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Purdue 2016-17 Preview: the Backcourt

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NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament-Illinois vs Purdue Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

In the weeks leading up to the 2016-’17 college basketball season, BTPowerhouse will be releasing its preview series breaking down each Big Ten team. These will come in a set of series previewing the overall team, the team’s backcourt, wings, and big men, and the team’s schedule. Each post will take a look at its top in-depth and give predictions on the upcoming season.

Today’s edition of the ‘BTPowerhouse Preview Series’ will focus on the backcourt for Purdue. The Boilermakers have had one of the top frontcourts in the Big Ten the last few seasons, but their backcourt has been a bit of an issue the last few years. While there’s been talent on hand, Purdue has had a revolving door of graduate transfers running the point, as well as plenty of streaky three point specialists struggling with consistency from beyond the arc. If Purdue wants to improve on last year’s success, they’ll need a better performance from the backcourt in 2016-17.

BTPowerhouse Preview - Purdue Backcourt:

Departures: Rapheal Davis, Johnny Hill, Kendall Stephens, Stephen Toyra, Grant Weatherford

Additions: Carsen Edwards, Spike Albrecht, Tommy Luce

Top Player: P.J. Thompson

As you can see above, Purdue loses plenty of players from the backcourt from last season. A couple of those players didn’t see much time, with Toyra being a walk-on and Weatherford taking a redshirt before transferring out of the program. Also out of the mix last season was Kendall Stephens, a three point specialist who saw his minutes decline with the emergence of Dakota Mathias and Ryan Cline.

The loss of Rapheal Davis will definitely have an effect on Purdue. While Davis wasn’t always a huge contributor on the offensive side of the ball, he was the team leader and was arguably the best defender on the team (alongside center A.J. Hammons). Johnny Hill’s departure also stings a bit, but P.J. Thompson has developed into a solid guard and with the addition of freshman Carsen Edwards and grad transfer Spike Albrecht, Purdue should be covered at the point.

Starting Rotation

It’s finally time for junior point guard P.J. Thompson. Purdue has relied on a steady string of grad transfers at guard, previously starting Johnny Hill, Jon Octeus and even Sterling Carter over the last three seasons. Now Purdue will have a returning starter at the point for the first time in quite some time. The junior hasn’t showcased a major presence on offense over his first two seasons, but a three point shot has started to emerge as of late and if Thompson can consistently hit from deep, it’ll be a huge gain for the Boilers. Possibly the biggest upside for P.J. is the fact that he doesn’t commit many turnovers (23 last season in 791 minutes) and brings plenty of experience to the table.

The other starting spot will likely be a toss up between Dakota Mathias and Ryan Cline, with the spot going to whoever can become a more consistent threat from beyond the arc. Mathias last season hit on 38.6% of his three pointers, but doesn’t add much besides his perimeter shooting and has been plagued with consistency issues his first two seasons. Cline was pretty similar to Mathias, hitting on 38.5% of his threes and mainly being a three point specialist. Both of these guys can change games when they’re feeling it from deep, but unless one can piece together a more consistent string of performances, they’ll likely end up splitting playing time throughout the season.

Bench Rotation

The addition of Michgian transfer Spike Albrecht is definitely worth keeping an eye on. Everyone tends to remember his first half of the title game a few years back, but Albrecht was never that consistent of an offensive threat for the Wolverines. In his most prominent season with Michigan, he averaged 7.5 points and 3.9 assists in 32 minutes a game, hitting 36.5% from beyond the arc. He may not add a ton of fire power on offense, especially if he’s not 100% healthy after dealing with a number of injuries at Michigan, but his experience helps add depth to Purdue’s backcourt.

Besides adding an experienced option at the point, Albrecht also has a few additional upsides for the Boilers. One of those is Spike’s ability to consistently hit free throws, something Purdue has struggled with at times in the past. Albrecht also limits turnovers and is solid in pressure situations, something of extreme importance as Purdue had massive issues this past year when teams started pressing in the closing minutes of games. Just having an experienced senior that won’t throw the ball away and then can convert from the free throw line is a huge benefit for Purdue.

The wild card in the backcourt, and for Purdue in general, is freshman Carsen Edwards. Edwards is a combo guard that had an impressive trip overseas this summer. Not only can he contribute at the point if need be, but he has shown plenty of promise on offense. Purdue hasn’t really had a point guard that can consistently score since the Johnson brothers and the possibility of having a guard that can attack and get to the rim is another plus. If Edwards can find ways to score for Purdue, he should see plenty of playing time this season and he could end up developing into one of Purdue’s top scoring options in the backcourt.

Overall

With Isaac Haas, Caleb Swanigan and Vince Edwards in the frontcourt, Purdue easily has one of the league’s top set of forwards and centers. The question is if Purdue can get enough from their guards to improve on last season’s success.

For once Purdue will have a bit more experience at the point guard spot with returning junior P.J. Thompson, but it’s yet to be seen if Thompson can develop a stronger offensive game. If Thompson remains limited on offense, Purdue will have to hope their three point specialists (Cline, Mathias) can add some consistency to their game. Both guys have the potential to be lights out shooters, but they have a tendency to go cold too often and both don’t add much on offense besides from beyond the arc.

Of course freshman Carsen Edwards had an impressive summer and could become an offensive weapon quickly for Matt Painter’s program. The Boilermakers didn’t have a well rounded scoring guard last season and it caused some problems offensively, especially when threes weren’t falling. If Edwards can live up to the potential it would be a huge boost for the Boilers.

Regardless of how good Purdue’s backcourt is in 2016-17, the Boilermakers are still a talented team that will contend towards the top of the Big Ten and reach the NCAA Tournament. However, if the backcourt improves from last year then Purdue could end up in a conference title race and make some serious noise this season.