman    7'2''     The Irish have a few nice pieces in their front court but nobody that can really bang with Haas. If he's able to stay out of foul trouble he can really assert himself tonight and open things up for Stephens on the perimeter.
     F     Vince Edwards        Freshman    6'7''     Edwards has a pretty tough match up with the scrappy Pat Connaughton. He just has to be aware of where Connaughton is on the floor because the 6-5 forward shoots about 44% from three. Edwards has the ability to flip the script on him when the Boilers are on offense though.
     F     Raphael Davis         Junior          6'5''     Probably the most important player for Purdue defensively, he should at least start the game guarding potential All-American Jerian Grant. He's got the height and strength to challenge shots, but will Davis be able to stay in front of Grant off the dribble?
    G     Kendall Stephens     Sophomore  6'6''     Here's guessing that we will see a few launches from past the 3point line that's normally affixed to the Bankers Life floor. 2-8 like at Vandy isn't going to cut it tonight though. Notre Dame is going to hit shots and score points so Purdue really needs Stephens to be on tonight.
    G     Jon Octeus                Senior          6'4''     Octeus continues to be a ferocious rebounder, and Purdue is going to need him to continue that against the Irish. They already shoot such a high percentage that any missed shots will be vital for Purdue to snatch up. Second chance points could be a killer. Putting him on Grant from time to time could be a factor as well.

Notre Dame
     F     Pat Connaughton                       Senior         6'5''
     F     Zach Auguste                             Junior         6'10''
     G    Jerian Grant                                Senior         6'5''
     G    Demitrius Jackson                      Sophomore 6'1''
     G    Steve Vasturia                             Sophomore 6'5''
The Fighting Irish are winners of their last 6 and come in at 10-1 overall and ranked 21st in both polls. They are the #1 FG shooting percentage team in America, hitting a remarkable 55.7% on the season. As we saw from the Vanderbilt game a team hitting shots is really hard to handle, and with Notre Dame that seems to be the norm more than the exception. The one big man they start is putting up over 15ppg while shooting 65.3% from the field. This is a really good basketball team coming in playing really well.

Points of Percolation

1) Don't get frustrated: Purdue has gotten overwhelmed in it's 3 losses when the other team starts to hit shots at a high rate. While it seemed like Vandy was just having a career night shooting, I am expecting Notre Dame to make shots at a high clip. How will the Boilers handle it the first time ND hits 3 3s in a row? The first time they make a couple contested shots at the shot clock buzzer? How this young team responds will go a long way in the outcome of this game.

2) Use the favorable match ups in your favor: Two come to mind, and they are the same two we have been talking about all year: center and power forward. While Auguste is a nice player and has some strength at 240 pounds, he's still dwarfed by 7'2'' 297 and Purdue must exploit that. Notre Dame doesn't start another player over 6'5'' so the Boilers should have an advantage in whichever combination they use at the 4-5 spots. Vince Edwards needs to be empowered to be more aggressive this game, especially on the block where he's shown a nice array of post moves so far.

3) Use your depth: When combing through previous box scores it seems as if Notre Dame really only plays their bench to spell their starters, not as a 2nd unit. Coach Painter needs to use his 10 guys correctly and efficiently tonight because that can be an advantage for Purdue. Rotating different players, especially on Grant would be highly beneficial. I like rotating Davis' strength, Octeus' athleticism, and Scott's quickness to try and throw him off.

Prediction:

I think Purdue will play up to the competition level of a better team (better so far). This should be a competitive game with some very interesting match up dynamics, but in the end I think Notre Dame's shotmaking and having a playmaker like Grant will be the difference. Purdue falls to 0-4 in the Crossroads Classic in a tight one.

84-80 Irish.

8-4

Boiler Up. Hammer Down. Hail Purdue. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Time to Revisit This



I'm not all about overreaction; I think this team can still be really really good. But I think it's time to revisit one big thing and that is how AJ Hammons is utilized.

At some point, and one would think that 2 years would qualify for "some point", you are trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

I'm not saying Hammons can't play or that he should be thrown on the scrap heap here, quite the opposite actually. I am calling for a change in how he's utilized in the flow of the game.

The facts are this: AJ does not get deep enough post position and does not have the upper body strength to go straight up through a defender like Isaac Haas does. Once he gets the ball he also has a nasty tendency to panic and either lose the ball or travel.

What I propose is that when AJ is in the game you run your offense around someone else.

Someone like Vince Edwards who has shown a really nice post repertoire early this season and could be a terror in pick and roll play.

Someone like Kendall Stephens who even with 3 games of poor shooting is over 45% on 3s for the season.

