Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Basketball Preview: Purdue vs Indiana - January 30th - 8:30 pm - BTN

The Hoosiers are coming to town and we don't have to remind you how bad we want to beat these guys, no matter what the stakes are.  However, the stakes in this one are huge.  Indiana is looking to keep pace with Michigan for first place in the conference, while the Boilermakers are desperate for a signature win to impress the committee.  Will Purdue pull it out and see another Tom Crean unclassy blow-by?  Or will there actually be a conversation afterwards (meaning Indiana wins)? For the sake of all things right in the world, let's hope the patented blow-by rears its ugly head again.

The only recorded Tom Crean handshake with Matt Painter.

Why Purdue Will Win
Purdue may be 4-3 in the conference, but they haven't scored more than 68 points in any conference game.  In order to pull off the upset, the Boilermakers will have to put together an awesome defensive effort.  This means locking down Victor Oladipo and Christian Watford, while keeping Cody Zeller off the boards for some cheap putbacks.  Despite the prolific offense, Indiana does not have the weapons that Michigan had.  Point guard Yogi Ferrell is a dangerous player, but remember how Trey Burke killed the Boilers when kicking the ball out for three?  If Ronnie Johnson can guard Ferrell WITHOUT help, and Purdue can avoid a long drought on offense, the Paint Crew may be able to will this team to victory.

Why Indiana Will Win
Purdue hasn't scored more than 68 in a conference game? Well, Indiana has scored less than 67 once.  If the Hoosiers can play their style of putting points on the board in bunches, there's no way the Boilers can keep up.  While the Boilermakers have given up 56 or less points in regulation in 4 of the last 5 games, Purdue fans will begrudgingly admit that part of it has been a result of opponents missing a lot of open shots.  Give Indiana open shots and they'll blow this game wide open.

One thing you absolutely need to know before the game 
Purdue-Indiana is a huge rivalry, so obviously there's a lot of animosity between the two.  Of course Purdue fans hate Tom Crean for his lack of class and shady dealings - it's a rivalry!  However, is it really a rivalry thing or is Tom Crean just really a sleazeball?  Would Purdue fans dislike Crean even if he wasn't their main rival?

In order to find out who the sleaziest jerk of a scumbag coach in the Big Ten is, we googled each coach's name with the words "jerk", "sleazy", and "scumbag" (for example, we searched "Tom Crean" sleazy) to see how many pages each search would come up with.  We then ranked the coaches by each term and averaged their ranks to come up with the ultimate slimeball ranking.  For fun, I guessed how the results would come out before performing the search...you'll see I was pretty close (click to enlarge)!

So, while Tom Crean is not the biggest slimeball, he IS the sleaziest coach in the Big Ten according to Google.  Science!

A couple more things I noticed when compiling the rankings:
- Some random guy named Tim Miles appears to be a real jerk, which hurt Tim in the overall standings.  I didn't see much name bias with any of the other coaches.
- Bo Ryan more than DOUBLED the next closest in the jerk column.  That's got to be more than coincidence, right?
- Tom Izzo has some major scumbag issues.
- The lowest coach on the list that's consistently been in the top half of the standings is Matt Painter.  Man it feels good to have a well-respected, classy, and outstanding coach! 

Our Picks - We like to think we're better than Vegas.  So throughout the season, we'll be "betting" a whole dollar amount versus the spread between $1 and $32, but we can't repeat the same value twice. The spread for this game is Indiana by 8 points.

Erik's Bet: $7
Erik's Pick: Indiana 68 - Purdue 65

Kirk's Bet: $10
Kirk's Pick: Indiana 72 - Purdue 66

Erik +232 (17-5 Against The Spread)
Kirk -153 (8-14 Against The Spread)

Values already bet
Erik 2, 3, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 21, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 30, 31, 32
Kirk 11, 12, 13, 14, 15,16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32


Monday, January 28, 2013

Basketball Recap: Purdue 65 - Iowa 62

A snoozer on a lazy Sunday afternoon in West Lafayette turned into a thriller, as Purdue pulled off a huge win over the Hawkeyes to effectively keep postseason hopes alive (where have we heard that before?).  While the first half rivaled the ugliness of the game against Eastern Michigan (who made some headlines of their own this weekend), the second half and overtime was some of the most exciting basketball of the year.
Hammons had 3 blocks but it felt more like 15

Iowa has made a habit of second half comebacks this year, so it was no surprise that an 11-point Purdue lead disappeared in a matter of minutes.  What WAS a surprise was that Purdue was able to tie the game inside of 35-seconds, seeing that they've failed in their other opportunities this year when trailing by 3 or less at the end of the game.  Matt Painter drew up a great play around an inside screen by Hammons, and Terone Johnson made a layup that was more reminiscent of a team being down 10 with a minute to go ("quick two and then foul!") than a game-tying layup.  It's hard to believe Iowa gave up such an easy shot on their biggest defensive possession.  Regardless, I loved seeing the Boilers attack the rim with a set play as opposed to the typical running, floating prayer that gets blocked by a 6'2" guard.

