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November 1, 2009
Most teams in the Big Ten will have their share of familiar faces back for the 2009-10 season, and no team had as little roster turnover as Purdue. The Boilermakers will have the same top six players as they did a year ago. That kind of stability means coach Matt Painter won't need to remind his team it has room to improve even after winning 27 games and reaching the Sweet 16. The Boilermakers certainly had their moments, beating Michigan State by 18, winning the Big Ten tournament and beating Pac-10 champion Washington in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Yet Purdue was 4-5 on the road in Big Ten games and overmatched in a 72-60 loss to Connecticut in the Sweet 16. There's no reason to doubt Purdue can improve. The Boilermakers' top player, Robbie Hummel, was hampered by a back injury during the Big Ten season. Plus, they started three sophomores for most of the season - not to mention a true freshman point guard.
A healthy Robbie Hummel will be key for Purdue this season.
All attention will be on Hummel, who missed three games at midseason with a stress fracture in his lower back. Even when he played, he wasn't entirely healthy. He had recovered by the end of the season, winning Big Ten tournament MVP honors; he then had a standout performance in the World University Games in Belgrade, Serbia, in July. He has an excellent feel for the game. When healthy, he can score, rebound, pass and shoot the 3-pointer. JaJuan Johnson's progress helped make up for Hummel's struggles last season. He is one of the best big men in the Big Ten. Johnson averaged 13.4 points and led the Big Ten in blocks. Purdue will miss center Nemanja Calasan and likely will look to freshmen to make up for his production off the bench.
E'Twaun Moore was one of Purdue's unsung heroes, leading the team in scoring at 13.8 points per game. He excelled in the mid-range game last season while grabbing 4.6 rebounds. At 5 feet 9, point guard Lewis Jackson gave Purdue a new dimension with his speed. He fit right into the lineup as a pass-first guard and finished with 118 assists. Chris Kramer also deferred to other scorers, but his defensive contributions can't be ignored. He can put the clamps on almost anybody. Keaton Grant slumped last season, shooting 36 percent from the field compared to 43 percent the previous season. He might be more productive as a sixth man than as a starter.
With the amount of experience and talent back on the roster, Purdue has high hopes this season. A long run in March should occur, and the Boilermakers - assuming Hummel is healthy - should be right in the mix for the league title as well.
Preseason rankings were compiled by basketball writers David Fox, Mike Huguenin, Jason King and Steve Megargee.