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What Happened to Purdue Basketball??

Purdue lost a close game to #7 Michigan at home 80-75

Let’s face it Boilermaker fans:  Purdue basketball has been disappointing over the past couple of seasons.  Their win total (against both conference and non-conference opponents) has regressed over the last three seasons along with their Big Ten standing at the end of each season.  Purdue had a great 2010-11 season, going 26-8 overall (14-4 in conference play) and advancing to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament.  The following season was less stellar, finishing a still-respectable 22-13 but barely managed to break the .500 mark against Big Ten opponents (10-8).  Last year the Boilermakers finished below .500 for the first time since Painter’s first year as head coach in 2006.  This steady decline should be worrisome for Boiler Nation, and there is a simple reason why the Black and Gold have underachieved in recent years:  recruiting.

All Purdue fans remember that great recruiting class of 2007, Painter’s first full class as head coach:  Indiana natives E’Twaun Moore, Robbie Hummel, Scott Martin (who transferred after his freshman season, so we won’t talk about him), and JaJuan Johnson.  Moore became a First Team All-Big Ten selection twice during his career, while Hummel racked up that accolade three times (first Boilermaker to achieve that since 1970).  Johnson was also a First Team All-Big Ten selection during his sophomore campaign, and went on to become the Big Ten Player of the Year and a consensus First Team All-American as a senior.  Since their departure, Purdue has not had a single First or Second Team All-Big Ten performer.  Where are the star Boilermakers?

Coming out of high school, E’Twaun Moore, JaJuan Johnson, and Robbie Hummel were all ranked in the top 11 of their respective positions.  The closest Purdue has come to adding a player of that status since then was in 2009 when they landed Sandi Marcius (the #14 overall center), who recently transferred to DePaul University to finish out his college basketball career.  The recruiting classes from 2008 to 2011 did not give Boilermaker fans reason for excitement, and the lack of star-power reflected their downfall over the last couple of seasons.  During that four-year recruiting period, the upper-tier of Purdue’s coop (excluding Marcius) included two #25 overall prospects and a #35 overall prospect.  Not exactly the on the same level as the 2007 class.  It’s no secret that excellent recruiting breeds success.  Therefore, it should come as no surprise that Purdue basketball has suffered as of late because of these lackluster recruiting classes.

Now, there is some hope with the 2012 class that brought in three top 20 players.  Two of the three (center A.J. Hammons and guard Ronnie Johnson) both have a year of starting experience under their belts, along with a spot on the All-Big Ten Freshman Team for Hammons.  The 2013 class includes 6’5” shooting guard Kendall Stephens, the #15 overall player at his position.  These prospects are an improvement on the 2008-2011 recruiting classes, and only time will tell if Purdue can return to their winning ways with these higher quality recruiting classes.  If prospect ranking is any indication on the team’s success, then my guess is yes.

Purdue basketball needs to return to their winning ways, for they have a rich tradition to uphold.  Over the last 33 seasons, the Boilers have had 23 NCAA Tournament appearances and have posted a winning record 28 times.  Here’s a surprising fact:  Purdue has the most regular season Big Ten Championships of any current Big Ten school (22).  This tops current Big Ten powers Indiana (21), Ohio State (20), Michigan and Michigan State (13 each).  While regular season success does not guarantee post-season success, there is no doubt Purdue basketball has been the model of consistency.

But as of late Purdue has not been able to match the recruiting that these aforementioned powers, and the results have been evident:  Ohio State has won three of the past four Big Ten Tournaments.  Purdue hasn’t beaten IU or Michigan State since February of 2011.  Michigan is three months removed from a National Championship appearance.  Purdue can regain its 2010 form, but it’s going to take a monumental effort in the recruiting process.