A couple of observations from the game:

- DONNIE HALE!  The guy who announcers refuse to call by anything other than his full name had a breakout game yesterday. 12 points, 5 rebounds, and 0 turnovers in 29 minutes. Yes that last one's not a typo, he played 29 MINUTES as Matt Painter loved the hustle Hale was showing out there.  With this game by Hale, all 4 freshmen have had at least one game this year showing some major potential.  This class is going to be fun to watch...

Not sure what Hale's other hand is doing, but after the game he played, he gets to do whatever he wants.
- Melsahn Basabe had a 5 minute stretch in which he looked like the best player in the conference.  From the 1 minute mark of regulation to just under 1 minute left in overtime, Basabe was a monster with 5 points, 4 rebounds, and a block.  He also nearly tipped in the game-winner at the end of regulation.  I have no idea why we couldn't box him out, but he was single-handedly keeping Iowa in the game.  Thank goodness he didn't play that way the whole game, otherwise it would have been tough to overcome an extrapolated 45 point, 36 rebound, and 9 block effort by the big man.

- I can't tell you how many times I yelled at my tv, begging Ronnie Johnson to not take another shot (actually, he was 6-12, so I probably said it 6 times).  But man he was good in overtime with two huge floaters.  Add that to the fact that the Johnson brothers committed 1 turnover in 78 total minutes of play, and I can live with some dumb, forced shots (especially if Ronnie ends up shooting 50%!).  We keep saying it time and time again...this team has a bright future with Ronnie at the point.

- The Hawkeyes looked like they were going to steal the victory from the line as Roy Marble got ready to shoot his second free throw up 2 with 47 seconds left.  Iowa was 18 for 22 at this point from the line (Marble was 8 for 8), and everyone knows that Purdue turns into a bunch of Mexican jumping beans when down 3 points with less than a minute to go.  You know how this turned out. Marble missed, Terone got his easy layup, and Iowa would finish the game hitting 1 of its last 5 free throws.  Sure, Purdue only shot 60% from the line, but they generally hit them when they counted.  You can't say the same about the Hawkeyes.

It may not have been the prettiest game you've ever seen, but it sets up a huge showdown with the Hoosiers on Wednesday.  If the Boilers can sneak out of that one with a win, all the sudden you're looking at 2 winnable road games (Penn State and Northwestern) before returning home against Michigan State.  If the Boilers are 6-4 (or dare we say 7-3) in the Big Ten heading into that game, expect the Saturday night crowd to be rocking with March Madness becoming more than a glimmer of hope in the distance.

Let's get ready for Wednesday...BOILER UP!!!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Basketball Preview: Purdue vs Iowa - January 27th - 3:30 pm - BTN

I've been under the weather, so we're going to keep this one short.  Iowa comes in to Mackey later this afternoon to face the Boilermakers.

Why Purdue Will Win
If they play like the first half of the Michigan game, or like their last home game against West Virginia, the Boilers will win this game somewhat easily.  While I don't expect another three-point shooting barrage in the first half, I do expect AJ Hammons to have a much better game.  Also, look for Jacob Lawson to regain some playing time, since Purdue will need him to match up against Iowa's bigger bodies.  With strong defense, Purdue should be able to create a lot of turnovers, like they did against West Virginia, to capitalize and frustrate the Iowa offense.  It'll probably be an ugly game for the Boilers to prevail.

Why Iowa Will Win
At 2-4 in the conference, Iowa's losses have all come against ranked teams (Indiana, Michigan, Michigan St., Ohio St., in my opinion the top four teams in the Big Ten), and two were incredibly close. They also beat Northwestern on the road and Wisconsin at home.  If you haven't figured it out yet, that means that the Hawkeyes are likely much better than their record dictates, and they haven't played the conference cupcakes yet.  7-foot center Adam Woodbury may be able to keep Hammons quiet inside, Aaron White and Roy Marble will likely get the offense going, and Melsahn Basabe can be a terror on defense around the rim.

No Fran, there will not be punch and pie!
One thing you absolutely need to know before the game 
This probably isn't that critical, but be ready to see the Purdue coaching staff wearing special Coaches vs. Cancer shoes during the game.  Thankfully they won't be those hideous bright pink ones for breast cancer awareness.  Maybe if Painter gets really angry, he'll throw one across the court.  Who throws a shoe? Honestly!

Our Picks - We like to think we're better than Vegas.  So throughout the season, we'll be "betting" a whole dollar amount versus the spread between $1 and $32, but we can't repeat the same value twice. The spread for this game is Purdue by 2.5 points.

Erik's Bet: $9
Erik's Pick: Iowa 67 - Purdue 61

Kirk's Bet: $11
Kirk's Pick: Purdue 65 - Iowa 61

Erik +241 (17-4 Against The Spread)
Kirk -164 (7-14 Against The Spread) (Why do I even do this anymore?! Maybe I can set an all-time record in futility)

Values already bet
Erik 2, 3, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 17, 21, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 30, 31, 32
Kirk 11, 12, 13, 14, 15,16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Basketball Recap: Michigan 68 - Purdue 53

This says it all
At Michigan, I had expected a big loss for the Boilers, and while the final score was just about the predicted point spread, the game was much closer than it looked.  Thanks to a high-intensity first half, Purdue had a one point lead at halftime.  How on earth did they do that on the road against the top* team in the country?  By playing defense, shooting an uncharacteristically high percentage (and volume) on three pointers, and Michigan missing a lot of buckets they should have made (regardless of the defensive pressure).  It was impressive but also one of those halves where you know that the better team isn't playing anywhere near their potential, and the underdog is having an atypical game.  It kind of reminded me of some of those early round NCAA Tournament games, where the 15 seed makes life miserable for the 2 seed, only to have the favorite make adjustments at halftime and play like everyone expected.  Purdue was certainly the 15 seed in this situation.

