Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Wow

The title is short and sweet, but it's to the point.
Wow.
Purdue put on a show tonight. A lot of credit goes to Matt Painter for having an excellent game plan for the hated Hoosiers. The Boilers were executing at a good-but-not-great rate on the offensive end, scoring 83 points at a 58.7 percent rate. Defensively, Rapheal Davis and Bryson Scott led Purdue with an absolutely dominant and suffocating effort.

Everyone's talking about A.J. Hammons' unbelievable career high; eight blocked shots is pretty incredible. But more credit should go to Davis, who is emerging as a glue guy and strong leader for Purdue. He led the team in scoring with 19 points. Five rebounds, a block and a steal can be added to his impressive outing. 

Photo belongs to Rivals.com
And Basil Smotherman - we can't forget him. The sophomore is Purdue's most athletic player and continues to blossom. Eight points isn't eye-popping, but his explosive transition buckets helped the Boilers build a strong early lead that they would never relinquish. 

So not only did Purdue do what it had to do...it had some help from fans who brought it at a level that hasn't been seen in years. Boiler Nation loves beating Indiana, and it loves beating the stuffing out of them even more. The Paint Crew was magnificent. From the giant flag during player introductions to a constant roar that bounced from Mackey Arena's tin roof, the students did everything they could to help this team along.

The rest of the crowd (myself included) spent most of the game on its feet. Indiana had one run to get within ten in the second half, but Purdue quickly erased doubt with another flurry. The faithful fans in black upped the building's decibel level again and again as the Boilers put away the Hoosiers. 

The thing I loved most came after the final buzzer sounded, when a pumped Hammons was tackled by Isaac Haas, a freshman from Alabama who didn't seem to know much about the rivalry before tonight. I think this team is starting to grow and develop together as a unit. With the leadership Purdue's juniors are showing, maybe this team can do better than we thought. 

The Boilermakers are now No. 5 in the Big Ten with almost half of the conference season over. There's a tough test ahead Saturday at Northwestern; the Wildcats have lost a ton of heartbreaking games this season but are looking to pull through as soon as possible. 

Purdue might be doing that now. At least, I hope so. In the meantime, I'll try to recover from Mackey Voice. 

Let's keep this ball rolling. 

P.S. That video on the right was a thing once. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Boilermaker Basketball Pre-Game Primer: that other school



And they say we have ugly girls.... 



Hate week is almost over, and tomorrow night we find out if this rivalry is going to continue with the trend of swapping blowout wins or if it gets back to the classic barn burner style.

Much like Jackson, I too hate the crimson athletics with every fiber of my being. I could go on and on with creative name calling and colorful insults and would honestly love every second of it. But I'm an Xs and Os guy, and when the biggest games of the year feature 2 teams that could not in any way shape or form be more different, well, that's what I want to talk about.

Here's the breakdown:

Wednesday, January 28th
9:00pm Tipoff - Mackey Arena
BTN 
Purdue vs Bloomington YMCA 

