Thursday, February 19, 2015

Boilermaker Basketball Pre-Game Primer: Indiana




Good Times huh?

I'm going to do this primer a little different, because this rematch has to be different from the first go-around, right?

First off, you all know by now who plays for both teams and with the exception of Hanner Mosquera-Perea, (who I will discuss further below), you know who the major contributors for both teams are.

We also know exactly what Purdue is going to try and do, worked pretty well the first time no?

What I'm really interested to see is what, if any, adjustments IU makes.

If they keep the same game plan and go small with Hartman predominantly at the 5, one has to think it will be better executed than in West Lafayette. I'm going to assume they won't go 4-19 again from long range. I'm going to assume Purdue will not shoot 15 more free throws than IU again. And, I'm going to assume IU won't be whistled for 6 more fouls than Purdue over the course of the game.

To me, and this might sound crazy, I'm more worried about Purdue's chances if IU doesn't change it up. That 5 out lineup can really get it going, and when IU gets hot in Ass Hall they typically stay hot. I would be concerned they would hit something crazy like say 18 threes, which they have done in the past week.

I absolutely loved Matt Painter's plan of putting AJH on Troy Williams and daring him to shoot, and if IU were to continue to go small I would think that's how Purdue will again counter it. Getting more point production from Purdue's centers would go a long way to forcing IU to go more traditional with their lineup. Hammons and Haas will need to make them pay on the scoreboard for defending with small forwards.

Which brings me to the alternative; one that's centered around Mosquera-Perea being back in the fold. In my humble opinion, the AJ Hammons that we are seeing right now would absolutely crush Perea in the paint. If AJ and Isaac don't both have 2 fouls before getting off the bus, they should be able to draw them on Perea if he tries to body them one on one. Yes he's a decent rebounder, yes he gives them length and athleticism, but he's also still unskilled with the ball and not big enough to body with AJ and Isaac.

Regardless of what IU does or doesn't do adjustment wise, there are clearly a few things Purdue has to make sure and emphasize to even have a chance to get out of Gloomington with a win.

1) Defend the guards - I know Bryson was a hero from last game, but the Boilermakers cannot afford for Jon Octeus to only play 16 minutes tonight. He has to be in there to harass Yogi for 30+. Obviously it goes without saying that Raphael needs to again be dominant defensively whether he's on Yogi, Blackmon, or Johnson.

2) Guys have to be ready to step up - It's not named the Hall of Calls for no reason. Like I said above I will be shocked if Purdue enjoys the same advantages from the foul line and from a foul perspective as it did in West Lafayette. If one of the Boiler's horses gets 2 quick ones someone is going to have to step up. It happened in Mackey, but asking a reserve to give big productive minutes on the road at IU is a whole different animal.

3) Make shots - Duh right? Really though, if IU learned anything from watching other teams play Purdue it should be to throw the kitchen sink at AJ and Isaac and let most of our guys shoot it from deep. It's going to be up to Dakota, Kendall, and Vince to make them pay. Would be nice for Ray to throw in one or two also, but I'm perfectly OK with him focusing on Defense tonight.

Prediction

Purdue really needs a road win to solidify even being in the discussion of being safely in the NCAA Tournament, that much is clear (hopefully you followed my train of thought there). One would think that their best shot at getting that road win might just be tonight against a team they thoroughly dominated at home. It's just really hard for me to imagine IU not making shots tonight, and if they do it's tough to combat 3's with 2's. I'll pick the home team in the God awful pants and hope like hell I'm wrong.

80-71 IU

17-10; 9-5

Boiler Up. Hammer Down. Hail Purdue.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Boilermaker Basketball Pre-Game Primer: Ohio State

Wins tonight by Purdue and Penn State would put the Boilermakers in sole possession of 2nd place in the current Big Ten standings. Just let that marinate for a minute.

Even if Maryland holds serve at home like they should, it would still be us and the Terps at 7-3 in league play.

Needless to say, tonight's game is huge for Purdue. Win this and you're officially on people's radar as winners of 4 straight with 3 coming against ranked opponents.

While Joe Lunardi has Purdue just barely sniffing an at-large bid, if the Boilers don't get this one tonight it will likely take a road win somewhere along the line at IU, OSU, or MSU to get back in the discussion. I just can't overstate how big tonight is for this team's postseason hopes. Not a must-win but man would it be big.

