The good news is Purdue is 4-1. The bad news is this team is showing some definite holes.
After last night's 65-56 loss to No. 15 Alabama in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off championship, a few things have become clear.
The first is that the Boilers are going to have to shoot well to win. Purdue made only three of its first 19 shots and was 35 percent from the field. Had this team shot like it has in the first four games, it could have easily earned a win over an Alabama team that appears to be the real deal.
True, the Tide played great defense last night. But the Boilers had open shots that simply didn't fall. Ryne Smith made only one of five shots. If Purdue is going to have success, Smith is going to have to not only make more shots, he's going to have to take a lot more than five per game. He'd come into the game averaging almost 15 points per game.
Overall, though, the Boilers simply don't have a player like JaJuan Johnson or E'Twaun Moore to feed the ball to when the offense doesn't create a shot. Robbie Hummel is averaging exactly 20 points per game to this point, but Hummel is more of a spot shooter or one-dribble guy. Lewis Jackson has shown some ability to break down a defense on his own, particularly in his 26-point performance against Temple, but needs to be more consistent. The same goes for Kelsey Barlow who can drive to the bucket with the best of them when he's on his game.
Rebounding hasn't been the problem it was expected to be and probably will be later in the year. Against a bigger and more athletic Alabama team, Purdue only lost the rebounding battle 38-36 and has not been significantly out-rebounded yet this season. I do expect that to change, though.
The defense has been great at times, terrible at others thus far. When you can hold a team like Alabama under 70 points and give up 90 to Iona, consistency is an issue. But even on a play-to-play basis, the Boilermakers have left guys wide open when on the previous defensive possession they forced a bad shot as the shot clock expired. I trust in coach Matt Painter to have this fixed as the games start to mean a little more, though.
Sandi Marcius has looked good down low. He's a big body who can be a great asset on the boards and defensively. He had the Tide's talented JaMychal Green frustrated at times. Unfortunately, Marcius is a liability on the offensive end outside of setting screens.
Personally, I'm hoping Jacob Lawson sees more playing time as the season progresses. The kid is almost certainly the most athletic player on the the team and if he can start to make plays, he could be a difference-maker.
Taking everything into account, this team appears to be just about the team we all expected it to be. It's not a national championship contender, but it's not a cellar-dweller, either.