Big Ten Wonk
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Purdue, Painter, and perimeter play
Today I continue my alphabetically sensitive preseason walk-arounds of each Big Ten team with some thoughts on the notably poor outside shooters (but surprisingly proficient offensive rebounders) in West Lafayette, proud members of the Big Ten since its founding in 1896....

Last year
7-21 overall, 3-13 in conference.

Carl Landry (18.2 PPG, 1.30 PPWS, 14.5 reb. pct., 2.5 assists per 100 possessions)
David Teague (14.0 PPG, 0.93 PPWS, 9.6 reb. pct., 2.1 a/100 poss.)
Matt Kiefer (9.0 PPG, 1.03 PPWS, 12.3 reb. pct., 3.1 a/100 poss.)
Gary Ware (4.1 PPG, 1.06 PPWS, 11.1 reb. pct., 1.6 a/100 poss.)
Chris Hartley (2.8 PPG)
Bryant Dillon (2.3 PPG)

Nate Minnoy (6-3 G/F, Chicago)
Marcus Green (6-4 G, Chicago)
Korey Spates (6-0 G, Warrensville, OH)

Chris Lutz (6-2 G, Bedford, NH)
Marcus White (6-8 F, transfer from Connecticut)

Brandon McKnight (11.8 PPG, 0.87 PPWS, 5.6 reb. pct., 6.2 a/100 poss.)

Official motto for 2005-06
"More than just Carl Landry!...Um, OK, actually, we're not. But don't tell Carl, OK? He'd freak."

What we think we know in November
Let's talk about Carl Landry.

If you're talking about Purdue, where else can you start, really?

I've been giving some thought to what we all saw last year and your intrepid blogger has come to a conclusion. While this or that Illini guard may have been the "best" or "most valuable," Carl Landry turned in the most heroic performance of any player in the Big Ten in 2005.

Heroism presumes a modicum of adversity over which to triumph and Illinois' stellar talents knew precious little of adversity in 2005. But it was a constant companion for Landry and his teammates. (Especially for the former--at least the latter had Landry.) Purdue was already undermanned at the end of the 2004 season. By the time they'd staggered through Gene Keady's final game in 2005 their ranks had been thinned even further by defections and injuries.

And yet Landry shone. There were three individuals in the Big Ten last year who separated themselves from the other 90 or so players with the statistical equivalent of an exclamation point in the efficiency with which they scored points. Those three were James Augustine, Dee Brown, and Landry. And it doesn't diminish Augustine in the slightest to note that he had advantages (two NBA first-round draft picks as teammates at the 1- and the 3-spots--plus the Big Ten POY as the 2-guard) of which Landry could only have dreamed. For Landry to have performed at the same level as these other two players is little short of astonishing.

Yes, Landry turned the ball over quite often. He also played the post on a team with no other scoring threats. Opposing teams sagged and collapsed on him on virtually every possession, knowing they could do so with little fear of any scoring being done by any other (open) Boilermaker. Let's put Augustine or Paul Davis or Terence Dials or D.J. White in that position and see how many TOs they cough up.

Lastly, let's not forget the obvious: Landry played on a team with no depth. Just imagine if he'd been given Paul Davis-style scanty minutes and had been able to play rested. (Ye gods.)

Heroic warrior Carl Landry, Wonk salutes you! Here's hoping you're over your knee injury and that this season we see you at full strength--and with some more help.

A very respectable 10th-place team--not an oxymoron!
Purdue was just 3-13 in conference play last year but, to paraphrase Mark Twain on Wagner, that 3-13 was a lot better than it sounds. The Boilermaker offense was only slightly below the conference average (take a bow, Carl Landry) and the defense, while a little worse, was still better than Michigan's or Northwestern's (much less Penn State's). With a bounce here (the home game against Indiana) and a tip there (the home game against Minnesota), who knows but that Purdue could have been, um, 5-11....OK, faint praise. The point is: there's potential here.

First-year coach Matt Painter is telling his players he wants them to be this year's Minnesota. That strikes me as exactly right: the Gopher offense last year was significantly worse than Purdue's--yet Dan Monson's team went 10-6 and paid a brief visit to the NCAA Tournament.

Minnesota, of course, did it with defense and what I take Painter to be saying is that he wants to see the same effort put forth by his players. Your intrepid blogger focuses on effort because I don't think the literal 2005 Gopher defensive recipe (up-tempo with lots of steals) is going to work in West Lafayette. Rather, I envision more of a Connecticut kind of style in Mackey Arena: big lumbering dudes too slow and too cool to chase after steals but long enough to contest your shot--long enough, too, to make sure you only get one such shot per possession.

And on offense? Purdue doesn't figure to jack up tons of threes, of course, but any outside threat would introduce a new and welcome element into the mix. The Boilermakers were actually a very good offensive rebounding team last year. Merely incremental improvements in shooting (meaning improvement from everyone but Landry) and in holding on to the ball could lift this offense to (gasp) above-average.

Who you play's as important as how
Painter makes no apologies for his team's feather-soft home nonconference schedule (Wofford, South Alabama, Chicago State, New Orleans, IP-Fort Wayne and Tennessee-Martin). "Our schedule is centered on this year's team," Painter says. "After you get established, reload and have success, it's easier to schedule tougher opponents into your facility....But when you are starting over with a program, you must schedule how you think your team is going to be. We have a good team, but we also have a team that needs confidence."

Antoine Walker, Jr.?
Senior David Teague was kind of Ohio State writ small last year: more than half his shots were threes, in spite of the fact that they weren't going in (31.5 3FG pct.). Still, Teague's shooting stats before last year were much more respectable--if he could return to his old form it would be a huge help for a team looking for any possible way to take some of the scoring load off of Landry.

