We’re just 8 days away from Purdue’s first exhibition game. Monday was media day for both the men’s and women’s basketball teams. Here is some of the major points to take away from the media session with Matt Painter and his team:
- Good news regarding the previously suspended and super versatile Kelsey Barlow: he appears to be in the good graces of Matt Painter…for now. Painter stated that Barlow would start today if Painter had to make a decision. But he also tempered that with a suggestion that Barlow needs to maintain his good attitude when adversity hits. Barlow is an important part of this team because he’s a lot of different things: a back-up point guard, a defensive stopper on the perimeter, a transition scorer, a good rebounder, a shot-blocking presence, and a guy that can both create turnovers and points off turnovers. I hope Barlow keeps his head on straight and starts for Purdue this year.
- Speaking of starting lineups, Painter also talked about how the best offensive lineup is different than the best defensive lineup. This is probably not a shock to anyone considering Purdue has a lot of inexperienced players, but many mock starting lineups I see tend to forget Purdue’s commitment to disruptive, in-your-face, man-to-man defense. So when I see a lineup that includes Smith, Carroll, and Byrd together, I don’t think that the lineup would hold up to Painter’s high standards of gritty and physical defense. I think it’s more likely that we have at least two of our best perimeter defenders starting on the wing (pick two of Kelsey Barlow, Terone Johnson, and Ryne Smith). Then, it has yet to be determined which big man will start. Travis Carroll holds the edge in experience, basketball IQ, shooting, taking care of the ball, and knowing how to use his body without fouling. However, Sandi Marcius has some major physical tools. He’s 6-10, a solid 260 lbs and runs very well for a guy his size. He could be a terror on the boards and if he imposes his strength, he could be a strong anchor on defense.
- I might as well throw my hat into the ring with projected lineups. Right now, I predict that we’ll have a starting lineup of Lewis Jackson (lock), Ryne Smith (somewhat debateable), Kelsey Barlow (debateable), Hummel (lock), and Carroll (somewhat debateable). I think this lineup gives us a nice blend of defensive toughness and scoring. Smith and Barlow will be counted on to step up their scoring. Smith’s ability to shoot from the perimeter should help with spacing and both Lew Jack and Barlow’s dribble drive action should create opportunities by collapsing opposing defenses. Of course, Hummel is an inside/outside threat and will lead the team in scoring most nights. Carroll has not shown to be more than a guy that hits a 10 to 15 foot jumper, but I’m hoping that he can use a little bit more of his back to the basket game to score this year. Defensively, Hummel is solid as a power forward and Lew Jack is probably the best defensive point guard in the Big Ten. Barlow is very good at pissing off opposing guards and Smith is a hustle guy that will dive for loose balls and stay in front of his man. I think Carroll will have some difficult match-ups sometimes because he’s slightly undersized for a center. I think Marcius will rotate with Carroll quite a bit this year. Also, as you may have read from me earlier, I think we could see Hale play the role of an undersized center at the end of games (depending on matchups). My reasoning for this is that Hale plays bigger than he is with his 7 foot wingspan. Although he may be pushed around in that kind of role, I think he’s a good shot blocker with nice bounce in his legs.
- Injury updates: Lewis Jackson is now battling a sprained ankle in addition to plantar fascitis in his foot. This is really disappointing to hear because it seems like Jackson just can’t have one injury-free year. He’s been held out some practices, but is expected to play through the nagging pains when the season rolls around. Redshirt Junior John Hart is also battling foot problems. He is expected to return around mid-November. Robbie Hummel is playing without any problems [knock on wood] although he’s being held out at the end of some practices.
- DJ Byrd is now around 230 pounds. For all the talk about him getting to play the role of a small forward rather than a power forward, it appears like he’s physically ready to play either forward spot. I definitely don’t see Byrd as a shooting guard as I think he may have some trouble keeping up with Big Ten level guards with high athleticism. I think we’ll see him both on the wing as a 3 and as a back-up to Hummel at times. Painter will want to give him a chance at each position and then adjust accordingly depending on his effectiveness.
- Painter mentioned that one of the freshmen may redshirt this year. We’ll see how things unfold, but I am a little skeptical if this happens since two of our big men have a history of injuries (Hummel and Marcius). I would prefer to have all weapons ready this year, especially because Lawson and Hale bring much needed athleticism to the group. I think Lawson is much more likely to redshirt than Hale since he is a year younger and coming off an Achilles heel tear. Either way, I just hope that our team remains healthy and that it works our for the freshmen whether they redshirt or not.