Monday, February 20, 2012
Boilers, Byrd and Booted Barlow
What happened Friday morning at Where Else? Bar is definitely unfortunate, but not overly surprising.
Kelsey Barlow's career at Purdue was a roller coaster. Since his freshman year he played a fairly significant role on a Boilers team that lacked ultra-athleticism, something Barlow was known for throughout his career.
The soon to be senior was always a shutdown defender for Purdue, but entering the home stretch of his junior season, Barlow was starting to show the offensive potential that everyone thought he possessed, and questions about Barlow being a future NBA player were starting to surface. Whether those questions were appropriate, who knows, Barlow will provide an answer to them as he moves forward with his career and life, but he did mean a lot to this Purdue team on the court as far as productivity. His ability to guard multiple positions made him one of Purdue's most important assets. At 6-foot-five-inches, Barlow could play the point, but he could also guard the '4' for Purdue. Something that Purdue was starting to do more and more as the season progressed. Going with that small lineup that is, and it was really paying off for Purdue. Coming off a big road win against a struggling Illinois team, Purdue had won two in a row and almost beat the #3 ranked team on the road as well. Purdue was playing well and looked to be gelling at the same time.
But then this whole thing happened. I'm not going to get into any speculation because I don't know anything more than anyone else. But the events of Friday morning explain the key problem behind Barlow's career at Purdue: bad decisions. The undisclosed suspension last March, the bar incident, and from multiple reports, several other events that went unreported to the public. I think fans were always drooling at a what if scenario: What if he adopted and implemented the character,decision-making and determination of Purdue star Robbie Hummel. I certainly thought about it. What type of player would he be then? Has he ever really realized what type of player he can be? I don't think so. The potential of Barlow is undeniable and hopefully he can realize it and seize it somewhere else. It just hurts that it comes at Purdue's expense.
What does all this mean for Purdue? Well, it has many implications this year and going on into next year with an extremely young team. For this year, Purdue will have to adjust its lineup. The versatile, athletic defender is not here anymore and it will hurt. It looks like, from watching the game against the Spartans on Sunday, Purdue will have to implement a bigger lineup. Perhaps that was in response to Michigan State's powerful frontcourt, but if you look at it, the small lineup might not work anymore, Purdue would actually be too small. Barlow's length is something that will be missed. So that means other players need to step up in his departure. Anthony Johnson showed some flashes of a previous top 50 recruit Sunday and he needs to continue to improve off that. I think we're at a point in time where we know what we're going to get from our frontline - not much. Hummel will get his, but when it comes to Carroll, Lawson and Marcius, there just isn't much hope for this season in my mind. Sure they all do some good things, but from an offensive standpoint all of them are liabilities. It comes down to what Matt Painter wants to do. We can sacrifice offense for some height on the defensive end, or we can sacrifice a huge height disadvantage defensively for some much need offense. I think it's safe to say that Painter can't go with four guards, all under 6-foot-five-inches and Hummel. It would just be too hard. But then again we'll see. It will depend on match-ups obviously.
There's not doubt about it: the loss of Kelsey Barlow from the events that happened Friday morning will affect not just the rest of this season, but next year as well. It could be the difference in making the tournament this year and the next. Ryne Smith has recently said that he thinks the loss of Barlow is addition by subtraction. While I think that may be true off the court and with the chemistry of this team, I have a hard time believing this team will be better off on the court without him.
Purdue has a must-win game against Nebraska Wednesday night. We'll see what comes out of all of this.