The throwback
Matt Kiefer looks more like what Keady-era players used to look like than any other current Boilermaker. But for whatever reason the 6-10 Kiefer hasn't yet undergone that gradual yet undeniable transformation that we seemingly saw so often in West Lafayette where a plodding freshman became a plodding but really effective upperclassman.

Round mound of rebound redux?
A starter in both of Purdue's exhibition games, Nate Minnoy has already displayed admirable confidence for a true freshman, hoisting up 22 shots in 55 minutes of playing time. And, if he can do against Michigan State and Wisconsin what he's done against Pfeiffer and Southern Illinois-Edwardsville (pretty big "if," that), his 16.0 rebound pct. will land him among the rebounding elite in the Big Ten. Not bad for someone listed as a 6-3 "guard/forward." (Plus he's dishing assists. I'm keeping an eye on this young man.)

The soap opera so far
For those tuning in late: juco transfer Tarrance Crump was envisioned by many to be this year's starting point guard. But that was before Crump was suspended for the season by Painter after pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges stemming from a September 25 incident in which he struck a pedestrian (a Purdue freshman) with his SUV. (Apparently seeking to turn a terrible situation into a catastrophic one, Crump reportedy left the scene. Yes, he appears to have been intoxicated.)

So then freshman guard Korey Spates looked to be in position for more minutes than previously anticipated. Only problem: Purdue was not even sure Spates would be cleared to play by the NCAA this season. Then, on October 7, came the good news: Spates was declared eligible. (Yay!) Alas, the young man was then suspended for undisclosed "on-court" reasons by Painter on November 6 (boo!) and has only now been reinstated to the team. It thus appears he will play in the Boilers' season-opener this Saturday against Wofford.

Still, with Spates' development apparently somewhat delayed....

Point guard for now
Bryant Dillon ruptured a tendon in his right knee at practice last January 20 and missed the rest of the season. His minutes are thus too scant for inclusion in my posted stats, however, the numbers that Dillon recorded up to that time are enough to give a Boiler fan pause. The 6-6 senior guard turned the ball over prodigiously while constituting in his person precisely zero scoring threat from the outside (he attempted just eight threes in 360 minutes of pre-injury playing time).

When Landry went down late in the season last year, Gary Ware's minutes went up and so did his stats, resulting in a nice spate of stories on how the juco transfer had "stepped up." (With 12 points and nine boards, the 6-9 Ware had a near-double-double in the Boilers' loss to Iowa in the Big Ten Tournament.) Will the stepping-up continue? There's certainly room for it, particularly in the rebounding department..

True freshman Marcus Green has started both exhibition games, which, given his coach's apparent trigger-finger for suspensions, may say as much about Green's punctual attendance at practices as it does about his performance in games. That being said, the 6-4 guard is 3-of-6 on his threes in those two games--if he keeps that up he will indeed find minutes coming his way.

Chicago product and Connecticut transfer Marcus White will become eligible next month. What does that mean? No one knows. In theory a member of the 2004 national champion Huskies, the 6-8 White in fact hasn't seen quality minutes since 2003 (!). For those who see the glass as half-full: White didn't just play on the same court as Carmelo Anthony, he pulled down 14 boards against Syracuse that season as a freshman--and then did it again against Notre Dame. Quite impressive. For those who see the glass as half-empty: well, let's just say we in the Big Ten saw another Chicago-bred big man transfer from a heralded east coast program last year. Nuff said.

Purdue fans really want freshman Chris Lutz to be the outside threat that everyone (and Wonk) says Painter needs. Stay tuned.

Introducing the season-long Zags-Assessment Field Test (ZAFT!)
I have three links here, all of which purport to give readers the means necessary to evaluate Gonzaga's chances for a deep tourney run this season.

Read this.

Now read this.

And, finally, read this.

That's all for now. I herewith bury this topic in a time capsule without further comment, except to say that we will return to this subject at the end of the season.

See you then.

In today's less Wonk-ish venues....
Northwestern beat Charlotte 61-47 the semifinals of the BCA Invitational in Laramie, Wyoming last night. Vedran Vukusic led all scorers with 28 points fueled by 5-of-7 shooting on his threes. The Wildcats have now won two consecutive slow games where they scored 61 points, shot well on their many threes, and were killed on the offensive glass. (Yup, they're a POT again this year.) But, oh, the differences on defense in those first two games. Sunday night Bill Carmody's team benefited from Lehigh's gusher of turnovers and scraped together a two-point win even though the Mountain Hawks (51.1 effective field goal pct.) shot better from the field than NU (49.0 eFG pct.) Last night, conversely, the Wildcats got next to no turnovers (10) from their opponent but it didn't matter because Charlotte couldn't hit a shot all night, going just 16-of-52 from the field and 4-of-16 on their threes. (Recap and box score. Charlotte is new to a revamped 14-member Atlantic 10 as of this year. Last year the 49ers were a very good C-USA team.) Northwestern will play UNC-Wilmington tonight in the BCA championship game in Laramie.

Iowa beat Maryland-Eastern Shore 86-41 in first-round action in the Guardians Classic in Iowa City last night. Faced with a 45-point margin of victory, I choose not to speak of postgame quotes or a box score (or even assists off the backboard). For surely here is a game which the keen and ever-feisty Brian at mgoblog would term "a functional DNP." The Hawkeyes advance to play Colgate in Iowa City tonight. The winner will face Kentucky in a semifinal game Monday night in Kansas City. (Win there and Texas likely looms from the other side of the bracket.)

Wisconsin beat Lawrence 81-46 in an exhibition game in Madison last night. Alando Tucker (profiled here) led all scorers with 25 points. (Recaps here and here; box score.)

Adam Rittenberg of the Daily Herald previews Michigan State.

Illinois coach Bruce Weber talks about his team's non-conference schedule here.

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