The 13th-ranked Purdue Boilermakers have started off the season strong with a record of 11-1, with their only loss coming to the Richmond Spiders.
They have been led by the 6'10" senior power forward JaJuan Johnson, who has been averaging almost 20 points a game and nine rebounds, not to mention two blocks.
He is quickly establishing himself as one of the best low-post players in the Big Ten this season.
The Boilermakers also are led by 6'4" senior guard E'Twaun Moore, who is averaging 19.4 points per game, along with 5.8 rebounds and almost two steals per game.
Although these two guys have really dominated the season so far, especially in the absence of their triplet Robbie Hummel, the Boilermakers have a lot to improve on heading into Big Ten play, as it tips off December 28th on the road against Michigan.
Here are 10 things the Boilermakers need to improve on to win a Big Ten title.
Yes, Johnson is a stud in the paint and has a jumper that makes opposing coaches scratch their heads, but the Boilermakers need to rely less on the 6'10" senior power forward out of Indianapolis.
Johnson has yet to face serious competition and depth in the low post. The best player he has faced was Oakland center Keith Benson, who is projected to go in the first round of the NBA draft. Johnson did a great job defending him, with Benson only scoring 16 points.
In that game Johnson came out and showed who was boss and scored 25 points and recorded 11 rebounds.
However, as promising as this looks, Oakland shows no depth. In the Big Ten, Purdue will be facing teams with a lot of depth in the interior. They will be able to double team Johnson and force someone to step up and score for the Boilermakers.
It would be nice if someone else could step up in the post (cough, Travis Carroll, cough, cough).
The past few games E'Twaun Moore has struggled, especially in the first half. The senior guard out of East Chicago needs to find his jumper and find it quickly.
He has only shot 36 percent the past two games for 27 points, well below his average of just under 20 points a game.
E'Twaun Moore needs to start acting like the All-American he is and hit jump shots, especially in the first half.
The Boilermakers really need to improve on rebounding. It seems as though besides JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore, no one can pull down a board.
It's important that Purdue figures out how to rebound the ball, or it could be a long season. In the Big Ten, every possession is important, and that one rebound mishandled could result in a loss.
The post players really need to pick it up on that front.
Terone Johnson has shown flashes of brilliance so far this season. Johnson is basically a clone of E'Twaun Moore—some would even say that Moore is Yoda, and Johnson is Luke.
Johnson needs to really step up and play with the fire he did at the beginning of the season.
He seems to either be on or off, and now that it's go time, Johnson needs to be on and play like a sophomore, not the freshman he is.
After playing a lot last season and even starting a few times this season, Patrick Bade has basically disappeared. It seems like Matt Painter has just lost all confidence in the 6'8" sophomore forward.
For a scholarship player to have two trillions on the season is ridiculous. If Bade doesn't step it up, he might not find himself with the Boilermakers next season, as they need his scholarship to contribute to this team.
Barlow is the most athletic player on Purdue's roster this season. The kid is a freak, and he has the ability to jump over people—just ask Jake Kelly.
Although he has great speed and tremendous ball-handling skills, he now just needs to translate that into assists and points.
I will give Barlow major props on the defensive end of the ball, as he is one of the best in-your-face defenders in the country. He intimidates opponents and is really overlooked throughout the conference, but he'll get the recognition he deserves eventually.
If Kelsey Barlow doesn't grow up on the court, Matt Painter will end up having Gene Keady hair.
Barlow always has at least one moment in the game where you just scratch your head and say what was he thinking. In fact, if he doesn't improve on this, he is going to be listed on the roster as Dammit Barlow.
Kelsey Barlow has the ability to be a difference maker for the Boilermakers. Now if he would just grow up a bit, he would be.
D.J. Byrd is playing great right now. He really is one of the hardest-working players on the court every single play.
Byrd is that guy who is always on the floor fighting for loose balls and is always hustling up and down the court.
Byrd is averaging only 6.2 points per game this season, but means a whole lot more to the team.
He is strong enough to play the post and has a great enough shot to really make the three pointers rain down in Mackey Arena. In the Boilermakers last game against IPFW, Byrd scored 15 points, all coming from three-point shots, only missing two on the night.
If Byrd can keep making strides and contributing, the Boilermakers will be dangerous, especially when John Hart is back in the equation.
One of these two big men needs to step up going into Big Ten play. The Big Ten is a tough conference full of very physical post players. It would be beneficial if we could be playing JaJuan Johnson and one of these two big men to create a more dominate presence on the block.
Both of these players are inexperienced, but one of them needs to step up and provide some valuable low post minutes, especially if Bade doesn't get out of his slump.
Purdue will be facing the press against a lot of teams in the Big Ten this season. Purdue needs to be able to break this press, or it will be in for a long season of it.
The Boilermakers have always had trouble against the press, including against Ohio State at home last season where the Boilermakers were just flat-out dominated at home by it.
Purdue has already shown signs of struggling with it this season, and it's time to figure it out before it becomes a problem during conference play.