After shooting 50% through a good chunk of the first half, including 7 of 13 from downtown (what?!?), everything cooled off and the Boilers finished shooting 39% (32% from three) to Michigan's 49%/44%.   Purdue actually hit five of its first seven three pointers, four in the first five minute of the game. I thought I was watching a different team.  But then of course they missed all nine attempts in the second half, and I knew the small screen at the pub hadn't accidentally switched to another game.

The second half started much like the first, and Michigan couldn't pull away.  With less than 15 minutes to play in the game, Purdue still led by one point, but then the wheels finally fell off.  Over the next eight minutes of regulation, the Boilers made only one basket (thanks Terone) while tallying four missed three pointers, four other missed shots, five dreadful turnovers, and four fouls.  Stints like that will make Painter pull his hair out until he looks like Gene Keady.

Purdue would try to rally, cutting the deficit to six points, but they had dug too deep a hole as the Wolverines proved too good and determined to let this game slip away - exactly what good teams do.

The Purdue stat line looked eerily familiar:
  • The scorers are getting their points, but not doing it as efficiently as needed.  Terone was 6 of 14 and DJ was 4 of 10.
  • Three point shooting cooled off and looked like the Boilers' usual low percentage (but with 22 attempts!)
  • Ronnie Johnson continues to have issues with his shot, going 2 for 10.  He just can't be relied upon to hit anything (definitely not a jumper or a 3), and if he doesn't finish on his quick drives to the basket, he's quite the offensive liability.  It reminds me of Lewis Jackson when he was younger and less consistent.
  • Ray Davis continued to progress, scoring 10 points, but with him starting, the bench was fairly unproductive, only pulling down 3 rebounds while scoring 10 points.  That's pretty sad when you play four bigs off the bench when AJ Hammons only played 24 minutes, and they only have two rebounds between them. 
  • Speaking of Hammons, he was the outlier on the box score, with only two points and two rebounds.  It's really rough when your only interior threat disappears, which is what seemed to happen Thursday night.  I'm not sure what was wrong with him, but hopefully he was sick and not having "effort issues."
After another hard fought loss to one of the Big Ten's top-ranked teams, it becomes more and more apparent that there are big things down the road for this team, just not this season.  The Boilers will not win a road game against a ranked opponent this season, and that's OK.  We have to be realistic, and this team might, just might, be able to upset a ranked team at home if everything is clicking.  Sure, they already beat Illinois, but we all now know that win isn't something to crow about since the Illini are average at best. 

Now the Boilers need to regroup to face a tough test against an Iowa team scratching and clawing to make the NCAA Tournament this season.  Win that game and post-season play is definitely still a possibility, as is making a small move up the Big Ten ladder.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Big Ten Basketball Power Rankings - Conference Season #3

After all the love I gave to Wisconsin last week, they go and lose both their games this week.  Yes, I took that personally, stupid Badgers.  Things are continuing to heat up in the conference, and the teams many projected to be at the top in the preseason now are.  That's not too exciting, so here's hoping for a lot of shakeup after a crazy week (but I doubt it).

On to the rankings, where I realize listing the RPI ranking is strange when they seem to barely move no matter what happens that week.

All smiles
1.   Michigan (18-1, 5-1, RPI: 7) [Last week's rank: 2]

After a horrible first half, Michigan was able to put their game together and beat Purdue in Ann Arbor.  That wasn't overly impressive, since they didn't cover the spread, but a win's a win, and no one else was impressive enough to take leapfrog the Wolverines in the rankings.  This week they have a bit of a "break" facing Illinois and Northwestern, before a torrid four-game stretch in early February.

2.   Indiana (17-2, 5-1, RPI: 15) [Last week's rank: 3]

The Hoosiers also didn't do anything particularly wrong this week, beating Northwestern and Penn State, as they should.  They host Michigan State this weekend, which will determine the real #2 in the conference, which they still should win, and then they head to West Lafayette to get upset by the Boilermakers.  Hey, positive mental attitude people!

3.   Michigan State (17-3, 6-1, RPI: 13) [Last week's rank: 6]

As much I despise this Spartan team, they are getting stronger as the season progresses.  I previously ripped them for not having won any hard games, but now with narrow wins against Ohio State and at Wisconsin, they are better than I thought.  I still don't think this team has enough to win the conference, when compared to Michigan and IU, but we'll see if they can upset the Hoosiers at home this weekend and happily prove me wrong.

4.   Ohio State (14-4, 4-2, RPI: 26) [Last week's rank: 4]

After beating Iowa and losing at Michigan State, I'm leaving the Buckeyes at #4 partly because I think they have more talent than Wisconsin, and partly because I expect them to rattle off three straight wins against Penn State, Wisconsin (at home), and Nebraska.  I was really rooting for them to beat MSU, which just tells you how much I dislike the Spartans this year.