Projected Starters
Good Guys
     C     AJ Hammons          Junior         7'0''     Regardless of who starts between the 2 centers, this is undoubtedly the biggest point of intrigue I have going into the game tomorrow. Hammons easily has better foot speed defensively than Haas, but against a player like Hartman who really isn't going to take you off the bounce I'm not sure that matters a whole lot. Hammons is going to have to be locked in, smart, and efficient. On defense he will be asked to get out and challenge shooters and help off of guard penetration. On offense is where Purdue absolutely has to have an efficient AJ Hammons. For size to win out over skill AJ and Isaac have to punish Hartman and Holt both at the rim and from the free throw line.
     F     Vince Edwards        Freshman    6'7''     Edwards needs to do one thing and one thing only to get back on track: rebound. Earlier in the year he was a terror, generating efficient buckets off of offensive rebounds and pushing the ball up in transition off of defensive rebounds. Well, the Boilermakers have struggled mightily in the rebounding column these past 2 games and Edwards needs to help be an answer going forward. In tomorrow's game it will be imperative that he both uses his body to box out and gives his all going after each loose ball to try and offset some of the things Troy Williams can do with his freakish athleticism. If Edwards rebounds, the scoring will come.
     F     Raphael Davis         Junior          6'5''     I can't tell you how happy I was for Raphael Davis to have the kind of night he had against Iowa. I was especially critical of both him and of playing him so much seeing that defenses simply did not have to guard him which killed our spacing and post feed lanes. From all accounts he has been in the gym tirelessly working on his jumper, and it absolutely won Purdue the game on Saturday. It will be interesting to see who Davis guards. Do you put him on the 6'4'' Blackmon and try to rattle the freshman with physicality? Or perhaps rotate Davis and Octeus on Yogi so you always have a fresh body to throw at him. Not sure, but whoever he's guarding you know Davis is going to give it his all, like a true Boilermaker.
     G     Kendall Stephens     Sophomore  6'6''     Matt Painter isn't making any excuses for Stephens play against Iowa, so I suppose I won't either. If he's out there he needs to be more effective. Kendall seems to be one to rise to big moments, and it's going to be imperative that he knocks down some perimeter shots tomorrow to keep the red team from swarming down on our bigs. He's a crucial spacer as well as our leading scorer, so it's hard to overstate 1) how impressive Purdue's win vs Iowa really was with him not being a factor and 2) how much Purdue is going to need the firepower he brings when he's on tomorrow night.
    G     Jon Octeus                Senior          6'4''     I am assuming JO is going to draw the other half of the 2-headed monster that is the opposing backcourt. A week ago I would have said great, put him on Yogi, he will be solid, Yogi will still get some of his because he's that good, and worry about something else. But after watching Mike Gesell rip him to shreds for about 10 straight possessions I'm not quite as confident. Octeus is going to have to be careful in this game of crashing the offensive glass too hard as well, as the opposition likes to get out and run in transition.

Clappy's Crusaders
     F     Collin Hartman                          Sophomore  6'7''
     F    Troy Williams                             Sophomore  6'7''
     G    Robert Johnson                           Freshman    6'3''
     G    Yogi Ferrell                                Junior          6'0''
     G    James Blackmon Jr                     Freshman    6'4''
This team comes in as one of the nation's top 3 point shooting teams (8th at 41%) and one of the highest scoring teams as well (12th at 81.4 ppg). You get the picture right? They like to shoot it, they shoot it well, and they score a lot. In a lot of respects losing Hanner Mosquera-Perea seems to have helped this team forget about worrying to involve the post at all and just do what they do best which is perimeter oriented uptempo basketball, and they have had a lot of success so far in league play doing that. They come into this contest 1 game ahead of Purdue in the vice grip tight Big Ten standings at 5-2 after last week blowing out Maryland at home and dropping a road contest to Ohio State. This is a good team that has certainly improved a lot as the season has gone on.

Points of Percolation

1) The Key to it All: Collin Hartman. No really. He is shooting something in the neighborhood of 99.999% since being inserted into the starting rotation as that undersized stretch 4/5 guy. The way I see it this will be a race to see who can get who in foul trouble faster. If Purdue is able to get 1 or 2 early on Hartman, the Boilermakers defensive gameplan becomes much more simple with Emmit Holt on the floor. But if Purdue's big men are unable to get Hartman out of the game by physically dominating him or by foul trouble and/or get in foul trouble themselves that's going to spell trouble for the Boilers. I think you will find out in the first 6-10 minutes of the game if Purdue is going to be able to effectively leverage their size, or if they will have to alter their game plan and go small a-la Ohio State.

2) Re-freaking-bound: In no universe should 14 feet 2 inches of center account for 16 rebounds total in 2 games. By comparison Gabriel Olaseni had that many by himself for Iowa Saturday. Purdue's big men are just flat out dropping the ball (pun intended) on the 2 most basic elementary aspects of effective rebounding: locate your man to put a body on him and go as hard as you can after the ball once it comes off the rim. That's it. Get in better position instead of just standing there hoping being tall will be good enough. Guys like Smotherman, Edwards, Octeus, and Davis need to do their part as well, but Purdue's gigantic rebound disparity these past 2 games rests solely on the shoulders of the big men. They just have to be better in that regard tomorrow night.

3) Get. Mackey. Rocking: You all heard it in last year's rivalry game. You heard it earlier this year against NC State. We need a sold out Boiler crowd going absolutely nuts for all 40 minutes. What's the easiest way to do this? Hustle and effort. Purdue fans recognize and appreciate the little things like pressuring the ball handler, diving for loose balls, and forcing shot clock violations. Give them a reason to go bananas. Oh and a few Kid Stephens 3 balls wouldn't hurt either. Intensity, effort, and focus. Opening tip to final horn.

