Matt Painter's team may possess the most talented frontcourt in the Big Ten. We've been hearing that since long before the season started, and after five games there is no reason to doubt the sentiment now. The issue offensively for this team was projected to be spacing and long-range shooting.
Well, so far, the Boilers have been shooting better than expected and much better than last year. Last season, Purdue shot just 33.5% from behind the arc, which put them 10th in the conference. The only Big Ten teams to shoot more poorly from deep last season were the bottom three finishers (Nebraska, Penn State and Rutgers) and Iowa. Purdue also took fewer three-point shots than the average conference team with only 17 attempts per game.
This season, the Boilermakers have hoisted 27 deep balls per game, and their shooting percentage is currently at 41.8%. Leading the charge from beyond the arc are Dakota Mathias and Vince Edwards, both at 50% on the season (A.J. Hammons is 1 of 1, but based on his 0-12 mark before this season I'm calling that an anomaly). Right on the cusp of 50% are freshman Ryan Cline and senior Rapheal Davis who are at 8-17 and 6-13 respectively. These early season numbers will almost certainly dip as the season goes on, but Purdue needs the deep ball to remain a threat to compete for the Big Ten championship.
Having four guys shooting threes so well right now is a huge boost for the Boilers. If this shooting keeps up, teams are going to have to game plan against the Purdue bigs or the Purdue shooters, and simply hope that the group they didn't focus on has an off-night. Due to a perceived higher potential for fluctuation, I would expect most teams to still let Purdue shoot more freely from deep while focusing on stopping the ball inside. This means that Purdue will need to maintain a high-level three-point percentage if they want to excel.
There is more good news for the Boilers. None of the four players mentioned earlier in the article were statistically the best shooter on this team when the year started. Kendall Stephens led the team in outside shooting percentage last season with 38.4%. So Purdue is getting high production out of statistically-unproven shooters right now. Therefore, other teams are going to have a hard time focusing their perimeter defense on one player, especially when two or three of these shooters are usually on the floor at a time, along with two bigs.
As it is right now, opposing teams and coaches are liable to wear themselves out trying to figure out how to best slow down Purdue's offense. Oh, and then they have to figure out how to get past the Boilermakers' top-notch defense. A defense that is holding opponents to some of the lowest shooting numbers in the nation. A good-shooting Purdue team makes everything their opponents have to do exponentially more difficult. The Boilers need to stay consistent from outside the arc, because if they do, they are much more than just an NCAA Tournament team. They might be Final Four caliber.