Before Purdue donned the scarlet letter in March — losing three straight years in the NCAA Tournament to a double-digit seed and becoming only the second No. 1 seed to lose to a 16 — the program was one rebound away from the Final Four. The 2019 Boilermakers lost to eventual national champion Virginia after a miraculous buzzer-beater sent the game to overtime. What’s stayed with Purdue coach Matt Painter is not the fickleness of March, but how close that team came.
“We scored 99 points against Tennessee in an overtime game to get to the Elite Eight,” Painter says. “Like, you’ve got to score.”
Painter has reflected this offseason on what’s gone wrong the last three tournaments. Turnovers are the common thread between the three losses, but the point totals bother him too. Purdue has ranked 26th, second and 12th in adjusted offensive efficiency the past three seasons, yet the Boilers averaged only 61 points in regulation in losses to North Texas (2021), Saint Peter’s (2022) and Fairleigh Dickinson (2023).
It was obvious to Painter that he needed more speed and athleticism. He hopes Southern Illinois transfer Lance Jones and redshirt freshman Myles Colvin will help in those areas. But there’s also one player Painter believes he hasn’t utilized enough: third-year sophomore big man Trey Kaufman-Renn. Painter is strongly considering starting the 6-foot-9 Kaufman-Renn — who was the team’s backup center last season — alongside reigning national player of the year Zach Edey.
“I think as a coach,” Painter says, “you’ve got to look back and say, even though you had success, do you have the utmost firepower, especially offensively, out there on the court? And in hindsight, I don’t believe that I did.”
Painter says preseason practices will determine whether he goes with the two-big approach, but so far he has been evenly distributing the starting reps for the power forward slot between Kaufman-Renn, 6-6 senior Mason Gillis and 6-10 junior Caleb Furst.
Kaufman-Renn played alongside the 7-4 Edey some last December. Painter eventually determined that his best offensive lineup was using Gillis at the four for optimal floor spacing, and his best defensive lineup was with Furst in that spot. Painter has played two traditional, back-to-the-basket bigs together before — Caleb Swanigan played a lot of power forward in 2015-16 and 2016-17 — and he toyed with the idea of putting both Trevion Williams and Edey on the floor before the 2021-22 season. But with college basketball trending smaller and more skilled in recent years, Painter followed that direction.
He has rethought that approach this offseason.
“You’ve got to have a balance of using the analytics, but also your own personal experiences,” Painter says. “It’s like Tiger Woods changing his swing when he had the best swing maybe at the time in all of golf, but to get it to that elite level, you got to make some changes. That’s the way I kind…
Read More: Will Purdue start another center with Zach Edey? Matt Painter thinks it can work 2023-09-18 09:34:42