Prediction:

Recent history tells us this should be a double digit win for one of the teams, and with such contrasting styles I could see that happening if one squad just executes at an incredibly high level. I'm not going there this year though. Purdue is going to give up some 3s, they will give up some points in transition, and some at the rim. But, I think this Boilermaker team will execute well enough in the post to open space for shooters outside. A few threes fall, a couple big men dunks, and we're in business. Neutral floor I probably have a different prediction, but with Mackey Arena hopping I will go with the home team tomorrow night in a huge momentum victory.

78-72 Old Gold and Black.

13-8

Boiler Up. Hammer Down. Hail Purdue. 

Why I Hate Indiana

Maybe you don't care what I think.

Frankly, if you're an Indiana fan, you shouldn't. I'm biased. 

I will say that as a school, Indiana University is a fantastic institution. You won't hear me say anything bad about their stellar law, business or music schools. All of that is wonderful and they make the Big Ten proud in that regard. My sister is probably about to begin her college career at IU and I couldn't be more proud. 

But the happiness and cheers stop when we get to sports. 

I hate Indiana. 

Exhibit A 
I hate candy-striped pants. 

I hate a fanbase that can't even support its own football program. 

I hate conceited folks who brag about banners that were won before they were born. 

You get the idea. I'm about as anti-crimson as it gets. The term people use to describe those who live in this state is offensive to me. You'll likely notice that, near the comments section of this blog, the option for disliking posts is labeled "Hoosier-ish"...and that isn't by accident. 

I grew up in a Boilermaker family. Growing up, the majority of my peers were Indiana fans. In this state, where basketball is at its peak in popularity, it's personal. I think the same could be said for IU fans; the history these two schools share on the hardwood is deep. 

To me, Purdue-Indiana is about pride...and the stakes, as well as the rest of Purdue's shaky season, are on the line Wednesday night.  I'm no longer a student, I remember how special this game was every year. Even when Purdue struggled in the 2012-13 season, the IU game drew a packed house. The student line went all the way behind Ross-Ade Stadium. 

Tonight, students are already camping out. Mackey Arena is officially sold out. You can bet that I'll be there...and I'm planning to lose my voice cheering on Purdue to a win it has to have. 

We are Purdue. 

And this is our state. 



Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Boilermaker Basketball Pre-Game Primer: Illinois

This may sound confusing, and quite honestly that's how a lot of us feel right now, but I just can't figure out what to think about this Purdue team. I think we can all agree that half of Minnesota, half of Michigan, and all but about 5 minutes of Penn State was just brutal, awful, uninspired basketball. But here's the catch: those three games are the Boilermakers 3 Big Ten wins so far. And in the losses? Solid play against the top 2 teams in the league, pushing Wisconsin like not many teams push them at the Kohl Center. So what does this all mean? Is this a good team, a decent team, a poor team? I think you have seen flashes of a Purdue basketball team that can play with just about anybody on any given night but also a team that can lose to just about anybody on any given night, and that, is maddening.

But here's a fact: Purdue has more opportunities for quality wins coming up than we thought there would be 2 weeks ago. IU is better than anticipated, especially since going small, and is now ranked. Iowa, though they got trounced last night, will be a ranked team coming to Mackey Arena on Saturday. And Michigan State, as they always seem to do, looks to be rounding into some type of form and is just outside of the top 25. The Boilermakers are going to have some chances to show that all the talk between games about bringing intensity for 40 minutes and playing hard defense and not turning it over is more than just that; talk. Whether or not this ends up being a team that can fight back onto the NCAA Tournament bubble is yet to be seen, but they absolutely have a good shot at being an NIT team and the road towards that continues tonight in Champaign.