5.   Wisconsin (13-6, 4-2, RPI: 58) [Last week's rank: 1]

We don't need no stinking Badgers.  In two close games (aren't all their games close, playing that style?), Wisconsin lost at Iowa and at home against Michigan State.  Both were moderate surprises, but combined they mean Wiscy is in bad shape and has lost all the air of superiority they gained the previous week.  And now they get to face Minnesota and travel to Ohio State this week.  That could be four straight losses and cause Bo to bite the head of a live bat or assistant coach (yes, this is going to be a running gag with Bo).

6.   Minnesota (15-4, 3-3, RPI: 10) [Last week's rank: 5]

What is wrong with the Gophers?  Three straight losses, and while two were somewhat expected (at IU and vs. Michigan), losing at Northwestern certainly wasn't.  The freefall could continue at Wisconsin this weekend.

7.   Iowa (13-6, 2-4, RPI: 76) [Last week's rank: 8]

Iowa had an impressive victory over Wisconsin before losing to Ohio State.  I moved them ahead of Purdue because they've beaten a better team (Wisconsin) than Purdue has, and all their conference losses are against the top 4 teams.  They'll give the Boilers all they can handle this weekend in the battle for leader of the bottom half of the Big Ten.  Unlike the Boilers, they have an outside shot at making the NCAA Tournament, and expect them to play like a team on a mission.

8.  Purdue (10-9, 3-3, RPI: 121) [Last week's rank: 7]

The Boilers get major non-con cred for demolishing West Virginia, and they played the first half against Michigan like a team that had really turned a corner.  Then they got overpowered and the young/inconsistent Purdue team showed up to blow the game.  They still have the ability to give any conference team a run for their money, but getting a marquee win is going to be difficult for them on the road.  At home, though, it's possible.

9.  Northwestern (12-8, 3-4, RPI: 82) [Last week's rank: 9]

Beating Minnesota is pretty great for the Wildcats, but with the Gophers sliding big time, it may not be as impressive as at first glance.  Don't expect many more "major" upsets from Northwestern, but they should be in any game against the middle and bottom of the conference.

10.   Illinois (15-5, 2-4, RPI: 28) [Last week's rank: 10]

The Illini beat Nebraska for a light week, but look at who they face next: Michigan, MSU, Wisconsin, Indiana, Minnesota.  It's going to be pretty funny when they are 2-9 or 3-8 in the conference, and I'll be able to hear the crying fans all the way in Indianapolis.

11.  Nebraska (10-10, 1-6, RPI: 79) [Last week's rank: 12 tie]

Congratulations to the Huskers for beating Penn State on the road to show people that they aren't the worst. Maybe they can upset Northwestern this weekend and make it a productive season.  It wouldn't surprise me to see the Nebraska program really develop from crappy to mediocre now that they have the prestige of being in the best basketball conference in the nation.

12.  Penn State (8-11, 0-7, RPI: 184) [Last week's rank: 12 tie]

After losing the cellar-dweller battle to Nebraska last weekend, the Nittany Lions also got crushed by IU.  Will they win another game this season?  Don't bet on it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Basketball Preview: Purdue at Michigan - January 24th - 7:00 pm - ESPN

And so it begins...

Only 13 games remain in the regular season, yet the Boilers are playing their best ball of the season.  Purdue has taken care of business in 3 must wins, but now comes the stretch of games in which the Boilers MUST get the signature wins they're desperately missing from their resume.  Rumblings of a potential tourney run have been growing steam amongst the Purdue faithful (including yours truly!), but the fact of the matter is that the Boilers would need a minor miracle to sneak into the tourney.  8 to 9 wins (depending on who they are against) should put Purdue on the bubble, but it's going to be very difficult to do.  Several computers have us winning only two or three of the remaining regular season games.

However, everybody saw the game on Saturday.  Everyone felt the magic this team can produce when clicking on all cylinders.  And maybe, just maybe, they've grown up enough  to pull out a shocker.  This Thursday would be the biggest shock of them all.

"What do I do now that Michigan finally has a team playing to their talent level???"

Why Purdue Will Win
Purdue could really use to play a perfect game, but the biggest focus has to be on taking care of the ball on the offensive end.  Michigan is such an explosive team and full of such great finishers, that turnovers will nearly always turn into points and will ignite the fans in Ann Arbor.  On the defensive end, Michigan has so many weapons that you pretty much have to give the Wolverines something and hope they screw up.  In order to have a chance, look for four Boilers to pack the paint, not allowing Trey Burke to create, or Glenn Robinson III and Tim Hardaway Jr. to drive.  All three are typically good shooters, but not nearly as good as Nik Stauskas and his 50% mark from 3-point range.  Stick someone on Stauskas with glue, and pray that everyone else is cold from behind 18 feet.

Hammons will need to have the game of his life, as Purdue does have the offensive advantage down low against 6-8 Jordan Morgan or 6-10 Mitch McGary.  A couple of early fouls though, and it could get ugly.

Michigan IS coming off it's biggest win of the year at Minnesota, so could we see a hangover? Let's hope so.

