In Purdue’s offense, Rapheal Davis is someone who contributes on an as-needed basis. Coach Matt Painter opts to run the system through the frontcourt, with big men A.J. Hammons, Isaac Haas and five-star freshman Caleb Swanigan shouldering most of the load. Thus, more often than not, a guard in Davis is left on the outside looking in and is used more to slash and/or create a mismatch that frees up somebody else at the last second.
With Purdue (13-2, 1-1 Big Ten) set to host Michigan (12-3, 2-0 Big Ten) on Thursday, that cannot happen. Rather, Davis needs to demand the ball and not be content to let his teammates’ size outclass the Wolverines, even if Haas has moved into more of a rotational role.
Look at it this way. Purdue is in a prime position to get a big win against a Michigan team that is practically ready to claw its way back into the rankings. Wolverines star guard Caris Levert is dealing with an unspecified injury to his left leg and sat out Michigan’s last game, against Penn State, and there’s been no telling whether he’ll be able to suit up Thursday night. Even if he does sit out, coach John Beilein’s motion offense will run through Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton Jr., both of whom are incredibly tough to slow down.
That all being said, with Swanigan still learning the ropes of how to be a stud college big man, Painter needs to utilize Davis as much as possible. This means Davis must drive the lane and draw fouls, something he already does well. He must not be afraid to take a jump shot with a hand in his face. He must gamble on threes.
Long story short, Davis needs to want to do more than simply average 9.8 points per game and shoot 45.5 percent from the field and 42 percent from long range, in a role where he has basically been a situational scorer despite playing 25.9 points per contest.
Simply put, so long as Davis can keep up with Michigan’s guards, Purdue has a chance to pull off a huge conference win and take a step towards climbing above No. 20 in the rankings.
*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports