Painter’s Best Coaching Job

Now any program
is expected to take a step back after having a big senior class
graduate, but ideally a coach has recruited well enough that it is
truly next man up. Back track to the 2012-13 Purdue basketball season
all remnants of the Baby Boiler class were gone and the Boilermakers
entered the dark ages even after, unfortunately for everyone, getting
an extra year of Robbie Hummel. This year Matt Painter faced a
similar scenario and the coach has delivered.

Preseason
predictions did have Purdue in the top three or four of the Big Ten
behind the performance of National Player of the Year candidate
Carsen Edwards, but after a very rough non-conference slate everyone
started to cool down expectations. Purdue was (8-5, 1-1) heading in
to the bulk of conference play and, despite the win against ranked
Maryland, lost to Virginia Tech, Florida State, blown out by
Michigan, had a bad loss to Notre Dame and wasted a huge night from
Edwards down at Texas.

The parts
around Edwards weren’t doing enough behind Edwards no matter what he
was doing, and heaven forbid he struggled. On a night honoring Tyler
Trent Purdue upset a ranked Iowa team at home but then got blown out
by the class of the conference at Michigan State. Something changed
in that game. Trevion Williams joined the lineup and seemed to be the
only player that showed up, leading the team with 13 points and 12
rebounds. Painter’s squad rattled off eight straight and 11 of their
last 12.

This stretch
of wins included the big one against Michigan State, the season sweep
of Indiana and road wins at Wisconsin and Ohio State but something
more important has happened. Purdue has figured out how to win even
when Edwards struggles, and that is something that seemed impossible
at the beginning of the season.

At home
against Penn State Edwards put up 21 but the team had 23 turnovers to
allow the Nittany Lions stick around after taking the Boilers to
overtime just two weeks earlier, but they still pulled out a 76-64
win. All bets are off in rivalry games but no one would have
predicted a 4-24 night from Edwards with only 9 points. It was ugly
but Purdue fought and saw redemption for Haarms with the game wining
tip. Ryan Cline was the leading scorer at IU and Haarms lead Purdue
with 17 at Nebraska, a game where Edwards went 3-16 for 13 points.
The Boilers still toughed out a 75-72 road win.

Of course no
one is predicting a run in March or even a Big Ten title if Edwards
keeps struggling, but who would have seen two straight road wins for
Purdue with Edwards going a combined 7-40 for 22 points? At the
beginning of the season Edwards could do whatever he wanted and the
Boilers were still struggling to win against top competition, now the
black and gold are winning in spite of their Player of the Year’s
struggles.

Painter has
done and excellent job coaching and putting his team together. Last
time Purdue fans watched their premiere players graduate they entered
the dark ages and quickly went to the cellar of the Big Ten, but not
this time. The last four games for Painter’s squad are very
manageable and Purdue could be looking at their 24th Big
Ten championship. Seeing the players step up with Edwards struggles
and a potential Big Ten championship has to have fans feeling
confident that Painter will continue to put together successful
seasons.