Well, the big one is well known to everybody…Purdue got Caleb Swanigan after he decommitted from Michigan State. The addition of Swanigan is a big one from a perception perspective, as he’s the first McDonald’s All American Purdue’s signed in a long, long time (maybe since Mike Robinson in 1996?). He also combines with what they already had to give the Boilers a potentially dominant low post group. Of course, I’m not sure how well he fits in on the defensive end, but more on that below.
As was mentioned in the spring preview, Johnny Hill was a candidate for a grad transfer spot and indeed he did commit to Purdue. The 6’3″ point guard will likely be an immediate starter, given Purdue’s serious need at the position after losing a previous grad transfer, Jon Octeus.
Purdue looks to have their best team since the Robbie Hummel/JuJuan Johnson/Etwaun Moore era. This was a competitive group a year ago and the only major loss was Octeus. Now, that’s a BIG loss because he gave Purdue a solid presence at the point, something they’d lacked for a few years. Hill will have a lot of pressure to deliver at least roughly similar results. He’s not supposed to be a great shooter but he’s got a rep as a solid defender and a guy who can make plays for others. If he does those two things well, the Boilers will gladly take it.
This is a team which could absolutely crush people on the blocks. AJ Hammons and Isaac Hass were enough of a headache but now you add to them Swanigan, who is as good a pure post player as has come into the league in a few years IMO (meaning his readiness to be a factor right away as a freshman in that area of the game). However, it’s valid to question how that all fits together at the other end of the floor. Painter was reticent to ever play Hammons and Haas together because he knew neither of those guys had a chance to guard the suddenly in vogue undersized/perimeter 4s running around the league. Swanigan is just about as questionable as the other two in that way IMO, so I wonder how it works if he’s lining up consistently having to guard the Troy WIlliamses, Zak Irvins, etc. of the world.
The other thing Purdue needs to do is shoot the ball better from range. Guys like Edwards, Mathis and Davis have to be better than they were last year. If Purdue can even be average from three, it’ll make life for their post players even easier still.
Purdue’s strengths are *really* strong. They should have the best low post offensive game in the conference (with Maryland the only team with a shot at contesting that, IMO). They have gotten back to at least a bit of old school Purdue toughness, as they’re a good rebounding team and they’ve gotten better defensively. The thing is, their question marks (shooting, potential defensive issues at the 4, some unknown elements at the point) are enough to separate them from the first tier title contenders. I have them at 11-7, grouped with Wisconsin and Michigan in a tie for 4th. If they shoot better and if Hill is a solid answer at the point and if Swanigan can check somebody, that pick could be low, both in terms of record and finish. I think they’re pretty good, I just don’t believe they’re great and I think you’re going to have to be some shade of that to win this conference in 2016.