Even one of the point guards in pick and roll, action either going to the basket or dumping to the picker that's rolling.

When AJH is in the game his duties should be rebounding, put-backs, keeping the ball alive on misses he can't rebound, and altering shots on defense. Trying to run the offense through him just isn't working so let's try to maximize the parts of his game that are working.

I know this seems like giving up on a game plan that's seemingly been in the works for over 2 years, but I'm really not. You can run all those deep post ups still, but just do it with Isaac Haas. He's simply more physical and has the nastiness to take and dish out punishment in the paint.

I think AJ Hammons can still really be a big factor for Purdue, I just want to see his role redefined. There's no reason to let this season turn into this poor peg





Boiler Up. Hammer Down. Hail Purdue.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Boilermaker Basketball Pre-Game Primer: Purdue @ Vanderbilt

The Boilers tackle their first true road challenge tonight when they travel to Nashville to take on the Vanderbilt Commodores. Not having seen this young and unpredictable team in a hostile environment yet I really don't know what to expect, but here's my best guess:

Saturday, December 13
9pm Tipoff - Memorial Gym
SEC Network (party at Paul Finebaum's!!!)
Purdue @ Vanderbilt



Projected Starters
Purdue
     C     Isaac Haas               Freshman    7'2''     I really don't know who will start at center, but for whatever reason AJ Hammons has looked much more comfortable coming off the bench, so I'll say Coach Painter goes with that again. Haas and Hammons have their hands full with an impressive Vandy front court
     F     Vince Edwards        Freshman    6'7''     Vince will be challenged similar to how he was against BYU in that he will be guarding a mobile stretch 4 type big. The Commodores 4 man is actually taller than their center, but stats suggest he isn't much of an interior threat. Hopefully VE can exploit this match up much like he did against BYU.
     F     Raphael Davis         Junior          6'5''     Davis simply needs to produce more. I thought he was OK against Arkansas State, but 50% from the foul line was not good. That is and should be a huge component to his game and that's not going to cut it.
    G     Kendall Stephens     Sophomore  6'6''     I'm guessing the message from Coach Painter has been received loud and clear and that KS will again be in the starting lineup tonight. When he takes what Painter calls "good shots" he's an absolute elite shooter.
    G     Jon Octeus                Senior          6'4''     Matt Painter has called JO his best rebounding guard since E'twaun Moore and I'd agree. One thing I do find interesting is that in the past when a shot goes up, Purdue typically has it's guards get back on D right away and now it seems like more and more Octeus especially is crashing the glass. Could lead to some run-outs when the competition gets better but could also keep a lot of possessions alive for the Boilers.

Vanderbilt
     C    Damien Jones                            Sophomore  6'9''
     F     Luke Kornet                              Sophomore  7'0''
     F    Jeff Roberson                             Freshman    6'6''
     G    Wade Baldwin                           Freshman    6'3''
     G    Riley LaChance                         Freshman    6'2''
The Commodores are 5-2 but it's a pretty lackluster 5-2 in my opinion. The 2 losses are against the only 2 high-major teams they have played so far: Rutgers and Baylor. But, both of those games were really close. We know Rutgers isn't very good and Baylor is OK at best, but still those were tightly contested games for Vandy. They really haven't beaten anyone any good. They present a new challenge for Purdue though in their front court size and skill. Damien Jones is really really good, putting up 21&9 against Baylor and 23&6 against Rutgers. Their 7 footer is more of a euro type that tends to hang around the perimeter but does so effectively, making over half his threes on the year.

Points of Percolation

1) Take Good Shots = Make Good Shots: This is going to be big for Purdue (duh). But really, it seems that when Stephens, Mathias, Thompson, and Edwards give the ball time to work around a bit, especially into the post, that the looks they get are much better and they tend to go down with more frequency. Move the ball more without dribbling and good things are going to happen, such as seeing more jump shots fall.

2) Foul Trouble: This game is going to be hugely affected by which team's bigs gets in foul trouble first. Haas and Hammons have a tendency to pick up cheapies rather quick, but they need to be the aggressors tonight in trying to get Jones on the bench. I think having 2 interchangeable options at the 5 is going to really start to show dividends tonight for Purdue.



3) Vince Edwards: I think he is going to be the catalyst tonight for the Boilermakers. Although the opposing 4 man has a decided height advantage, I think Edwards will be more than capable of holding his own as Kornet is more of a perimeter 7 footer. VE is a fantastic rebounder and also has the ability to make his man guard him on the perimeter. He should be able to exploit Kornet off the dribble and either get to the rim or dump it off to AJ or Isaac once help comes.

