The 2021-22 season for the Purdue Boilermakers was something we have not seen before.
There were the highest of highs that made this team so exciting and enjoyable to watch. There was also a lot of frustration as the team never seemed to be able to get back to playing their best basketball after the beginning of the season.
But this team was so intriguing and interesting. They were able to be ranked number one for the first time in school history. The first 2/3rds of the season was a historically great offense. Even as they cooled down, they still had one of the most efficient offenses in college basketball history. I would argue (with an obvious bias) that they were the most fun team to watch in all of college basketball. Any given night you could see Ivey dunks, Trevion no-looks, Edey dominating down low, Sasha hitting a trailer transition 3 from Hunter, and so much more. I still do not think there was a better team last year than Purdue when they were clicking.
I was fortunate enough to be a part of the Paint Crew, the Purdue student section. Being able to witness so many of these great moments at home was amazing. There are going to be plays that I’ll remember for a long long time.
Like this one. Just an absolute insane dunk from Ivey over multiple people. Everyone knows, but his athleticism is other worldly.
The Not So Good
There was the Ron Harper half-court buzzer beater to beat Purdue during their first game ranked first. (Also, we all knew that was going in as soon as it left Harper’s hands right?) There was the stretch late in the season where Purdue dropped a few games and ended up not getting a share of the Big Ten title, capped off by the banked-in three-pointer from Hepburn in the Wisconsin game. And of course, the St. Peter’s game cannot be forgotten as much as I may try to. If Purdue just got an average game in any category they probably win that game. Whether that be Ivey, Trevion, or just shooting in general, a lot went wrong and it was the perfect storm for the Peacocks to get the upset.
The biggest thing was defense. There was no defensive identity throughout, and teams could put Purdue in a lot of trouble by running a simple ball screen or an empty side pick and roll. The guards seemed to force opponents to use ball screens, which was great until it put a ton of pressure on the bigs and rotating weakside help. I will get into this more later in the article and throughout some upcoming pieces this summer.
It is still interesting to think about how this past Purdue season will be considered. On one hand, all of the of the things above that I mentioned occurred. On the other hand, this was a team that never dropped out of the Top 10, was ranked number one for the first time in school history, and made it to the Sweet Sixteen. This is a credit to the program that Painter has built that this is considered an underachieving year by most Purdue fans. How many schools would give anything for their school to have had that season?
I do not like to dwell on the negatives though, so I want to go through some of my favorite plays from a memorable season. When picking out clips to put in here, I got chills many times. I am going to go on a personal note for just a second. This was the first team I really started writing about and doing film threads on twitter. It was such a special season for me, and I thoroughly enjoyed all of it. The good and the bad. I have no clue how this team will be remembered by most Purdue fans, but I know that I will always have a special place in my heart for this team and all the excitement and fun they brought.
Favorite Purdue Clips
There were a ton to choose from, but below are some of my favorites from last season. If you do not want to relive 2021-22, I totally get it. Below all of the videos will be some of my insights into the upcoming season.
Edey Block and Dunk
Indiana started out the game running an empty side pick and roll (no player in the strong side corner). Edey does a good job in drop coverage and getting the block on TJD. Then he runs the floor and the Purdue ball movement leads to an easy dunk. This got Mackey rocking from the start. I think this will also be a key for the upcoming season as Edey is going to have to hold his own when defending pick and rolls.
Trevion behind the back to Ivey
I love this one. Purdue is about to wrap up the game, and Trevion gets the ball at the top of the key. You can see Trevion recognize that Ivey was wide open for a dunk and instead of throwing a lob or something, Trevion sets up the defender to throw a beautiful behind the back pass to Ivey for the dunk. I’m going to miss Trevion’s passing a lot.
Ivey one-man fast break
Yeah Ivey is special. His one man fast breaks were so exciting because they never seemed like they should work. However, they ended up working a lot. His ability to literally just be faster than anyone in the stadium was always absurd, combined with his body control.
Hunter trailing three to Sasha
This was a classic and always enjoyable to watch. If you re-watch Purdue fast breaks, often times it involved Sasha trailing on a wing where he would get a kick out from Hunter. Splash. It happened often, and this was a big one against Illinois.
Gillis game-winning dive
The King of Winning Plays did show off just that at the end of the Maryland game. It is a 1 point game with Maryland having the ball underneath their own hoop. Great defense by Trevion. Pause it when Gillis dives on top of the ball (around 3.2 seconds left). I want to once again bring up that it was a one (1) point game. Gillis was the only player on either team to dive on the floor after the ball. No one wanted it more than him in that moment, and I think this play defines Gillis really well.
I had to cap it off with this one. Ivey admittedly messed up the play, but it didn’t matter in the end. He did what great players do and that is make great plays. I remember exactly where I was sitting when this one happened. This will always be one of the most memorable Jaden Ivey plays for me while he was at Purdue.
2022-23 Look Ahead
The losses of Ivey, Trevion, Sasha, Hunter, and Thompson will be difficult to replace. Four incoming freshman in Fletcher Loyer, Braden Smith, Camden Heide, and Will Berg will look to fill in a lot of those minutes, along with grad transfer David Jenkins Jr. If I were to guess, I would think that both Heide and Berg redshirt this season. Heide is coming off of an injury, and there will just not be a ton of minutes for 7’2 Berg with Edey still there.
