Regrettably, this will probably be a short post. Purdue is clearly rebuilding this year. There is quite a bit of talent on this team, but it is young and, tellingly, young at point guard. Little Johnson is going to be a very good player, might even make the NBA. But is young and prone to get in a hurry. And once he hurries, there seems to be three outcomes: a wild shot, a wild pass, or a charge while he attempts one of the previous choices. When you’re coming down to crunch time in a game, those are pretty much the last things you want. As I said, though, he’s young and hopefully starting to figure out that he can’t out-athlete everybody in the Big Ten as he (and Big Johnson, too, I’m guessing) did in high school. Big Johnson has figured out how to do it on the B1G level, I’m sure Ronnie will, too. Just, you know, it probably won’t be tomorrow.
Purdue also just doesn’t score consistently enough. Their defense is still top notch. They’ve only let four teams break 70 points this year, and one of those was an overtime game.* The other two were Michigan State (in East Lansing), Ohio State, and Notre Dame (in Indy). Also known as a pretty darned good teams. In Ann Arbor, Purdue managed to keep the currently number one (then number two) Wolverines under 70. 70’s been Purdue’s magic number for years. They just don’t typically let teams get over that number. The problem is, in past years, there have been plenty of scorers to make sure the Boilers do break that number. This year? Not so much.
*The Villanova highway robbery game. Boiler fans will not be forgetting that one anytime soon.
Indiana, as much as I’ve knocked them, is not a bad team. Did I ever buy them at number one? No, and I still don’t and wouldn’t. I still don’t buy Cody Zeller as this elite, cream-of-the-crop guy, either. But, in both of their cases, that doesn’t mean they aren’t good and talented. And, as such, I fully expect Indiana to win tomorrow. I don’t think the Hoosiers will necessarily run away and hide, though. As much talent as they have, I still think Purdue plays some pretty badass defense that will keep them within shouting distance. And, if you haven’t noticed, Purdue has been playing markedly better since conference play started. If the Boilers had been playing as well as they are now to start the year, there’s a good chance they would have been undefeated going into B1G play. If not undefeated, maybe one or two losses. Certainly not six. And 16-4 sounds a heck of a lot better than 11-9. Purdue would likely be in the rankings after playing a decent non-conference schedule and holding their own in a rough schedule to start conference play.* In, let me remind you, by far the toughest conference in the land.
*Not that there’s necessarily an easy schedule in the Big Ten. That’s kind of the point.
So, yeah, getting back to tomorrow, I’m not expecting a win. But, I do expect Purdue to be competitive. And, I mean, who knows. It’s a rivalry game. Crazier things have happened. But, no matter the outcome, IU still sucks.