Prediction:

Vanderbilt is a very very young team, but so is Purdue. The Boilermakers are, in my opinion, a better team right now than the 2 teams the Commodores have already lost to. Being Purdue's first true road game I really don't know what to expect but a possible X-factor could be what is sounding like a huge contingency of Purdue fans that will be at the game. That coupled with a big bruising center, an athletic and NBA-skilled center, and a terrific inside-out combo 4 man gives the Boilers a leg up here. I'm saying Purdue gets a nice road win to boost their confidence going into Crossroads Classic a week from today.

74-69 Boilers.

9-2

Boiler Up. Hammer Down. Hail Purdue. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Comparing The Boiler Bigs

Matt Painter has one incredible advantage at his disposal.

Very few teams in college basketball have one player seven feet tall - let alone two. It's the emergence of freshman Isaac Haas that has greatly enhanced Purdue's depth and talent level. 

A.J. Hammons (photo belongs to thesportsbank.net)
The duo of Haas and junior AJ Hammons also makes it easy for the Boilers to wear out most opponents. 

Coach Painter can basically switch between the two of them at will. Doing so not only makes it easy for the team to keep a fresh body on the floor - it also prevents foul trouble. 

Both of these guys have played 20 or more minutes five times. Hammons had his highest minutes (29) in a home win against IUPUI, while Haas had his most (24) in the following contest against Grambling State. 

Haas has now started for Purdue in the last two games after showcasing what appears to be a better offensive skill set than Hammons. In those two starts, he's had 10 and six points, which is far from his  season-high of 19 against Kansas State on Nov. 24 in the Maui Invitational. 

But here's my question: Which of them is better

If you wanted to just look at statistics, Haas' 11.4 points per game definitely beats Hammons' 10.1. 

Things change, however, when other stats are added in. 

Hammons is statistically the best shot-blocker in the Big Ten. He has 30 blocks (No. 17 nationally) with an average of 3.0 per game this season. Haas has only 0.9 blocks per game. 

Haas flexing his muscle. (photo belongs to WLFI)
The junior has shown a better ability to pass out of the post as well, averaging 1.1 assists per game to Haas' 0.5. 

Despite his advantage on paper, an argument can be made that Haas might have higher upside. His performance now is much greater compared to how Hammons played when he was a freshman. He also seems to play with a mean streak. 

I remember the spectacular play Haas made against NC State, when he caught the ball in the post, turned around on his defender and jammed it. That kind of athleticism makes him seem like the kind of player NBA scouts will drool over. 

You could also ask why Hammons was benched. Even though he scored 16 points against North Florida, his failure to generate offense when it counted most tipped Painter's hand. 

Hammons responded after the benching with his first double-double of the season, a 13 point and 12 rebound display against IPFW in Mackey Arena. 

I guess an argument can be made for both. While Haas has an angry side that fans love, Hammons has the added dimension of defense to potentially give him an edge. 

All I know is this: people are going to have a difficult time dealing with Purdue's depth. 

It's great to have in March, by the way.  


Monday, December 8, 2014

Boilermaker Basketball Pre-Game Primer: IPFW

Tonight Purdue looks to get back on track when the Mastodons of IPFW visit Mackey Arena. Here's the breakdown:

Monday, December 8th
7pm Tipoff - Mackey Arena
ESPNU 
Purdue vs. IPFW

Projected Starters
Purdue
     C     AJ Hammons          Junior          7'0''     I along with others are becoming increasingly frustrated with AJ. While he does affect games just by being in there, he has not been able to establish the deep post position that Haas gets. In addition, he's just not finishing at a high enough rate. Hopefully this isn't indicative of the rest of the season and he's able to turn it around.
     F     Vince Edwards        Freshman    6'7''     Vince really had his first struggle on Saturday. He couldn't really get anything to fall and at times I felt he was that dreaded word "invisible". He's way too good for that to be more than a blip though.
     F     Raphael Davis         Junior          6'5''     Since returning from Maui, Davis has not scored anywhere near the clip he did on the island. Something has to give here, because Purdue cannot afford to keep someone on the court at a skill position that can't shoot and isn't generating points from the foul line.
    G     Kendall Stephens     Sophomore  6'6''     Well, back to back has turned into back to back to back with the rough shooting performances for Stephens. I keep saying he's going to snap out of it soon, but it's looking more like a prolonged slump. No idea why and it came out of nowhere. I still contend he needs to get back to take more GOOD shots and less just because he can.
    G     Jon Octeus                Senior          6'4''     Octeus provided a nice lift in the rebounding game against North Florida with 10, but I still would still like to see him generate a few more opportunities either through steals defensively or getting to the rim.

Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne
     F     Steve Forbes                              Senior         6'9''
     F     Joe Reed                                    Junior          6'8''
     G    Mo Evans                                   Sophomore 6'0''
     G    Joe Edwards                               Senior         6'5''
     G    Isaiah McCray                            Senior         6'0''
The Mastodons come in at 5-2 with their losses being on the road at Georgia Tech (78-69) and at Dartmouth (68-67). Those two losses tell me this is should be a pretty competitive team tonight in Mackey. They have some size in Forbes who had 17 and 10 against the Yellow Jackets and 19 points at Dartmouth. This is an in-state team that has 5 guys from Indiana and 3 from Chicago that no doubt have a chip on their shoulder from not being recruited to play high-major ball.

Points of Percolation

1) GET THE BALL INSIDE: For some inexplicable reason against North Florida, Purdue just went away from the post almost entirely in the 2nd half. Anyone else remember Isaac Haas making the Ospreys look like children during a 5 minute stretch in the first half? How is it that the guards just decide to start chucking after that? Hammons or Haas need to have a FGA damn near every time down the floor until opponents prove they can stop it; seriously.

2) Free Throws: Purdue is shooting over 10% better away from Mackey Arena than they are at home. How that's possible or why I have no idea, but it's happened before to the Boilers. They have to start making their free throws or teams will just play hack-a-shaq with Haas and Hammons especially.

3) 3 Point Shooting: Purdue was 4-19 from long range Saturday. 21%. Need I say more? Stephens, Mathias, and Thompson are supposed to be out there to keep defenses honest in guarding our post players, they have to be more efficient than this. Plain and Simple.

Prediction:

I expect Purdue to get tested again, but I think no, I hope, we see the same pissed off team tonight that we saw against Missouri. Not much else to add, if Purdue is fired up and locked in they will win tonight and if not, they could be in a battle inside a minute to go again.

78-62 Boilers.

7-2

Boiler Up. Hammer Down. Hail Purdue. 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Boilermaker Basketball Pre-Game Primer: North Florida

This afternoon the Boilers take on the Ospreys of North Florida.

Real Osprey

Here's the breakdown:

Saturday, December 6th
2pm Tipoff - Mackey Arena
BTN2Go - Plus (there is nothing plus about this garbage service) 
Purdue vs. North Florida

Projected Starters
Purdue
     C     AJ Hammons          Junior          7'0''     We're still waiting for AJ to have that breakout offensive game, but Kendall Stephens thinks it's coming sooner rather than later. Hammons has still been solid in my opinion, but because he's not putting up huge offensive numbers Haas continues to look more an more enticing to a lot of people.
     F     Vince Edwards        Freshman    6'7''     Edwards did most of his damage against NC State in the first half, but his 2nd half three to stem the tide of a run was absolutely enormous. This kid does not play like a freshman and is not shy of big moments.
     F     Raphael Davis         Junior          6'5''     Ray D didn't have his best offensive game against NC State but played really good defense for the most part. This season he seems to be affecting games even on days he doesn't score, which is huge for Purdue.
    G     Kendall Stephens     Sophomore  6'6''     Back to back rough shooting outings for KS raises a bit of concern, but he's too good of a shooter for it to really jump off the rails. His defense has been solid though which is nice to see.
    G     Jon Octeus                Senior          6'4''     Hard to find too much fault in Octeus, but I would like to see him be a bit more aggressive on the offensive end. Not Bryson Scott reckless abandon aggressive, but just look for opportunities to get to the rim a bit more.

North Florida
     F     Beau Beech                               Junior          6'8''
     F     Chris Davenport                        Sophomore 6'8''
     C    Romelo Banks                           Sophomore  6'11''
     G    Dallas Moore                             Sophomore 6'1''
     G    Jalen Nesbitt                              Senior         6'6''
The Ospreys come in at 5-3 with one of those losses being a near win at Northwestern. As you can see from the starting lineup they are big, but big is something I think Purdue does pretty well with. Purdue might struggle with the size of their 2 and 3 positions, but it's not like the Boilers are tiny there either with the exception of PJ Thompson. If there's one thing Purdue is able to counter this season it's going to be size; question is, is this the day we see ultimate size?

Points of Percolation

1) Guard Production: In the game against NC State Hammons, Haas, and Edwards combined for 44 of the Boilers 66 total points. I would like to see Octeus, Davis, and Stephens especially get going today. One of the keys to having a productive inside-out attack is having the outside part. Purdue would seem well equipped on paper to have that with the aforementioned Stephens as well as Mathias and Thompson.