Why Michigan Will Win
The number of guys they have that can beat you is staggering.  Any of the starters could go off, which means "praying" for someone to get cold really means praying for EVERYONE to get cold.  Purdue can hang with them for a half, but on the road against the number 2 team in the country, it's going to be really tough.  Michigan is the heavy favorite and there's no reason to think they won't win big.

One thing you absolutely need to know before the game 
Note that not ALL the computers hate the Boilers.  In fact, the handicappers at Oddsshark.com have Purdue as the 46th best team in the country.  Honestly, I trust the oddsmakers in Vegas more than anyone else - their jobs depend on getting these things right!

While you're checking that out, look what Villanova did to recent #1 Louisville on Tuesday!  With wins like that, it would have been really nice to have that game back.  Still, anything they do helps our RPI, so we'll take it.

And finally, Purdue embarrassed the Mountaineers so much that Bob Huggins apologized to all West Virginia fans.  That makes me smile.

Our Picks - We like to think we're better than Vegas.  So throughout the season, we'll be "betting" a whole dollar amount versus the spread between $1 and $32, but we can't repeat the same value twice. The spread for this game is Michigan by 16.5.

Erik's Bet: $15
Erik's Pick: Michigan 76 - Purdue 62

Kirk's Bet: $12
Kirk's Pick: Michigan 85 - Purdue 65

Erik +226 (16-4 Against The Spread)
Kirk -152 (7-13 Against The Spread)

Values already bet
Erik 2, 3, 5, 6, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 17, 21, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 30, 31, 32
Kirk 13, 14, 15,16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Basketball Recap: Purdue 79 - West Virginia 52

What an impressive showing by the Boilers!  It was so impressive that, for most of the country, CBS decided to leave the game in the last 10 minutes to show a more exciting one.  I had two reactions to this.  First, it really pissed me off, since I was watching on delay and couldn't pick up the live stream online.  But then I realized, Purdue just played a big game on national tv, and it was such a blowout with ten minutes to go that West Virginia had absolutely zero chance of coming back. Awesome!  So here's what I saw in the first 30 minutes...

- Matt Humphrey got only his second start of the season for the Mountaineers after being a starter for both Oregon and Boston College over the last four years.   He hit a 3-pointer early on but got into foul trouble and wasn't much of a factor.  Perhaps one of the reasons he isn't starting much is that his on-court mannerisms are a little...peculiar.  3-minutes into the game, Humphrey played an entire 25-second offensive possession with his jersey IN HIS MOUTH.  He even got the ball and took a couple dribbles with a jersey that looked like a turtleneck.  They never showed a closeup of it, so here's a really blurry zoomed-in picture to prove it to you.  What a weird dude.


- Davis looked really solid out there and seems to be the calmest player on the team.  In fact, I think that in a crunch-time situation, I'd rather have Rapheal Davis taking a game-tying three than any other player, including DJ Byrd.  Byrd has been excellent recently and was awesome against West Virginia.  However, DJ gets a little excited sometimes and on big shots he can get a little too amped up.  The Boilers will have another game come down to the wire, yet I highly doubt Painter will draw up a play for the freshman.  It's too bad, because I'm really excited to see Davis develop and become someone who can hit the dagger.

- This Boilers seemed like they played the perfect game, yet they turned the ball over 16 times, gave up 15 offensive rebounds, and shot 62% from the free throw line.  This team is A LOT of fun to watch when their playing like they did on Saturday.  And amazingly, there's still room to play even better.

It was a fun win that has the entire fanbase buzzing about this team's potential.  Still, the NCAA tourney is a long ways off.  If the Boilers are going to make a run for it, they're going to need some signature victories.  I think a good start would be a road victory over a top 5 team. We don't have any of those coming up, do we? 

Boiler Up!!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Basketball Preview: Purdue vs. West Virginia - January 19th - 2:00 pm - CBS

We interrupt your regularly scheduled Big Ten conference game to bring you this special message.  Do you like large gross men with questionable ethics?  Gold suits? Coonskin caps? Muskets and hunting?  Then have we got a deal for you!  Tune in to CBS at 2pm on Saturday for a special edition of the Purdue vs. West Virginia Basketball Showdown!  Playing for the third time in four years, this match-up will feature two similar teams, each looking for consistency and an identity, and each with an overall record that belies their ability.
Most unfitting nickname ever

Why Purdue Will Win
In the two previous meetings, the victory went to the home team, so Purdue has that going for them.  Seriously though, if this game was on a neutral court I couldn't see it being bet as anything but a pure tossup. West Virginia plays physical defense, likes to rebound, spreads the scoring around without one go-to guy, and has a big man (Aaric Murray) who can cause problems for Hammons and do his own bit of scoring (10 ppg) and rebounding (7.1 rpg).  They also have some other sizable forwards which may not allow Painter to go small as he's been doing recently, but the Mountaineers can also play four guards at times.  It's really going to be a chess battle since each coach has similar rosters to work with.

Why West Virginia Will Win
West Virginia shoots even more poorly than the Boilers (hard to imagine, right?), but they take twice as many three point shots as Purdue.  If those start falling, it becomes the main difference between these teams and will certainly give the Mountaineers the edge.

One thing you absolutely need to know before the game 
Since the game is being featured on CBS, let's look at how the Boilers have done in recent years in games on CBS (postseason excluded).  I expect this not to look very good.

