Matt Painter stands alone among B1G coaches in a category that should be as important to you as it is to me: He explains basketball comprehensibly, comprehensively & eloquently.
John Beilein and Bo Ryan are gone. Paint is now in a league of his own in this capacity.
He’s also known for developing bigs. Even more so than Tom Izzo, whose reputation always begins & ends with the word “rebounding.”
During Illinois basketball’s 40 years in the desert (2007-2019), a lot of Purdue’s bigs ate our lunch. As did their guards. And wings.
Their cheerleaders ate our lunch. Even their pre-game hype video ate our lunch.
But you’ll have noticed that Things Changed when Brad Underwood established himself in Champaign. Purdue was 2x guaranteed losses for a while, there. That’s no longer the case.
2022 is a weird & disappointing year for the Boilermakers. Pre-season darlings, they’ve struggled to win the games they’ve won versus legit competition. Is North Carolina good this year? Is Villanova?
NC State is not, and nor is Butler. Florida State might get better.
These are the teams Purdue beat, sometimes in chinny chin chin fashion.
Somebody needs to fill the rankings, and Carolina and Villanova are media darlings. So they were ranked.
More important is what Purdue’s done in conference, which includes a close game with Penn State, a last second home win over Iowa, and a home loss to Wisconsin.
And the Ron Harper moment.
The Robbie Hummel-JaJuan Johnson-E’Twaun Moore class bought Painter a credibility that his Keady Tree roots couldn’t give him at a time when Bruce Weber was killing Illini basketball and Steve Lavin was between jobs.
Painter’s divorce scandal and flirtation with other programs sent a ripple of doubt through the faithful. And then he rebirthed himself. He’s one of the few major college basketball coaches whose job is not in question.
But is his current team any good?
Offensively, they’re amazing, and their offensive prowess stems from the same pick-your-poison 1-2 punch that Illinois likes to employ.
First get the ball to Trevion Williams, then watch him dunk it
… or kick it to the wing, where Purdue converts forty-percent of its three-pointers as a team.
Brad Underwood calls them the best offense in the country.
It’s the other end that’s been a problem, and Underwood says the Boilers used the Christmas Break (December 18 to January 10) to shore up a defense that’s let them down in those too-close games.
With Jaden Ivey feeding Williams, and with Williams subsequently finding Ivey on the wing; you’d expect them to be pretty good on that side of the ball. And then there’s the sasquatch Zach Edey, who can be hard to get around at the other end.
But it’s the surrounding cast that should make the difference for the Boilers. Will Sasha Stefanovic finally have a good game against the Illini?
What about this Mason Gillis kid who’s connecting on 55% of his three-pointers? After redshirting as a freshman, he made almost no impact on last year’s game. He got a late start this season after serving a four game suspension for DWI in June. (He played against ‘Nova, not against UNC.)
Which of those guys will exploit Alfonso Plummer? Who will Da’Monte and Jake shut down? Or will Coleman Hawkins again check the beefy 6’6″ shooter?
If Illinois brings its A-game, they’ll beat these guys.
Trent Frazier doesn’t want Ivey to give Fox viewers anything to talk about. Kofi Cockburn will want to show NBA scouts what he can do to a dynamic big man like Williams. And then there’s Omar, whose game seems designed specifically to shut Trevion down.
Kofi’s been great with finding open shooters on the wings, so the only problem of late is that Illinois can’t hit from the arc. If they’re 6-of-24 from deep today, Purdue will win.