Still Early for the Youngins

College
basketball is underway and there have already been some upsets, see
Kentucky losing at home to Evansville. While you don’t want to see
your team lose any of those games but in college basketball it’s
important to remember there are bad loses. Ever since quadrants were
introduced it became a new way to judge wins and loses.

Purdue is one
of those young teams and that was on display late in the Texas game.
There was a bad call late that could have changed the outcome but the
Boilers struggled down the stretch and let the game get away to an
unranked, albeit a likely solid, Longhorns team. This team will need
to grow up with some tough non conference games.

It’s not a
surprise the Boilermakers have to figure something out after losing a
ton of their offense in Carsen Edwards and Ryan Cline. There were
solid contributors on the Elite 8 team from last year but it’s a new
year and that means a new lead scorer needs to step up, though this
team will likely do it together, but when push comes to shove who’s
going to take the shot in crunch time?

Jahaad Proctor
was a great get for Painter as the grad transfer brings experience
and it has shown early. Proctor is leading the team with 19 points a
game and shooting 57% from the field. He has been solid from long
range but that isn’t his game. T hat’s why his free throw percentage
is a bit of a head scratcher. As a player that cuts to the rim it’s
important to make teams pay when you get sent to the charity stripe.

Behind him an
early favorite has to be Aaron Wheeler. He had flashes in the NCAA
run and has the looks of a future NBA player. He’s averaging 7 points
and 8 boards a game and will need to step up as a mismatch at the
power forward spot. Next to him is Matt Haarms whose energy is just
as big a factor as his production on the court. Purdue has put
together quite the history of producing big men and Haarms is up
next. Haarms is averaging 12.5 points and 4 blocks a game, but only
4.5 rebounds a game. The Boilers need Haarms and Wheeler to produce
down low to find shots for shooters.

Sasha
Stefanovic missed the first game but introduced himself in a big way
against Texas. Another thing Painter’s squads have had is a
productive guard that is a sniper. Stefanovic poured in 14 points and
shot over 50% from three. That’s going to be key to balance out the
post and provide space for the point guards. You could see it last
year, and it’s big shoes to fill, but Sasha looks like he’ll step
right in for Cline.

There’s no way
any Purdue fan can’t like Nojel Eastern. He’s tough, grimy and makes
all those plays that Chris Kramer did that can defensively change the
game and momentum. Eastern is dealing with injuries and not at 100%
but his work on his shot has shown already. Kramer had an ability to
do just enough on offense and make teams pay at the line and that’s
what Eastern needs to while leading this offense. He’s a Big Ten
Defensive Player of the Year candidate and it’ll be on him to provide
a steady hand for this offense.

Eric Hunter is
the other youngin that is stepping up and has delivered thus far,
averaging 13.5 PPG game and is tied for the team lead in Assists per
game but only at 3.5. He has the speed that you saw with Carsen
Edwards when he first put on the black and old gold, albeit reckless
at times, but the ball in his hands can move quick. On the fast break
he ought to be devastating for the season and has already shown he
can score.

Isaiah
Thompson is the only freshmen and new face seeing minutes, minus
Proctor as the grad transfer, so while this team is still young all
of them were part of the Elite 8 run last year. Painter has set the
standard, and continued on the Purdue tradition, of being a top team
no matter what. Last year the teams wasn’t expected to win but they
still hung up their 24th Big Ten Championship banner. Even
with a young team there’s no reason not to expect another solid team
and NCAA Tournament birth.

While the
Boilermakers lost at home to Texas, and believe me it stunk to watch
it slip away, last year’s team started out 6-5 before figuring it out
in conference. Purdue has plenty of very winnable games in the non
conference to work on things but also has some tough teams to grow up
against. Tonight is at Marquette in the Gavitt Tipoff, VCU and either
Tennessee or Florida State for the Emerald Coast Classic, Virginia
for the Big Ten/ACC Challenge and Butler in the Crossroads Classic.
Right there is another two or three potentially ranked teams before
another Big Ten conference slate.

Purdue is 1-1
with tough games coming up, but hey, at least we aren’t Kentucky and
losing at home as the #1 team and a 25 point favorite. It’s a young
team with not a ton of experience that will need to grow up, but with
plenty of opportunities to do so. There’s no doubt they’ll be good
just don’t forget it’s early.