Matt Painter is a heck of a coach and if you don't believe me, just watch some tape of the 2012-13 basketball team for all the proof you need. This was one of the youngest teams in terms of starting experience returning in the conference and I'll readily admit I thought this team was going to struggle all season long because of it.
Instead this team punched above their weight a few times in conference play, after a less than stellar non-conference slate. In the end three players emerged as potential stars moving forward in Ronnie and Terone Johnson (yes, they are brothers) and A.J. Hammons.
For a team that had only two players that started more than 10 games in 2011-12 there's no question the Boilers exceeded a lot of expectations. Heck, nearly finishing in the upper half of the Big Ten was a feat worthy of coach of the year consideration for me.
That said, not everything was sunshine and roses for a team that finished below .500 in the regular season.
How We Predicted Things:
Regular Season Record: 15-16
B1G Record/Finish: 5-13 (10th)
How it Actually Turned Out:
Regular Season Record: 15-16
B1G Record/Finish: 8-10 (7th – lost tiebreaker for 6th spot)
Postseason: College Basketball Invitational (L to Santa Clara in Quarterfinals)
– Pat myself on the back once again – nailed the overall record…. too bad I was way off on the conference record and finish. Three games off isn't good enough for my liking, nor is 3 spots off the finish. So, tempered victory for me on this one. If you can even call it a true victory.
What Went Right?
Young players stepped up more quickly than most expected, sure there were bumps and bruises along the way but on the whole this young team was way better than what we thought and what many others thought as well. Purdue found two potential stars in the making in freshman guard Ronnie Johnson and forward A.J. Hammons. Both of them landed in the Top 30 of scoring this season in the conference, not too shabby for a bunch of rookies, huh?
One of the biggest helps for Purdue was the fact that they had a big body in Hammons down low, helping them to rank 2nd in the Big Ten in rebounding at 39 a game. They also were No. 4 in the conference in rebounding margin at +5.2 rebounds a game.
What Went Wrong?
Inconsistency killed this team and it really showed in their free throw and three-point shooting as a team. Purdue ranked 9th in three-point shooting (32%) and 11th in free throw shooting (65.3%). If those numbers increase by even 4-5% on the season you're probably looking at a team that finished in the top 5 of the conference, because they sure played good enough defense to win them almost any game they played.
It was also what plagued them in the non-conference season where they found ways to lose to Eastern Michigan and Bucknell.
March 3, 2013 – that's the date that Purdue really shocked the Big Ten by going into the Kohl Center and winning. That's just something unranked opponents don't do. In fact, Purdue was the first team to ever beat Wisconsin in their home finale under Bo Ryan. It's also a game that saw the Boilermakers crush Wisconsin's chances of winning the Big Ten championship. If there was a bigger surprise in the Big Ten this last season I'd love to know what it was (and don't give me PSU over Michigan at PSU – did you see the first game between those two? If so that outcome wasn't shocking at all)
Losing games to Bucknell and Eastern Michigan were really, really disappointing. Good lord were they bad as well. EMU finished the season below .500 overall and in the weak MAC this past season. That was not a good look at all for a team that found it's stride later in the season.
This team could be in a good place to make a big run this coming season. Only losing D.J. Byrd from the starting lineup will do that to you. Add in another quality recruiting class and Matt Painter's crew could be poised for a breakout year – that is if the freshman make the jump a lot of them tend to do from year one to year two.