  • Last year, Purdue played twice on CBS, losing in a big upset to Butler in the Crossroads Classic and getting owned in the second half by Michigan State at Mackey in the game immediately following Kelsey Barlow's dismissal from the team and DJ Byrd's suspension. (0-2)
  • Two years ago, the Boilers lost on the road to West Virginia on CBS, but they also beat Minnesota, Illinois, and Ohio State.  Man that team had some big wins. (3-1)
  • Three years ago, they lost to Michigan State, and that was it. (0-1)
  • In the 2008-2009 season, they beat Davidson in the Wooden Tradition and also topped Wisconsin and Michigan.  The Boilers lost to Illinois and Michigan State (3-2)
So Purdue is 6-6, and I learned nothing from that exercise other than it's better than I expected, although not so good last season.  At least Painter doesn't have some terrible flaw getting the team ready for big weekend games on CBS.

One of the rare times he wears a suit and it's vomit-inducing.  Will he dress up for CBS?
Our Picks - We like to think we're better than Vegas.  So throughout the season, we'll be "betting" a whole dollar amount versus the spread between $1 and $32, but we can't repeat the same value twice. The spread for this game is Purdue by 3.5.

Erik's Bet: $5
Erik's Pick: Purdue 61 - West Virginia 56

Kirk's Bet: $13
Kirk's Pick: Purdue 64 - West Virginia 62

Erik +221 (15-4 Against The Spread)
Kirk -139 (7-12 Against The Spread)

Values already bet
Erik 2, 3, 5, 6, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 17, 21, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 30, 31, 32
Kirk 13, 14, 15,16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32


Friday, January 18, 2013

Big Ten Basketball Power Rankings - Conference Season #2

Welcome to the Big Wisconsin Power Rankings.  That's right, the Big Ten is Wisconsin's playground, and everyone else is just visiting. In a week packed full of big games, the Badgers win at Indiana was the definite highlight.  It's also becoming very clear that non-conference records mean very little as teams like Illinois are being exposed and falling flat on their faces.  Is the Big Ten still the best conference in the country.  I definitely think so, but this NCAA season seems like one where there are a lot of very good teams, but no truly GREAT ones.

On to the rankings, where Bo Knows Basketball (side note - want a surefire way to feel old?  Current college seniors were not born yet when those ads were running).

Bo's as shocked as everyone else
1.   Wisconsin (13-4, 4-0, RPI: 45) [Last week's rank: 8]

After huge wins at Indiana and against Illinois (by 23 points!), the Badgers are shocking all the experts with their 4-0 start to conference play.  Bo Ryan continues to combine above-average players into teams that run like a well-oiled machine.  Talk about someone who is a fantastic coach (as opposed to his opponent earlier this week).  Just another year where pundits expect Wisconsin to break its streak of consecutive conference top-4 finishes only to see them prove everyone wrong.

2.   Michigan (17-1, 4-1, RPI: 5) [Last week's rank: 1]

Michigan bounced back from a rough game in Columbus to pound the Gophers in Minnesota.  I was very impressed with how good Michigan looked on the road for the majority of the game last night in an incredibly physical game (yes, the Gophers are thugs).  The loss at OSU doesn't change the fact that Michigan should be competing for a #1 seed come March.  Trey Burke continues to be all-world, averaging 18 points and 7.2 assists per game.

3.   Indiana (15-2, 3-1, RPI: 13) [Last week's rank: 3]

Watching the Hoosiers flounder against Wisconsin this week was a thing of beauty.  They weren't as smart or physical as they needed to be, lacked senior leadership, and have a coach who got completely owned.  Crean's Hoosiers have never beaten Bo Ryan, and it's nice to see this game make even the IU faithful have to admit that Crean is a below average in-game coach.  Not only is the guy classless, ridiculous, annoying, a sore loser, immature, and about as fake as they come, he's also not worthy of coaching the talent he's recruited.  I rip on Purdue at times for playing "young" or making unwise decisions, but when veteran players on the most hyped team in the country are making the same mistakes and can't even run their offense through their best player in the second half, it's major cause for concern.  Any fear IU put into opposing teams is dwindling fast.

4.   Ohio State (13-3, 3-1, RPI: 27) [Last week's rank: 5]

The Buckeyes only played once this week, beating Michigan at home.  That was a good win for them, but I still have trouble overlooking their horrible black eye - getting destroyed by Illinois a couple weeks ago.  It's the only bad loss on their schedule (the other losses were to Duke and Kansas, unsurprising).  A win this weekend at Michigan State will make them a real contender for the conference title, especially since they only have to play Minnesota once this season and it's at home.

5.   Minnesota (15-3, 3-2, RPI: 8) [Last week's rank: 2]

A rough week for the Gophers, who lost at Indiana and somewhat badly to Michigan at home.  I'm not sure if they're being exposed as not able to hang with the top-tier teams, or if they just had a road bump.  Their schedule isn't terrible the next two weeks, so it gives them lots of time to recover physically, and this team must be very physical to win.