There is a ton of time (too much time, really) until the 2022-23 season starts. Lots of things can change from now until then, but this is what I would have as the projected rotation with minutes being in parentheses.
- PG – David Jenkins Jr (26), Braden Smith (10)
- SG – Brandon Newman (28), Fletcher Loyer (10)
- SF – Ethan Morton (26), Brian Waddell (10)
- PF – Mason Gillis (28), Trey Kaufman-Renn (20)
- C – Zach Edey (28), Caleb Furst (14)
One thing I want to note and make very clear – I do not think that these positions are cookie-cutter-one-size-fits all. I think there will be a lot of fluidity among the lineups and positions. Just because Morton is listed at SF does not mean that will be the only position I think he will play. He is more than capable of playing one through four. About half of these players could realistically play multiple positions in any given game.
I also do not think I’ll end up being right, but this is just what my current thoughts are. As I was going through, it became difficult to find minutes for players. I have Furst at 14 per game, but I do not know who he takes minutes from. I’m big on Trey Kaufman-Renn (TKR), and he is another player where it becomes tough to get him more minutes. On paper, I do like this team and think they are more than capable of being good.
What I’m Most Excited For
There is so much potential for this team to have some fun lineups. It will start at the point guard position. The only true point guard on the roster is incoming freshman, Braden Smith. I think he will one day be great, but it is also not realistic to expect him to play a ton of minutes from the start. Jenkins Jr is the incoming transfer that will play “point” more, but he is more of an off-ball threat.
That leads me to who I think really unlocks a lot for Purdue – Ethan Morton. The 6’6 junior was recruited as a point guard. Painter has said that he is the best passer he has ever recruited, but we have not been able to see Morton at the point because there were so many good guards and not as many wings. Now the roles have slightly reversed. Purdue lacks a veteran point guard. I don’t think it should be for the whole game, but I would love to see Morton get maybe 8-10 minutes at point guard a game. Below I will list just a few examples of Morton at point lineups that can happen.
- Morton – Newman – TKR – Gillis – Edey (I think this may end up being Purdue’s best lineup)
- Morton – Newman – Loyer – Gillis – Furst
- Morton – Loyer – TKR – Gillis – Edey
What ultimately I think will happen is Morton plays at “SF” but initiates the offense as the point guard. That’s the funny thing with positions. They do not actually mean anything. Morton could be defending the opponents small forward and then initiate the offense. This unlocks both Newman and Jenkins as off ball players which is where I think they are best.
I think this should be a much improved defensive team. Last year Purdue finished 93rd in Kenpom defensive rating. I expect that to jump up a lot. That will mainly depend on pick and roll coverage however, as Purdue was in the 12th percentile defending pick and rolls last year per Synergy. That’s really really bad. Purdue has more wings to hopefully be able to deal with these better. I think the defense also relates to the versatility point too as Purdue is able to put out more defensive lineups. If Painter really wanted to get crazy he could put out some lineups like
- Morton – Newman – TKR – Gillis – Furst
A lineup featuring all tall and pretty mobile players that could switch most screens. The spacing on offense would be good too. If Painter really wanted to get crazy there is even the possibility of
- Morton – Newman – Waddell – TKR – Gillis
I know, Gillis at the 5 is not his natural position, but I think he has the strength to not get bullied down low though. I doubt we ever see this lineup, but this is a lineup featuring players listed at 6’6, 6’5, 6’7, 6’9, and 6’6. Switch 1 through 5 on ball screens and see what happens.
In reality, I think the defense goes where pick-and-roll coverage goes. That means that the guards and Edey are going to have to be better.
The main concern I have (aside from defense which I think improves) is about playmaking. Last season, Ivey could create something out of nothing. I do not know who that guy is this year. Obviously, a lot of the offense will feature Edey down low, but what about creating from the perimeter? Newman and Jenkins project to be part of that. The one that could end up filling the void is Trey Kaufman-Renn. I think he may end up being the player that Purdue goes to get a bucket, especially later in the year. He has good size for a wing and in high school was able to score at will.
The other main concern I have is whether Edey keeps his efficiency playing more minutes. With Trevion gone, Edey projects to get close to 30 minutes a game. He is one of the most dominant players in college, so that is a good thing. However, will his conditioning keep up and will he be able to stay out of foul trouble.
We Shall See
On paper, I love this team. I don’t think they’ll be picked to win the Big Ten or anything, but they may be better than expected. I think that depends on a few things though.
The first thing is Edey. This will be Edey’s team. We expect him to be dominant on offense down low and command a ton of attention. His passing improved and he can make the right reads out of double teams now. With Ivey gone, Edey is going to get even more attention. Will he be able to play through it all while staying out of foul trouble?
Brandon Newman is intriguing. He had a down year last season, but we know he can be a great scorer and shooter. He is going to be such an important piece on offense, as he may at times be the only guy that can create his own shot. I am excited to see him get back to normal.
In general, there are a lot of things to be excited but also curious about. I can’t wait to see this team back out in Mackey Arena in only a (hopefully) short 4 months. This team has a lot of great pieces and I am super excited to see the player development.
Oh yeah, one other thing to mention. The only senior in the rotation is incoming transfer David Jenkins Jr. Expect this squad to be in tact and for Purdue to make some noise within a couple years.