On Saturday, fans got a first look at two Big Ten teams in action. Northwestern and Purdue both hosted open scrimmages for fans and we at least got some data on how the season might unfold for the Boilermakers and Wildcats. With the start of the season in the next few weeks, this is probably the best look you will get at the team until they actually take the court.
First, one disclaimer before we get started. Scrimmages are not necessarily a perfect indication of how a team will perform in the coming season. Coaches are often trying different lineups and players in an attempt to "see what they've got" for the coming year. For instance, a team may use players off the bench and walk-ons that they would normally avoid so they can get some expectations for the year. Essentially, you can see if a player deserves to be in the rotation based on how they perform in the scrimmage. Also, since the teams scrimmaged themselves, these concerns are even more magnified. For instance, if a team has just one dominant big man, his performance isn't going to tell much because he doesn't have to face any tough competition. With that out of the way, let's take a look at how things unfolded.
Here is the statsheet for Saturday's scrimmage:
Here are the final stats from today's 20-minute scrimmage. #B1GCats pic.twitter.com/NV2A18idzR— NU Men's Basketball (@NUMensBball) October 18, 2014
Some advanced box score stuff from today's hoops scrimmage. pic.twitter.com/RZ1ESVfIy2— Bball by the NUmbers (@bkbtNUmbers) October 19, 2014
Four factors & other numbers from today's hoops scrimmage, with last year's numbers and D1 averages for reference. pic.twitter.com/c2Q7HzANpU— Bball by the NUmbers (@bkbtNUmbers) October 19, 2014
In the preview for the scrimmages, the biggest thing I wanted to see was how the newcomers performed and particularly, how Victor Law and Bryant McIntosh performed. The Wildcats are bringing in what has been discussed as one of the best recruiting classes in school history and how they perform early on will be key in the type of team that Northwestern becomes this season.
Generally, the freshmen performed as expected. Law and McIntosh both played 20 minutes, but neither really put up remarkable numbers. Law did snag 4 rebounds, which was nice, but wasn't exactly a scoring machine. Here were some thoughts from someone at the scrimmage on how Law, McIntosh, and Johnnie Vasser performed.
Vassar breaking ankles.— Bball by the NUmbers (@bkbtNUmbers) October 18, 2014
Good lord, if you're Vic Law & posted up on Sobo, why would you not take it all the way?— Bball by the NUmbers (@bkbtNUmbers) October 18, 2014
McIntosh & Vassar can drive, but too many times it doesn't produce much. I figure they'll getter smarter with that.— Bball by the NUmbers (@bkbtNUmbers) October 18, 2014
Starters about to lose. Vassar has been good on defense. Very active.— Bball by the NUmbers (@bkbtNUmbers) October 18, 2014
For the freshmen, it certainly looks like they will be contributing this season. The one aspect that was a bit concerning for the Wildcats was that McIntosh didn't exactly look like the shooter many made him out to be coming into college. Northwestern needs to improve their perimeter shooting and if he can't do it, that could be an issue.
Overall, Northwestern's scrimmage had some positive notes, but certainly was nothing to write home about. Sanjay Lumpkin showed off a pretty impressive dunk during the game and looks like he has improved, but this still looks like a team that will have to fight to get out of the bottom of the conference. Still though, with the new additions, there are some good signs going forward.
Here is the statsheet for Purdue's scrimmage:
Here is the statsheet from Purdue's scrimmage yesterday. pic.twitter.com/vPC6467sV0— Thomas Beindit (@tbeindit) October 19, 2014
In the scrimmage preview, I specifically highlighted Vincent Edwards as the newcomer to watch. Well, let's just say I was wrong about that. Isaac Haas was very, very impressive in the scrimmage. In fact, with 17 points and 7 rebounds, there's really not much doubt that he is going to be getting some serious playing time this season. If this happens, it not only adds to already good Purdue frontcourt, but it could let the team use different lineups as well.
Along with Haas, Edwards and PJ Thompson also both had pretty solid performances. Edwards was a beast on the boards with 11 rebounds and Thompson had 12 points. If Purdue is going to improve on their performance from last year, they need newcomers to be productive. They certainly look like they have a good bunch so far.
On top of the great showing by Haas in the frontcourt, AJ Hammons also had himself quite a game with 22 points and 9 rebounds. If there was any doubt about if he would come back ready this year, that can be put to rest. Outside of Frank Kaminsky, Hammons may very well be the best big man in the conference this season. The thought of Haas and Hammons working together is a frightening one for other teams.
The other thing that I found interesting about the scrimmage was that transfer Jon Octeus did not play. Apparently, he had a conflict that did not allow him to play. The Boilermakers desperately need a point guard to be productive this season, so that's good news that it isn't an injury concern.
Jon Octeus won't be here at the #Purdue season ticket scrimmage today. Grad school conflict.— GoldandBlack.com (@GoldandBlackcom) October 18, 2014
The last thing worth noting here is that Purdue was absolutely dreadful at shooting the ball. During the session, the Boilermakers made just 5 of 40 attempts from 3PT range. That's good for 12.5%. It's unlikely that those numbers stay that low, but that is absolutely horrid. Last year, Purdue shot 32.7% as a team from outside the arch and they still weren't all that good at perimeter shooting. Again, not sure how indicative these stats are for the season, but it looks like a major area of concern for Purdue.
Overall, Purdue looks like it an improved team that will have significantly more depth, but the question will be how much this team actually improved. Last year, Purdue finished last in the Big Ten and to get out of the cellar, they're going to have to take some big steps forward. Perhaps the new additions can provide that boost.