Purdue Basketball: 5 Most Pressing Issues Facing Matt Painter Entering Season
Entering a season without Robbie Hummel or Lewis Jackson for the first time in four years, Purdue is in for plenty of changes in 2012-13. The new-look Boilermakers have promising freshmen in abundance, but whether or not they can turn that promise into a successful year is another question entirely.
Coach Matt Painter’s recruiting class doesn’t have a ton of veteran support, as three of last year’s starters have graduated. The pressure will be on D.J. Byrd and the team's other returnees to make sure the youngsters are ready for major conference competition sooner rather than later.
Read on for a look at the biggest concerns facing Painter and his squad as they get ready to tip off the year on November 9.
5. Is the Defense Big Ten-Caliber?
Matt Painter isn’t used to having to worry about his team’s defense, but 2011-12 was not a typical Boilermaker season. Purdue finished in the bottom half of the conference in scoring defense and the bottom half of the country in field-goal defense.
Adding towering A.J. Hammons in the middle will certainly help, but the freshman can’t do it alone.
Painter has to hope that the veterans in his backcourt-by-committee have learned enough from last year’s problems to keep the team competitive in what’s going to be the nation's most loaded conference.
4. How Fast Will the Freshmen Hit Their Stride?
Although Purdue returns some scoring punch on the outside—notably Terone Johnson and D.J. Byrd—the Boilermakers will depend heavily on contributions from freshmen in 2012-13.
Matt Painter’s recruiting class is deep, but it lacks the kind of game-changing star that some of his Big Ten coaching rivals were able to land.
The biggest challenge for high-scoring Raphael Davis and his classmates will be acclimating to the speed of top-level college hoops in time to survive a tough non-conference schedule.
Road dates against Clemson and Notre Dame, plus visits from Xavier and Bucknell in West Lafayette, will show Painter very quickly just what kind of team he has this season.
3. Will A.J. Hammons Have Enough Help Up Front?
A.J. Hammons, the most promising of Purdue’s talented freshmen, is a bona fide seven-footer who gives every indication of being ready to handle Big Ten competition. The same cannot be said, however, for the rest of Purdue’s options in the low post.
Freshman Jay Simpson has promise, but also brings a reputation for inconsistency. Still, he might prove to be more effective than last year’s blue-collar reserves—Sandi Marcius and Travis Carroll—who have size but lack proven productivity.
2. Is Ronnie Johnson Ready to Run the Point?
With Lewis Jackson gone, Purdue has very few options for a primary ball-handler this season. The most natural point man on the roster is freshman Ronnie Johnson, who may well be thrown into the fire regardless of how prepared he is.
Johnson is a willing defender, but his unimpressive size (6’0”, 170 lbs) will put him at risk for being pushed around in this physical league.
The same problem will apply in spades when Johnson runs the Boilermaker offense, though he has potential as both a distributor and a scorer once he adjusts to his new level of competition.
1. Who Will Be the Leaders for This Team?
After several seasons of dominant personalities such as E’Twaun Moore and Robbie Hummel anchoring the Boilermaker roster, Purdue is without a returning star this year.
Moreover, the team has just two seniors, D.J. Byrd and Dru Anthrop, and the latter of those has played fewer than 100 minutes in his career.
In a Big Ten with Final Four contenders in abundance, there’s going to be plenty of adversity for Purdue to overcome.
Somebody will have to become the player to whom the other Boilermakers turn in crunch time, and whether that’s Byrd or junior Terone Johnson or someone else, it’s a role that can only be filled after this young team has played some meaningful games.
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