Here's the breakdown:

Wednesday, January 21st
9:00pm Tipoff - State Farm Center
BTN 
Purdue at Illinois 

Projected Starters
Purdue
     C     Isaac Haas              Freshman     7'2''     It looks to me that this is going to continue to be the rotation of Haas starting and giving way to AJ whenever he picks up a foul which is typically in the first 1-2 minutes. I love the potential of Isaac but I think we have transitioned a bit away from blaming all his fouls on officiating and beginning to wonder why he can't seem to play big without nearly killing people with his elbows. Another thing that would be a huge help to his foul problem is if he didn't have to re-post so much. The guards need to see him when he first gets open and not wait until he tries to bulldoze someone to show he's open.
     F     Vince Edwards        Freshman    6'7''     I can admit when I was wrong: I wanted Vince to take more 3s and he has, but they just aren't falling. I'm not saying to give up all together but 1-3 rhythm looks a game should be max unless he's just feeling it. I would like to see him back under the basket fighting for offensive rebounds and scoring on put-backs like he was so dangerous doing a few weeks ago. He's still our only legitimate option at the 4 and his production will tick back up sooner rather than later.
     F     Raphael Davis         Junior          6'5''     Even if it's not got a snowball's chance in hell at going in, Davis needs to attempt 1-2 threes per game just to make the defender consider guarding him on the perimeter. He's such a liability right now because opposing teams just flat don't have to guard him. Also, I think Davis needs to be our backup 4. Smotherman just isn't cutting it. I say get Davis a breather early in the game with Mathias, and when Vince needs a breather there shortly after bring Davis back in at the 4. He's shown to be productive in that role taking larger defenders off the dribble while still being tenacious on D.
     G     Kendall Stephens     Sophomore  6'6''     The Kid. As someone who grew up idolizing Reginald Wayne Miller I had some serious deja vu Saturday afternoon. What an incredible play. From inside the 3point arc Kendall needs to have some discretion with what is an OK shot to take and what isn't, but at this point what 3 do you not want him taking? He attempted 12 against Penn State, which is a lot. But he made 6! 50%! If he's your only truly reliable outside threat right now he needs to be taking the lion share of outside looks, even if that is double digit attempts per game.
    G     Jon Octeus                Senior          6'4''     Like it or not JO is going to need to play damn near 40 minutes per game going forward. PJ Thompson has really looked overwhelmed lately and Bryson Scott is buried so far inside the dog house that he can't even see the door. I love how Octeus has been looking to score more, because he has that knack for finishing incredibly tough shots around the basket. He's been surprisingly efficient from deep and seems to not be foul prone as well. Manna from the heavens.

Illinois
     F     Nnanna Egwu                            Senior          6'11''
     G    Jaylon Tate                                 Sophomore  6'3''
     G    Aaron Cosby                              Junior           6'3''
     G    Malcolm Hill                              Sophomore  6'6''
     G    Kendrick Nunn                           Sophomore  6'3''
Illinois has been up and down this year as well, with a lot of that because of the loss of their best player Rayvonte Rice. Since Rice went out the Illini have gone 2-2 with wins over Maryland and Northwestern, while losing to IU and Nebraska. Picking up the slack has been Sophomores Malcolm Hill and Kendrick Nunn. Hill leads Illinois in scoring since the start of Big Ten play at 14.8 ppg with Nunn 3rd (behind Rice) at 13.5 ppg. The Illini have one of the better shot blockers in the league with Egwu but he was literally nonexistent against IU fouling out with zero points, 2 rebounds, and 2 turnovers in 27 minutes. A good shot-fake from AJ or Isaac should be enough to get him off his feet. Illinois likes to push the ball in transition and isn't afraid to shoot it from the perimeter at any given time so Purdue will have to be wary of that.

Points of Percolation

1) Exploit the post: Hammons and Haas should be able to get to the foul line when Egwu is in the game, the trick will be converting at any sort of successful rate. When Egwu is out Illinois brings in 6'7" freshman Leron Black, a great athlete with a good motor that will challenge Purdue's bigs defensively but shouldn't be able to guard AJ or Isaac. Just like every other game for Purdue this year, being able to get the ball inside is only half the battle. The centers have to not turn it over before they ever get a chance to score, and then when they get a look convert at a high rate. In addition to Hammons and Haas, Vince Edwards should have some great opportunities in the post tonight, as Illinois typically plays a 4 guard lineup. He needs to be active on the glass with put-backs, but don't be surprised to see Painter draw up some iso sets for Vince on the block early.

