Where Things Stand
When last we left the Purdue basketball team, they were easily disposing of opponents left and right en route to a six-game winning streak, most notably a thrashing of Davidson. The Boilers' defense was clicking on all cylinders, and Purdue actually jumped out on Davidson by three touchdowns (21-0) in a game they ended up winning by 18.
Those were good times in West Lafayette.
And wow, how things have changed.
Despite being the popular preseason pick to win the league, the Boilermakers find themselves in the basement of the Big Ten today, thanks to a disastrous 0-2 start to the conference schedule.
After suffering a disappointing overtime loss at home to Illinois in the Big Ten opener, the Boilers got off to a horrendous start at State College Tuesday night.
To be fair, Purdue played shorthanded against the Lions: Captain Chris Kramer and preseason Big Ten POY Robbie Hummel both missed the game due to injury.
However, there are no asterisks at the end of the year in league standings, and Purdue's 0-2 start puts the Boilers in a deep hole if they hope to win any hardware in March.
Kramer hopes to play Sunday when Purdue faces off with perennial league power Wisconsin, but Hummel is a big question mark. On paper, the Badgers looked to be one of Purdue's toughest league opponents—now with an 0-2 conference record, this game looks more and more like a "must win."
Not a comfortable position to be in if you're wearing old gold and black.
The Professor Speaks
With an 11-4 record and the non-conference portion of the schedule out of the way, let's take a moment to grade each of the Boilermaker players:
E'twaun Moore, B+
Moore has been one of the lone bright spots for Purdue offensively, leading the squad with 15 ppg. However, he is averaging almost three turnovers a contest. With the Boilers looking for a scoring spark, Moore's decision-making must improve.
Robbie Hummel, B
Hummel's numbers (13.8 points and 8.1 rebounds) aren't bad, but for a Player of the Year candidate, Purdue needs more from their star forward. To be fair, Hummel has battled foul trouble and injuries throughout the 08-09 season. The injuries aren't his fault. But the foul trouble?
JaJuan Johnson, A-
Coach Painter has long referred to JaJuan Johnson as an All-Big Ten player waiting to happen. Johnson's scoring has greatly improved in his sophomore season (12.2 ppg), which is a positive. He's also averaging over two blocks per game. However, you'd like to see more than five rebounds a contest for your starting center.
Keaton Grant, C+
So far, last year's team MVP is this year's role player. Grant has struggled through a year-long shooting slump (under 30 percent from behind the arc, which was his specialty in 07-08). KG has the talent to make a difference, but he hasn't put the pieces together yet in his junior season. And time's running out.
Nemanja Calasan, B+
Calasan has provided a nice one-two punch with JJ inside, adding eight points and four boards a contest. However, as long as Purdue gets out-rebounded by smaller teams, the post player's grade won't be much higher than it is right now.
Marcus Green, B
Green's been solid off the bench with almost six ppg. He's asked to defend bigger guys, and pulls it off pretty well. Outside shooting is streaky, and in Purdue's triple-happy offense, he could find more minutes if he could knock down better than 25 percent of his threes.
Lewis Jackson, B+
The much heralded freshman point guard has cracked the lineup more quickly than expected; LewJack has started nine of the 15 contests. Leading the team in assists, which is to be expected, consistency will come with time.
Chris Kramer, A-
Kramer could get an "incomplete" at this point due to the injuries he's battled. His grade is high simply because his absence has been so glaring when he can't go.
You won't find a tougher competitor or better defender. It would help the Boilers on offense if he could boost the 3.7 ppg in the second half of the year.
Bobby Riddell, A+
Riddell has gone from being an afterthought at the end of the bench to a member of the rotation, thanks to his willingness to work hard, hustle, and hit open shots. "Bobby Buckets" almost single-handedly won the Valparaiso game with his hot shooting (60 percent from behind the arc for the year), and he was rewarded with a start the next time out.
He's still undersized and doesn't have the physical skill set to be a big-time player, but Bobby's done everything the coaching staff has asked and more so far.
Ryne Smith, B-
Smith's health was an issue early on, so he's only appeared in nine contests. His role is easy: Hit outside shots and stretch the defense. At 30 percent from distance, he's doing alright.
Mark Wohlford, Chris Reid, Incomplete
Wohlford and Reid are at the end of the bench, and have appeared in six games each to date. They've done their job, but we haven't seen enough of them to have a more detailed grade.
We'll learn a lot about this team Sunday against Wisconsin. Hopefully the entire Boilermaker team can get out of the trainer's office and onto the floor sooner rather than later.