2) Kendall Stephens: He has made huge strides on defense this year, but offensively he needs to button it up a bit. It seems to me that he has reverted back to last year some in these last 2 games with a few ill-timed shots and some low percentage shots without his feet set. I want to see him shoot it when he's set and ready. His percentages will go right back up in no time.

3) Less Turnovers:  Will be an ongoing story for Purdue this year, but they are slowly getting better. One that sticks out in my mind was the careless giveaway late in the 2nd half against NC State the led directly to a transition layup. The Boilers only had 10 total turnovers against the Wolfpack but it's the points off of those turnovers that can become an issue. Throw it out of bounds, travel , double dribble, whatever you have to do, just don't let them get instant points from careless turnovers.

Prediction:

I expect Purdue to get tested some, especially on the boards. But if there's one thing I think we are starting to see with this team is that they don't necessarily play up or down to their competition. I think Purdue seizes control coming out of halftime and wins this one by double digits.

82-67 Boilers.

7-1

Boiler Up. Hammer Down. Hail Purdue. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Boilermaker Basketball Pre-Game Primer: NC State

Tonight the Boilers return home to take on undefeated NC State as part of the annual ACC/B1G Challenge. Here's the breakdown:

Tuesday, December 2nd
9pm Tipoff - Mackey Arena
ESPNU 
Purdue vs. NC State

Projected Starters
Purdue
     C     AJ Hammons          Junior          7'0''     Will the game winner against BYU propel Hammons closer to being the dominant offensive force he's capable of being? One thing is for certain, he has to be able to stay on the floor unlike in Maui.
     F     Vince Edwards        Freshman    6'7''     Vince Edwards is a matchup nightmare and should continue to play that role for Purdue. His jump shot is a little unorthodox but if it keeps falling he is incredibly tough to guard. Also shown the ability to create a bit off the dribble too.
     F     Raphael Davis         Junior          6'5''     Ray D has silenced a lot of critics in the past 2 games (myself being one of them). He's not an above average shooter and does most of his heavy lifting from the foul line. He's been fantastic the past 2 game leading the Boilers.
    G     Kendall Stephens     Sophomore  6'6''     Stephens had a rough shooting day vs BYU, but that doesn't mean he played poorly. He looks to be much more confident on defense and made several key plays defensively down the stretch in that game. Here's betting the shooting slump won't last long either.
    G     Jon Octeus                Senior          6'4''     There's just not much new to say about Octeus. He's been an absolute Christmas present for Purdue and continues to be rock solid. He knows his strengths and he knows his role and he plays to them very well.

North Carolina State
     F     Ralston Turner                          Senior         6'5''
     F     Leonard Freeman                      Sophomore 6'8''
     C    BeeJay Anya                              Sophomore 6'9''
     G    Anthony Barber                         Sophomore 6'2''
     G   Trevor Lacey                              Junior          6'3''
The 6-0 Wolfpack come into Mackey arena receiving votes in both the AP and Coaches polls this week. They are currently listed as IN the field of 64 on the most recent NCAA Tournament Bracketology (even though it's ridiculously early there). They are good, they are physical, and this should be a great test for a Purdue team that I would think has a bit of confidence coming home from Hawaii.

Points of Percolation

1) Free Throws: But for a different reason this time! Purdue has finally started to look like the free throw shooting team we thought they had the potential to be. There's always the chance in the back of your mind for an off night and there will be one at some point, but the Boilers are doing a great job of getting freebies at the line. Nobody has done that better than Isaac Haas who is drawing the most fouls in the country per 40 minutes; now he just needs to get back to hitting FT's at a good rate.

2) Get the Crowd Into it: There should be a rocking crowd tonight in Mackey, and Purdue needs to get them engaged in the game. There are plenty of guys on this roster that can get themselves jacked up over a play, but crowd involvement can play a huge role in close home games. A good defensive performance can really get the energy up.

3) Less Turnovers:  Purdue did a better job in the 2nd half of the Kansas State game with only 2 turnovers, but again they continued to hand the ball away in the next 2 games. The Boilers are going to turn it over this year, I think that's just a fact. But what they have to do and what will be even more important later on in road environments is to not let those turnovers lead directly to baskets in transition for the other team. No more pick-6's!

Prediction:

This should be a really good game and a great test for Purdue. While NC State's front court may lack a little height, they are definitely strong as Anya runs just shy of 300 lbs. They are a good rebounding team too, out rebounding opponents by over 12 per game. I think our two centers are going to get going early with some hot shooting from Stephens and Mathias to polish it off. Close, exciting, and fun game tonight.

75-70 Boilers.

6-1

Boiler Up. Hammer Down. Hail Purdue.