2) Shooters have to shoot: It's looking like Dakota Mathias is finally starting to get healthy, and that is a great sign for Purdue. He can really really help them as the Big Ten season goes on as another shooting threat and with his passing skills. He and Stephens are our unquestioned best options on the perimeter and they need to pull the trigger when they get a good look. Just the threat of a shooter should help alleviate some pressure on the post by guys collapsing down off of wing players. If Purdue takes 15 threes in a game, 12 of them should be between these two. I bet a lot more will start going in.

3) Get Back on D: Transition defense, and not just after a miss or a turnover either. Purdue has had a nasty habit of giving away pick-6 type turnovers that lead directly to a bucket on the other end. But in addition, there have been way too many instances of the Boilers just not hustling back after a made basket and giving up a quick score or being out of position and getting called for a foul. You want to crash the offensive glass yes, but tonight especially Purdue needs to make sure someone is leaking out to get back on D.

Prediction:

Purdue has been on a nice run of success on the road at Illinois in the recent past, so it seems like they might just be due. The Illini just lost at home to IU over the weekend and I expect them to come out fired up and ready to go. The Boilermakers will need to stem a couple runs throughout the course of this game and I think they will. In the end though the perimeter scoring of Illinois will lead Purdue to over-extend on defense putting them in position to foul, which might make the foul line the difference in this game. I don't like Purdue in free throw contests. Sorry Boiler fans, this one might not go our way.

74-69 Illini.

11-8

Boiler Up. Hammer Down. Hail Purdue. 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Boilermaker Basketball Pre-Game Primer: Maryland


Or na...

Purdue has a great opportunity today when #9/11 Maryland visits Mackey Arena. The Boilermakers are coming off of a loss yes, but we are starting to see the blueprint for how this team can be successful. If Kendall Stephens isn't completely taken out of the game with foul trouble or Purdue gets a few more FT opportunities they very well could have gone in and gotten a win at Wisconsin. They didn't though, and we're on to the Terrapins.

Here's the breakdown:

Saturday, January 10th
2:30pm Tipoff - Mackey Arena
BTN 
Purdue vs. Maryland

Projected Starters
Purdue
     C     Isaac Haas              Freshman     7'2''     Isaac is still an imposing force and is still productive when he's in there, but it's just that; when he's in there. Matt Painter and Haas have to together figure out a way to adapt to how Isaac is being officiated. Help defense on the dribble drive will be huge today, especially if Isaac and AJ are able to do it without fouling.
     F     Vince Edwards        Freshman    6'7''     Vince played really really good defense on Frank Kaminsky, and he's going to need that same defensive performance again today against Jake Layman. Layman has great size at 6'9'' and is currently the 2nd leading scorer for the Terps at just over 14ppg. In addition to D, I think Edwards needs to get back into scoring mode today. I love seeing him post up on designed plays, and I think he could to take a few more 3s too.
     F     Raphael Davis         Junior          6'5''     Ray Davis will be asked to guard either Dez Wells or Melo Trimble or some combination of the two. What will be imperative will be for him to defend without fouling. Trimble leads the country in FTA and Wells is a big bodied guard that loves to draw contact going to the rim. Davis' effectiveness on defense will set the tone for Purdue today. If he's able to neutralize one of the guards that will open up things for everyone else on D to be aggressive.
     G     Kendall Stephens     Sophomore  6'6''     While I think Kendall has done a much better job this year moving his feet on D, he definitely got caught with his feet in quicksand a few times against the Badgers. He should be able to stay away from Maryland's 2 best guards which will help. Offensively he looks to be back to his normal self after the free-fall he went through to end the non-conference season.
    G     Jon Octeus                Senior          6'4''     I love how aggressive Octeus has started being on offense, and he's been rewarded by big time minutes. JO should, and at this point I think he will, play as many minutes as he can handle. Octeus will be rotating defensive assignments with Rapheal Davis on Trimble and Wells. I'm still holding out hope we will see another one of those poster dunks one of these days too.

Maryland
     F     Jake Layman                              Junior           6'9''
     F     Demonte Dodd                          Sophomore   6'11''
     G    Dez Wells                                  Senior           6'5''
     G    Melo Trimble                             Freshman     6'3''
     G    Richaud Pack                             Senior           6'4''
Maryland brings a 14-2 record into Mackey today, but is coming off of a road loss to Illinois. Watching them go in and win at Michigan State in double overtime I know this: they are tough, gritty, and talented. They have 2 fantastic guards in Wells (who Purdue courted when he transferred) and freshman Melo Trimble. Their 2nd leading scorer is a stretch 4 Jake Layman who has really had a breakout year so far.

