I'm not really sure what's going on here with Purdue lately. If this season goes the way I'm expecting that'll make a second straight sub-par season and a second straight year missing the NCAA Tournament after making it six straight years (2 Sweet Sixteens). Looking at this year's freshman class and who is on the hook for 2014 there isn't really much of an impact here. In fact, Painter hasn't brought in anything resembling an impact class since that crazy Moore/Johnson/Hummel/Martin quartet, and that was back in 2007. Does this mean we're witnessing the slow death of Purdue basketball? Yes.Basically that all still stands, except add another year on. Last year was another dud as the Boilers went 5-13 in conference play and 15-17 overall. They're losing their top two scorers who also happened to be top 2 in assists on the squad, They do have some recruiting momentum at least with Painter signing two ESPN Top 100 guys (7-0 center Isaac Haas (way too many A's in that name) who they rank #87 and 6-7 forward Vincent Edwards who is #89) but unless the twin towers thing works (more on that in a second) or a bunch of role players suddenly start to thrive it's going to be another tough year.
I mention twin towers because the one real bright spot for Purdue is another seven-footer, junior A.J. Hammons who has the ability to completely dominate a game (see: 18 pts, 16 rebs, and 5 blocks vs. Ohio State or, and you probably remember this one better, 20/14/6 against your beloved Gophers). Unfortunately he's also been a bit of a headcase at times who can disappear by either simply not engaging (7 pts, 1 reb, 0 blocks in the other game against Minnesota despite only committing one foul) or getting himself in foul trouble (bunch of times). Really, when he's engaged he's nearly unstoppable and he could take Purdue up a level by bringing it consistently every night (and by that I mean an invite to the CBI).
Outside of Hammons I'm not really sure Purdue even knows what Purdue has. Leading non-Hammons returning scorer is Kendall Stephens at 8.0 per game, a sophomore wing who takes good care of the ball and can shoot. Out of all the non-Hammons returnees he has the best chance to develop into something special. Hammons and Stephens will likely be joined in the lineup by Basil Smotherman (sweet name), Raphael Davis, and Bryson Scott which means Purdue will be undersized (Smotherman will have to play the 4, and he's just 6-5). It'll be important for either Haas or fellow freshman Jacquil Taylor to figure out it out quickly or Hammons will pretty much be alone in the paint, but Scott is probably the biggest key to the season because with the Johnsons gone Purdue is desperate for a playmaker.
There are reasons Purdue could be better than this, sure. Hammons could put it altogether night after night. Haas has the opportunity to give them a rare true twin towers advantage over every other team. Kendall Stephens could very well end up the most improved player in the conference this year, and Bryson Scott or Raphael Davis (or both) could end up the playmaking scorer the team needs. But even if everything single one of those things ends up happening I'm not sure how much better that vaults Purdue from here. At least things seem to be improving. Even though it helps the Gophers, the world just doesn't seem right when Purdue basketball is in a multi-year slide at the bottom of the conference.
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