6.   Michigan State (15-3, 4-1, RPI: 17) [Last week's rank: 4]

Michigan State is not nearly as good as their conference record.  They were easily beaten at Minnesota in the only game they've played against a ranked Big Ten opponent (and they haven't played the currently-unranked Badgers yet).  Two thirds of their remaining schedule is against teams likely to be ranked, so expect Sparty to get exposed.  Who knows, maybe by then Branden Dawson will actually get suspended for a game for acting like a punk.  Oh wait, I forgot that Izzo is now soft and has lost almost all credibility.  That'll never happen.  I love how he benched Dawsen and Payne for the first half against Penn State, but when he realized he might lose the game, he put them back in.  Classy.  Makes sense that he's such good friends with Tom Crean.

7.  Purdue (9-8, 3-2, RPI: 119) [Last week's rank: 9]

Purdue did what they needed to do and beat two bad teams this week.  There is still a lot of basketball to be played, but the Boilers freshman are developing and they should be able to hang with most teams at home and be able to win against bad teams on the road.  That may be enough for a 7th place finish in conference, but there's a big gap between the top 6 and the bottom 6 this year.

8.   Iowa (12-5, 1-3, RPI: 77) [Last week's rank: 7]

Even though Iowa crushed Northwestern by 20 points this week, they've proven that they're not quite ready to be prime time players.  The Hawkeyes are formidable at home but can't beat anyone good or on the road.  Their conference losses are all to ranked opponents. and now they have two more tough games against Wisconsin and at Ohio State before the schedule gets a bit easier.  Being so roughly front-loaded, Iowa could make a run to the middle of the standings as the season progresses, but they're inability to win on the road may keep them out of postseason play in March.

9.  Northwestern (11-7, 2-3, RPI: 92) [Last week's rank: 10]

What a strange week for the Wildcats.  They lose by 20 points at Iowa only to travel to Illinois and put a whooping on the Illini.  Either they got lucky or Illinois is really horrible, but either way, I still don't have much faith in Northwestern.  Reggie Hearn can turn it on, but if he's not having a great game, NW won't upset anyone else.

10.   Illinois (14-5, 1-4, RPI: 25) [Last week's rank: 6]

After having the Illini ranked 2nd in my poll earlier this season, they continue to do what I warned against and tank in conference play, just like last year.  Over less than four weeks they've gone from 2nd to 6th to 10th. Live by the three, die by the three.  Illinois has lost two conference games at home by double digits, the most recent being to Northwestern.  That's got to make Illini fans furious, since NW isn't anything special this year and yet they were trailing by 17 points during the game, losing by 14.  Seems like this crop of players has trouble getting motivated and playing intelligent basketball.

12.  Nebraska (9-9, 0-5, RPI: 72) [Last week's rank: 12] AND
Penn State (8-9, 0-5, RPI: 167) [Last week's rank: 11]

I'm giving a two-way tie for 12th place, completely skipping the 11 spot since neither team deserves it.  The pitiful Nittany Lions and Huskers still can't seem to win a conference game.  At least they play this weekend (at Penn State) for round one of the battle for last place in the Big Ten.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Basketball Recap: Purdue 65 - Nebraska 56

I few things became very clear last night as the Boilers downed the Cornhuskers.

  1. The toughness
    Road games, no matter who they are against, are tough.  Purdue obviously knew this from losing at Eastern Michigan earlier this season... sorry, I just threw up a little on my keyboard out of disgust...but even a 20-point second half lead isn't large enough to get complacent when playing a Big Ten team on the road.  Wisconsin had trouble playing at Nebraska, being tied at halftime and actually trailing with six minutes to go before shutting the Husker offense down in the late stretch.  Michigan State was losing to Iowa on the road at halftime, before a late second-half run.  Indiana also almost lost in Iowa City.  Which made it excellent that...

  2. Purdue has a great deal more talent and skill than the weaker conference teams.  Now if they could just put that together for 40 minutes, it would be something special to watch.  The closest we've seen is the upset over Illinois, which was great, but there's still so much untapped potential with this team.  Do they have more talent than Michigan and Indiana?  No, definitely not, but do they have enough talent to compete for the top spots in the conference next year and beyond.  Certainly, and building 20 point leads on the road is a sure sign of that.  While Purdue will most likely finish the season in the bottom half of the conference (I'd say a 7th place finish is about their ceiling right now without a catastrophic failure for one of the other teams), there is no cause for panic or for comparing the Boilers to the conference dregs. 
  3. Feel the ground quake under their might!
  4. Erik really needs to catch up on his sleep.  His overworked brain completely forgot that Brandon Ubel's elbow was a little too broken for competitive basketball.  In his absence we got to see a lot more of Andre Almeida, who Erik referred to as a "GIANT."  Almeida seems like he'd be a fun guy to have a beer and pizza with (although he's probably not going to share any of that pizza with you), but it was pretty hilarious watching him and Hammons battle in the low post.  You might as well have been watching Godzilla fight Ultraman in slowmo.  Strangely Hammons didn't pick up a single foul.

    1. As the game got closer midway through the second half, I realized that watching a close game was a lot less fun than watching Purdue destroy Nebraska by 20 points, but I actually liked seeing what this team was made of and how the dealt with the added pressure.  They had periods of stupid, young mistakes, but they did enough to keep a safe cushion, and credit Painter with calling some well placed timeouts. 
    What else happened in the game?  AJ Hammons had a great game as expected, approaching a triple double with 14 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 blocks.  He also dished out three savvy assists and only turned the ball over once.  Every game gets me more excited for the future thanks to AJ.