Points of Percolation

1) Win the FT Battle: Purdue has 2 guys that should, should, take a lot of free throws in Hammons and Haas and we really need to get something positive out of that. Obviously just getting to the line is only half the battle as you then have to convert, but a 31-7 FTA deficit isn't going to lead to very many Big Ten wins. Davis and Octeus need to create contact going to the rim as well, and I think Kendall can get some attempts if he utilizes some good hard shot fakes. It's an area that could have won Purdue the game at Wisconsin and could be huge if the Boilers are able to flip the scrip and win the FT battle with the Terps.

2) Aggressive on Offense: Purdue needs to play with an aggressive and confident mentality on offense today, especially guys like Mathias and Edwards. Vince is able to get shots in ways other than set plays, but Mathias is out there for one reason: to shoot. When he comes off a screen and gets a window he needs to launch. If Kendall picks up a quick foul or 2 again Purdue will need Dakota to come in and provide that spacing presence, but he can only do that if he plays more like Kendall as a freshman and less like Ryne Smith as a freshman.

3) Convert in the Post: Hammons and Haas. Haas and Hammons. Whatever order they are going to come in today they both need to convert when they get good looks inside OR when they get to the free throw line. Hammons has shown the ability to take his time a little more as of late and if he can size up the defender and make 1 quick move without traveling he is very effective. Haas just needs to keep the ball high. When he brings it down is when he gets stripped or fouled, and if you're not making free throws what does it matter if you get fouled? Those guys are going to be a place where Purdue has a big advantage again and they really need to make it count.

Prediction:

I like how this team is trending. Given our foul trouble at Wisconsin I'm a little wary of guys like Trimble and Wells, but I think Purdue should be able to neutralize that with bigs to help protect the rim. If the crowd is rocking and Kendall starts knocking down shots, watch out. I think Purdue hangs in through a bit of a frustrating 1st half and wears Maryland down in the post over the 2nd half. I'll say the Boilers make a nice statement with a victory today and stay up near the top of the league standings.

70-63 Boilermakers.

11-6

Boiler Up. Hammer Down. Hail Purdue. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Boilermaker Basketball Pre-Game Primer: Wisconsin

Two up, and surprisingly, two down so far in Big Ten play for our Boilermakers. The road, literally, gets a whole lot tougher tonight when Purdue travels to Madison for their lone regular season meeting with Wisconsin.

Here's the breakdown:

Wednesday, January 7th
7:00pm Tipoff - Kohl Center
BTN 
Purdue at. Wisconsin

Projected Starters
Purdue
     C     Isaac Haas              Freshman     7'2''     It looks like for now at least Matt Painter is going to continue starting Haas, and I think that strategy has been working even if Isaac gets in foul trouble. AJ Hammons looks more comfortable coming off the bench, and if he's going to be as productive as he has been the past 2 games then we need to make sure Isaac gets that cheap early foul that Purdue seems to always get hit for and not AJ. Regardless of who they start it's a brutal matchup at center for the Boilers, as neither AJ or Isaac have the quickness to keep up with All-American Frank Kaminsky.
     F     Vince Edwards        Freshman    6'7''     In what is starting to feel like a theme for tonight's game, Vince also has a tough task in going against Nigel Hayes. Hayes is a big bruising body that has a really nice skill set and a jumper that can stretch to the three point line. The emphasis here will be to make Hayes beat you from the outside and not to let him live on the glass.
     F     Raphael Davis         Junior          6'5''     Surprise! Davis has a brutal matchup as well, more than likely guarding Sam Dekker tonight. While Davis has been fantastic on defense lately and should continue to play well tonight, the height disparity could be a big factor. Dekker goes 6'9'' to Rapheal's 6'5''. All that being said Davis has shown a true Boilermaker mentality on defense the last 2 games and Purdue is going to need that and more tonight.
     G     Kendall Stephens     Sophomore  6'6''     Kendall is going to have to have a big night, that's just all there is to it. There are going to be spurts where Purdue simply can't stop the Badgers on defense and will need that shot in the arm KS can bring from behind the 3 point arc. The Boilermakers desperately need Kendall to come out firing tonight.
    G     Jon Octeus                Senior          6'4''     I love how aggressive Octeus has started being on offense, and he's been rewarded by big time minutes. JO should, and at this point I think he will, play as many minutes as he can handle and tonight is no different. With the outside shooting capabilities of Wisconsin's big men drawing our bigs away from the basket, it will be imperative that guys like Octeus really crash the boards and help rebound on misses. He's been fantastic at that so far and needs to be tonight as well.

