Purdue enters the 2012-13 basketball season with the positive of having a lot of depth along its front line. However, beginning at 7 p.m. today, that can also be a negative for eighth-year Boilermaker coach Matt Painter because he has to figure out where – and how much – to play those six players who are competing for time at two positions.
The Boilermakers open their regular season against Bucknell (Big Ten Digital Network) at Mackey Arena.
Redshirt junior center Sandi Marcius and redshirt freshman forward Donnie Hale are listed as the projected starters, but past that, who plays and how much remains a question mark.
“Nobody knows,” Marcius said of how the frontcourt rotation will go. “I don't even think coach knows.”
Marcius and Hale will be joined by center A.J. Hammons (7-foot freshman), Jay Simpson (6-foot-9 freshman), Jacob Lawson (6-foot-8 sophomore) and Travis Carroll (6-foot-8 junior), and each has shown at times the ability to play well. But due to three of those players being new to the active roster, Painter isn't exactly sure how he'll handle the logjam.
“I don't go into (the game) with a plan when you're dealing with unproven people, in terms of the defensive end of it,” Painter said.
Painter doesn't know whether his players can contain two Bucknell frontcourt players, one of which is a mobile 6-foot-11 player who Painter believes has a shot at the NBA.
“Bucknell has some guys on the front line that are going to cause some problems for particular guys on our team,” Painter explained. “That is something that is going to have to play itself out.”
Marcius and Hammons have the size to cause Bucknell problems, but whether or not they can successfully chase an athletic 6-foot-11 player who shoots three-pointers is another story.
“If we have some guys on our front line that can't guard, it's going to be tough to play them,” Painter said. “I do think that we have a couple of guys that will be able to guard them. I hope that we have a couple of guys that can guard them. Your fear is that you don't.”
During the two exhibition victories, Painter rotated his big players in and out at a maddening pace to ensure that they each got an opportunity. That won't be the case any longer beginning today.
“Everybody obviously will get a chance,” Painter said. “But how long we stay with a certain guy is going to be based on their production. I'm not going to just stay with guys for the sake of giving them the minutes.”
With Purdue having an inordinate amount of size this season, Painter will be able to exploit smaller teams at the offensive end. However, as the game with Bucknell could demonstrate, those more agile teams could exploit the Boilermakers as well at their offensive end.
“I wouldn't go as far as saying that it's a chess match, but it is the flip of the game,” Painter said. “In football, you have offensive players and defensive players. In basketball, they have to be able to play at both ends and (a coach) has to be able to weigh that. And you have to be able to hold your strength out there, your advantage. If you can't do that, and they can, then you're going to have to make an adjustment. That's just part of the game.”