Purdue 2014-15 Record: 21-13, 12-6 in the Big Ten
Key Players Lost: Jon Octeus
Key Players Coming Back: Rapheal Davis, A.J. Hammons, Kendall Stephens, Basil Smotherman, P.J. Thompson, Dakota Mathias, Vince Edwards, Isaac Hayes and Jacquil Taylor.
New Recruits: Grant Weatherford and Ryan Cline.
2014-15 Look Back:
After some bumps along the road, the Purdue Boilermakers really started to make their presence felt midway through the year and returned to the NCAA Tournament after a two-year hiatus.
With perhaps head coach Matt Painter’s job on the line, the Boilermakers stepped up big time and made something from nothing. Projected to be nothing more than a middling team, Purdue exceeded expectations while giving Painter some job security.
The Boilermakers had a nice start, gaining wins against the likes of North Carolina State, BYU and Missouri in their first seven games. Then came a lull, where Purdue endured some baffling losses to North Florida and Gardner Webb. From then on the Boilermakers would walk the tightrope, while seemingly always being on the bubble.
However, a stretch in late-January, where Purdue won eight of nine from January 24 until February 26., carried them to their NCAA Tournament bid. In that time, the Boilermakers beat three ranked teams (Ohio State, Iowa and Indiana), while putting the country on notice that they were a dangerous team.
Purdue would end up with an 9-seed in the NCAA Tournament and played 8-seed Cincinnati Bearcats in the Round of 64. They lost a thriller in overtime, 66-65, when the Bearcats’ Troy Caupain made a tough driving layup in the final seconds.
The Boilermakers would get it done with defense and rebounding all season, and leading the way was 7’0” center A.J. Hammons. Hammons was named second team all-Big Ten after averaging 11.9 points, 6.6 rebounds and a Big Ten-leading 2.8 blocks per game. He was also named to the Big Ten All-Defensive team. After flirting with the idea of jumping to the NBA, Hammons decided to come back for his senior season to the delight of Boilermaker fans.
Purdue also got good seasons from Rapheal Davis and Jon Octeus.
Davis was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year as well as garnering Honorable Mention all-Big Ten. On the year, he averaged 10.7 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game.
Octeus, a departing senior, had a quality year as he was also named Honorable Mention all-Big Ten. He finished the year averaging 9.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game. Plus, he had this dazzling dunk, which was one of the best of the year:
2015-16 Look Ahead:
With four starters returning including Hammons, Davis, Vince Edwards and Dakota Mathias, the Boilermakers will once again be a threat in the Big Ten next season.
Purdue only loses Octeus from the rotation. So, there is every reason to believe that the Boilermakers could contend for a Big Ten title, or at least be in the thick of things.
With Purdue sporting so much size—remember the Boilermakers have another 7-footer in Isaac Haas on the roster—it will continue to be hard for opposing teams to score and rebound in the paint.
What would help is if the team got more consistent scoring. Maybe 6’5” incoming freshman shooting guard Ryan Cline can help in that area, as he is a noted shooter. It would also be nice to see Kendall Stephens have a breakout junior season, while adding some consistent scoring punch from the wing.
With seniors Hammons and Davis around, Painter will have a deep and experienced squad to work with and that should translate into another NCAA Tournament appearance at minimum. If it all comes together, this could be a Sweet 16 team.
Once again, don’t sleep on the Boilermakers.