Wisconsin
     F     Sam Dekker                               Junior           6'9''
     F     Nigel Hayes                               Sophomore   6'8''
     C    Frank Kaminsky                         Senior          7'0''
     G    Josh Gasser                                Senior           6'4''
     G    Trevon Jackson                          Senior           6'3''
Wisconsin is a senior-laden team coming off of a Final Four season: they're good. At 14-1 their lone loss on the season came at the hands of the Duke Blue Devils in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, but it was at home. Every guy on the floor at all times can shoot it, especially Kaminsky. They are not going to beat themselves and will be very deliberate on offense. In short, the Badgers are a matchup nightmare across the board for a lot of teams, Purdue included.

Points of Percolation

1) Defending the 4 and 5 spots: Here's my take, let Frank the Tank get his and do your best to slow everybody else down. If AJ and Isaac start running out at him on 3s he's either going to A) pump fake and go around them like they're in quicksand, or B) pump fake and draw a foul 22 feet from the basket. The other pitfall I could see Purdue getting into is if they try and help off of other guys to aid AJ and Isaac. Just remember this, everyone you help off of is a shooter and eventually that's going to get you burned big. I say you let Frank get his and try like hell to shut everyone else down.

2) Flip the Script: In the same way Wisconsin's bigs are trouble for Purdue defensively, Purdue's bigs need to put pressure on the Badger's bigs defensively. If, and it's a big if, AJ and Isaac are able to get Kaminsky to pick up a quick foul or 2 in the first 10 minutes of this game that would really really help Purdue stay in this one. I almost would tell Haas "just try to dunk on him every time. If you get a charge, so what? I'd be OK with Isaac getting 3 fouls if it means Kaminsky also picks up 2 or 3 in the first half. I know it's a long shot but obviously Purdue will have a better shot at staying in this game with the Tank on the bench.

3) Perimeter Defense: I already talked about the challenges the Purdue big men face on the perimeter, but will the Boilermaker guards be able to continue playing good tight defense without fouling? I think Ray Davis in particular has been fantastic, but refs have let him get away with some contact that earlier in the season had been called fouls. If Davis, Octeus, and Scott are able to really pressure the ball without fouling maybe we can keep the Badgers from getting red-hot from deep.

Prediction:

Like Jackson and I talked about last night, it's hard for me to see this one going well for Purdue. Stranger things have happened (just ask Kentucky) but if I had to make an educated guess I would say this one could get a little out of hand in the 2nd half. If the Boilers can hit some shots and get Kaminsky in foul trouble that could turn the tide in a big way and the Baby Boilers showed that winning with a young team in Madison isn't impossible. Let's hope this year's team shocks the world and requires another welcome home party at the Purdue airport.

80-65 Badgers.

10-6

Boiler Up. Hammer Down. Hail Purdue. 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Boilermaker Basketball Pre-Game Primer: Michigan

Well, Purdue proved me wrong sooner rather than later, and it feels phenomenal. The win over Minnesota took what could have been disastrous (getting trounced at home) and turned it into a nice, gritty, team inspired victory. Time will tell how much that win really meant to this team, but for now it's on to the next one: Michigan.

