The Purdue Boilermakers’ season was supposed to be over by now.
Don’t tell them that.
Matt Painter and company find themselves in the Sweet Sixteen after a thrilling overtime win over Texas A&M last evening. Chris Kramer got a wide open lane to the basket with just about four seconds left in overtime and converted the layup to put Purdue up by two in the OT, and A&M missed a three at the buzzer.
Again, they weren’t supposed to make it this far, right?
Well, when you really sit down and think about it, this shouldn’t really surprise you all that much. Despite the loss of Robbie Hummel, Purdue is still a really good basketball team. With Hummel, they had number one seed and Final Four potential. Without him, most thought (including myself), they wouldn’t make it out of the first weekend, if not the first round.
E’Twaun Moore is one of the best players in the country. There’s no doubt in my mind about that. He brings ballhandling, scoring, defense, and leadership to the Boilers. He’s actually a really similar player to Kalin Lucas up at Michigan State. As a junior, he’s been to the tournament twice before this season, so the experience he has is invaluable.
JaJuan Johnson is another guy who sort of flies under the national radar. He’s tall and lanky, and an incredible shot blocker, averaging two per game. He also scores in double-digits, and he’ll give you seven or eight rebounds per game as well. He’s posted nine double-doubles this year, including in their first round game against Siena. There were several other games in which he had double-digit points and nine rebounds.
I’ve already mentioned Chris Kramer. He’s that guy that if he’s on your team, you love him, but if he’s not, you hate him. He’s great at getting under the opponents’ skin. It’s not because he plays dirty, but because he just plays hard. They say he brings a football mentality to basketball, but he’s got basketball skills as well. We saw that on his game winning layup last night. He’s known more for his defense than his offense, but he’d be a valuable piece on any team.
Keaton Grant is one of those complimentary players who is invaluable. He’s not going to score very much, but he does take care of the ball, which is important in March. John Hart, Kelsey Barlow, and freshmen DJ Byrd and Patrick Bade will also contribute, but aren’t what you call impact players.
There’s no doubt that they lost a lot when Hummel went down, but I think what’s helped Purdue is that he went down late in the regular season. They had a chance to get used to how to play without Hummel. They’ve had a chance to figure out who else will score in Hummel’s absence.
They’ve got a really tough matchup with Duke, though. I think they’ll put Kramer on Northbrook native Jon Scheyer, but it’s not like Scheyer is Duke’s only option. They’ve got Kyle Singler, Nolan Smith, and seven footer Brian Zoubek down low. Ultimately, I think Duke’s talent is too much for the Boilers without Hummel. By no means do I think it will be a blowout, but I do think Duke moves on to the Elite Eight.