Here's the breakdown:

Wednesday, February 4th
6:30pm Tipoff - Mackey Arena
BTN 
Purdue vs Ohio State



Projected Starters
Purdue
     C     AJ Hammons          Junior         7'0''     AJ seems to have found some sort of revelation. We don't know why but I for one am not going to spend much time trying to figure it out. Just enjoy it right now. For someone that couldn't go 60 seconds without a turnover for the better part of 2+ years he's been tremendous with only 2 in his last 4 games. For what it's worth, Isaac Haas seems much more comfortable coming off the bench too. The way these 2 are playing right now is how we and Coach Painter envisioned them playing all year. Better late than never no? Tonight, much like the past 2 games AJ and Isaac can again dominate, as OSU has some bigs but not really anyone that impacts a game much.
     F     Vince Edwards        Freshman    6'7''     Tonight is a matchup Vince will revel in, going against his home state team. A team that didn't think he was good enough to recruit. Clearly Edwards is good enough and has a shot tonight in front of a home crowd that should be in a frenzy to go out and prove it. Vince will need to be on his game defensively tonight as he could see a variety of assignments from the physical Jae-Sean Tate to ultra-athletic Sam Thompson. Either way he really needs to be active on the glass and make sure to get in good position and not just jump for the ball.
     F     Raphael Davis         Junior          6'5''     What else is there to say about Raphael? While AJ Hammons resurgence has been a pleasant surprise, Davis has been the unquestioned catalyst for Purdue's run of late. His tenacious defense and suddenly uber efficient offense have been exactly what the Boilers needed. Congrats Ray! Your prize? D'Angelo Russell who will more than likely be a top 5 pick in the upcoming NBA draft. I for one think Raphael is going to be up for the task, especially at home. A couple stops, the shot clock gets down late, and the crowd gets into it and Purdue will be in business. Continuing to stick the occasional 3 would help too.
     G     Dakota Mathias      Freshman    6'4''     Looks like this might just be a permanent change to Purdue's starting lineup. I for one like how the ball moves when Mathias is in there, and you have to think his jumper is going to eventually start to fall right?? Also worth noting is that in Matt Painter's weekly radio show he mentioned liking Kendall Stephen's firepower off the bench; so take that how you will. Regardless Dakota is clearly the healthiest he's been since he stepped on campus which has also allowed him to make strides defensively. Anyone else get really really pumped when his D on Yogi led directly to a turnover?
    G     Jon Octeus                Senior          6'4''     Octeus had a nice bounce back offensive game against Northwestern, but it's not like he was bad against Indiana and Iowa. JO continues to be rock solid, and how pretty was that back-cut and dunk against the Wildcats? Tonight he will probably see some time on Russell to spell Davis as well as battle Buckeyes senior point guard Shannon Scott. Scott is no slouch so Octeus will need to stay on his toes and not immediately help if Russell gets loose.

Ohio State
     C    Amir Williams                           Senior          6'11''
     F    Sam Thompson                           Senior         6'7''
     F    Jae-Sean Tate                              Freshman    6'4''
     G    D'Angelo Russell                        Freshman   6'5''
     G    Shannon Scott                            Senior          6'1''
The Buckeyes come in tied with Purdue in the Big Ten standings at 6-3, with an overall record of 17-5, and currently ranked #20 nationally. 6 days removed from their last game (a beatdown of Maryland) they should be well-rested and ready to go tonight. While Ohio State does a lot well under Thad Matta, the one big thing to know about is freshman phenom D'Angelo Russell. He leads the conference in scoring at over 19ppm. There are other very capable playmakers on the roster like Tate and reserve Marc Loving, but the key here will be how Purdue handles Russell. Ohio State has some big men on the roster, but likes to play smaller if the matchups allow. I do expect to see Amir Williams get a lot of run tonight to combat Purdue's 2 imposing centers, but don't be surprised if you see them go small at some point.


Points of Percolation

1) How will Purdue play D'Angelo Russell: Do you try and lock him down the best you can and make everyone else beat you? Or do you stay home on the help side, let him get his which he will probably get anyways, and shut down the rest of the team? It is a very interesting dilemma, and I for one would probably play this one straight up. I think Davis and Octeus will be able to slow him down some, but he's too good to take out of the game entirely. You can't let one of the peripheral players get hot and go off. I say stay home and if/when he hits NBA shots, so be it.

2) Points in the Paint: One thing Purdue has been very good at in the last 3 games is scoring in the paint, and with guys other than their 2 centers too. Hammons and Haas have been great and very efficient, but it's the dribble drives, the transition buckets, and second chance points that have won Purdue 3 in a row. The Boilers need to continue getting a lot of looks in the paint by everyone on the floor. Keep pounding away at the interior and Purdue should be able to get to the free throw line, where they have been much improved recently as well.

3) The Ohio Guys: Vince and Dakota will be fired up for this one. I have a feeling this game is as emotional for them as the IU game was for the Boilers in-state players. I will be shocked if one of them doesn't have a great performance tonight.

Prediction:

Purdue is on a roll right now. The home crowd should again be fantastic, and that will be huge at those key moments when the Boilers need a stop on D. The Buckeyes are, to me, similar to IU in that they have that one big time scorer, they like to get to the foul line, and they like to push the tempo. The difference is that I don't think OSU is as good of a perimeter shooting team. For some reason I have a feeling the Boilers keep it going tonight and are able to put another top 25 win on the board.

72-62 Purdue

15-8

Boiler Up. Hammer Down. Hail Purdue. 

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


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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.