Here's the breakdown:

Saturday, January 3rd
2:15pm Tipoff - Mackey Arena
BTN 
Purdue vs. Michigan

Projected Starters
Purdue
     C     AJ Hammons          Junior         7'0''     I have no inside knowledge of this, but if patterns hold true I'd guess that AJH will get back into the starting rotation today. He was really really engaged that 2nd half against Minnesota and was key in Purdue pulling that one out. CMP likes to reward guys for playing hard, and in my opinion Purdue is at it's best when an engaged, aggressive, and effective Hammons is on the floor.
     F     Vince Edwards        Freshman    6'7''     Look for Edwards to get back into the starting rotation today, as he should be fully recovered from what looked like a pretty nasty flu bug. He looked a little like a zombie out there Wednesday fumbling passes, throwing the ball to whoever was in the 6th row, and whatnot; but in spite of that was still able to contribute to a great team win. He should be able to help space the floor today for AJ and Isaac to do work against a small-ish Michigan front line.
     F     Raphael Davis         Junior          6'5''     I think Ray got the message I had in the Minnesota preview, do what you do well. He was fantastic against Minnesota, making all 10 of his free throws, only attempting 6 other field goals (none of them 3s), and tallying 4 assists. His defense in the 2nd half was huge for Purdue.
     G     Kendall Stephens     Sophomore  6'6''     Not sure who needed the Minnesota game more, Kendall or Purdue. Obviously after losing 3 in a row getting to 1-0 in league play was big, but for a guy that had been struggling I think that was a gigantic game for him. Purdue needs Stephens to be on more often than not, especially with Mathias not looking quite ready to step into that 2nd dead eye shooter role.
    G     Jon Octeus                Senior          6'4''     It sounds like Derrick Walton will at least be limited today with injury concerns, meaning Octeus will be facing a lot of Spike Albrecht. If you didn't catch the NCAA tournament last year I'll save you the time looking it up: Spike can't be taken lightly. Saying that, I think JO can do some positive things against Albrecht off the dribble and in space. Octeus has to get around screens on D though.  He could also see time guarding Irvin and LeVert which is a tall task.

Michigan
     F     Ricky Doyle                              Freshman     6'9''
     F     Kameron Chatman                    Freshman     6'7''
     G    Spike Albrecht                           Junior          5'11''
     G    Zak Irvin                                    Sophomore  6'6''
     G    Caris LeVert                              Junior         6'7''
The Wolverines bring a very similar record and similar story into Mackey Arena as our Boilermakers. At 8-5 they started strong, only to lose 4 in a row, then get back on track with their last 2 being wins. Michigan shoots A LOT of threes, 2nd most in the Big Ten to be exact so getting out to shooters will be paramount for Purdue. Nobody in the Big Ten has launched it more than Zak Irvin (103 attempts) but he has only connected on just under 36% of those offerings. Michigan will throw a lot of zone against Purdue to try and get the Boilers to chuck it from outside instead of exploiting UM's lack of height inside.

Points of Percolation

1) Guard Play on D: Purdue's guards will be challenged in several different ways today and they have to be up to the test. Michigan has 2 huge guards in LeVert and Irvin, then 2 speedsters in Walton and Albrect. Whoever is playing positions 1-3 at any given time for Purdue has to be aware of who's on the court for Michigan and where they are located. On paper I think Purdue has the bodies to match up somewhat with Octeus, Stephens, and Davis for length and Scott and Thompson for quickness. It will all depend on how Painter will choose to attack Michigan defensively personnel wise.

2) Convert in the Post: This is an obvious one, but it bears repeating: it doesn't do Purdue any good getting it into the post more than any team in the nation if those touches don't result in points. AJ Hammons and Isaac Haas have to be efficient both in their post ups and from the free throw line. I liked what I saw from AJ in the 2nd half against Minnesota passing out of the double team, and there should be the opportunity for that any time he catches it outside the paint.

3) Be Engaged for all 40 minutes: I am going to keep beating this drum over and over and over. Purdue cannot continue to keep getting down and trying to claw back in it. While I don't like booing your team at home, they deserved it in the first half against Minnesota. For the Boilermakers to have a successful Big Ten season they have to play all 40 minutes of every game like that 2nd half against Minnesota. Again, this is not new information nor is it brilliant insight, but if they don't they will lose more than they win. Simple as that.

Prediction:

Every time you push me out, you draw me right back in. I saw enough from the Boilers in the last 13 minutes Wednesday to make me think this team may be starting to get it. As good as I think this freshman class is going to be long term for Purdue, I do not think it was a coincidence it was mainly upperclassmen bringing Purdue's season back from the dead against the Gophers. I think Hammons and Haas will collectively have a big game today, and Purdue will squeak out another good solid home win. Keep it rolling and you never know where it might lead.

71-66 Boilers.

10-5

Boiler Up. Hammer Down. Hail Purdue.