We begin our look around the Big Ten conference basketball landscape today. Up first are the Purdue Boilermakers, a team that many saw as a contender last year and were right on.
Things change rapidly in college basketball, but does that mean Purdue takes a step back in 2016-17 or will they be a contender this upcoming season?
With plenty of returning talent, including some guy named Caleb Swanigan (a Preseason All-Big Ten pick) this team has plenty of intrigue around it heading in to this season. Let’s look at the ins and outs of the Purdue basketball team heading in to the season.
Burning Question: Can This Be Caleb Swanigan’s Team?
There’s no doubt that the name everyone is going know on the 2016-17 Boilermakers roster is going to be Swanigan’s. He flirted with being a one-and-done but chose to come back to the team for another season of seasoning.
However, with names like A.J. Hammons, Rapheal Davis and Kendall Stephens gone this team is in need of someone who they can mold their identity around.
Swanigan had an impressive start to his career last season, averaging 10.2 points and a team-best 8.3 rebounds per game. However, that was with Hammons and fellow forward Vince Edwards in the mix.
This team is going to be centered around getting the most out of Swanigan, but can he be the go-to player after not having to worry about that happening last season.
Let’s see if Swanigan’s ability to lead a team can match his obvious skill.
Biggest Strength: Perimeter Shooting
One of the biggest untold stories of the 2015-16 season nationally was Purdue’s ability to shoot the ball well from deep. A record 268 3-pointers went in for this team. Most would believe that losing players like Raphael Davis and Kendall Stephens would also mean a drop in production from the outside.
However, there are some big time sharp shooters available for the team to have step up. Chief on that list is P.J. Thompson who shot 41.5 percent from deep while playing nearly 23 minutes a game off the bench.
Dakota Mathias and Ryan Cline are also very good options from deep, and both will see increased minutes in the backcourt. The addition of 4-star point guard Carsen Edwards out of Texas should be intriguing as well.
Oh, and don’t forget that Michigan graduate transfer Spike Albrecht, who is a sharp shooter of his own, should be in the mix for good minutes this season as well.
Biggest Weakness: Frontcourt Depth
Name me more than three players in the frontcourt for the Boilermakers…now.
Without googling it.
Chances are most of you couldn’t do it, even the hardcore of the Purdue faithful couldn’t either.
Everyone knows the names Isaac Haas, Vince Edwards and Caleb Swanigan — they were staples of the Purdue team last season. However, they were part of a bigger rotation and that doesn’t exist this season.
One big loss is A.J. Hammons, if for no other reason than Purdue can’t switch out 7-footers against opponents and kill them on the boards because of it.
However, that is but one issue.
The bigger issue is that there really aren’t a lot of options up front. There is 6-10 junior Jacquil Taylor, but he averaged just 4.5 minutes per game last season and only saw action in 13 games in 2015. He did show out in his biggest game last season, starting against Rutgers. Then again, who didn’t show out against Rutgers in 2015-16?
Help could also come from Basil Smotherman, who sat out last season as a redshirt in order to be more helpful to the roster going forward. No doubt that move needs to pay off and pay off now.
If Purdue finds its frontcourt in foul trouble things are going to get real interesting up front. There simply aren’t any known options
Projected Starting Lineup:
*2015 stats courtesy sports-reference.com
G: P.J. Thompson, Jr. — 5.7 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 2.7 apg, 43.8% FG, 41.5% 3pt FG
G: Dakota Mathias, Jr. — 5.5 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 2.3 apg, 40.8% FG, 38.6% 3pt FG
F: Caleb Swanigan, So. — 10.2 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 1.8 apg, 46.1% FG, 71.3% FT
F: Vince Edwards, Jr. — 11.3 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.9 apg, 45% FG, 82% FT
C: Isaac Haas, Jr. — 9.8 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 59.4% FG, 71.4% FT