    Ray Davis got the start again as Painter went small.  While he only had five points in 28 minutes, he pulled down seven rebounds, second on the team to only AJ's eight.  Playing with the starters, Davis likely won't have as many scoring opportunities (he only took two shots), but it was nice seeing him do lots of little things and play strong defense.

    Byrd got a lot of praise for his four second-half three pointers, but he still shot just 4 for 10 on the day.  He missed all five of his first-half attempts, including three misses in less than two minutes.  Purdue needs him to be a three point threat, so consider me happy he's making some, but the cold stretches are still concerning.  If he didn't get hot later in the game, the Nebraska comeback could have gotten really ugly.

    I know Painter is seeing how well the small line up works, but where did Jacob Lawson go?  My favorite energy guy and physical defender only saw five minutes of action.  We'll need him badly against more physical Big Ten teams, so I hope nothing's wrong, be it physically or with his attitude or work ethic in practice.
    My pet peeve: Hale and Carroll on the court at the same time
    Purdue held Nebraska to 33% shooting, which is fantastic (and they didn't miss as many easy layups as Penn State this weekend), but they only forced two turnovers (Purdue gave it away 12 times).  That, coupled with giving up 13 offensive rebounds are the only stats that really concern me.  A lot of that had to with the Boilers having stints where they lost a bit of hustle, either staring at the shot instead of crashing the glass or not making life hard enough for whatever Husker had the ball.  As a result, Purdue only had a single steal on the night.

    While the team missed four straight free throws down the stretch (including one front-end of a 1 and 1), prior to that they were shooting well (9 of 12).  Still, seeing Ronnie, Terone, and DJ all miss opportunities to secure the victory is frustrating, but fortunately the lead was large enough where it wasn't necessary.
    Quit trying to lick Terone!

    Purdue now stands at 3-2 in conference play, having played three "top-tier" teams (Michigan State, Ohio State, and Illinois) and two lower teams (Penn State and Nebraska), so their record isn't improperly weighted like some).  I'm pretty satisfied with that result so far and think there are going to be some fun surprises in conference play over the next few weeks.  If the Boilers can stay poised to take advantage, a chance at post-season play seems more feasible.

    Wednesday, January 16, 2013

    Basketball Preview: Purdue at Nebraska - January 16th - 9:00 pm - BTN

    Even though Nebraska joined the Big Ten in 2011, Purdue fans can be excused for not remembering that Lincoln, Nebraska is located in the Big Ten footprint.  It's 2013, yet tonight marks the FIRST time that a Purdue football or men's basketball team has made the trek to Lincoln to play a Big Ten game.  Purdue is the last Big Ten school to visit Lincoln in the two big revenue sports and is only ahead of Northwestern when it comes to appearing at the Devaney Center.

    Regardless of whether it seems like a Big Ten game or not, this is almost a must-win if Purdue wants to make a last ditch effort at the Tourney.  So crack open a beer...it's going to be a late one tonight!

    Boiler Fans - let me introduce you to Nebraska
    Why Purdue Will Win
    Nebraska hasn't beat anyone in the RPI top-100 and will most likely battle Penn State for last place in the Big Ten.  The Devaney Center is not a basketball mecca by any means, and remember that Purdue does have a true road win (against Clemson) this season.  Also, while Nebraska typically starts 6-10 Brandon Ubel and 6-11, 314 pound GIANT Andre Almeida, Purdue is one of the few teams in the country that can match up height-wise.  If the Boilers get either one in foul trouble and Ray Gallegos continues to shoot under 30% on his 8.1 3-pt attempts per game, Purdue should win in an ugly one.

    Why Nebraska Will Win
    Yes, Gallegos takes 8.1 3-pointers per game and only makes 29.9% of them.  If they start falling tonight, Purdue's in for a real battle.  Almeida doesn't have a lot of skill on the offensive end, but the combination of him and Ubel could force Hammons into foul trouble.  On top of this, I haven't even mentioned the Cornhuskers' best player in Dylan Talley.  Nebraska may not have any big wins, but their RPI is surprisingly good at 62.  This is a sneaky team that has the capability of pulling this one out at home.

    One thing you absolutely need to know before the game 
    This doesn't have anything to do with the game, but if you haven't read it yet, you absolutely must read the Deadspin story about Manti Te'o and how his girlfriend who died of Leukemia never actually existed.  It was a big hoax and Te'o had to have been in on it (Right???  I mean, he couldn't have ever met her!).  Funny how word of her "dying" happened right around the time the Heisman talk started to heat up. What a huge, lying, stinking piece of crap.  From Notre Dame.  Man I hate those guys.

    Our Picks - We like to think we're better than Vegas.  So throughout the season, we'll be "betting" a whole dollar amount versus the spread between $1 and $32, but we can't repeat the same value twice. The spread for this game is Purdue by 1.5.

    Erik's Bet: $2
    Erik's Pick: Purdue 55 - Nebraska 53

    Kirk's Bet: $14
    Kirk's Pick: Purdue 62 - Penn State 5 (edit: nice typo Erik, and boy was I close, Penn State didn't score ANY points against the Boilers tonight!  Original prediction was Purdue 62 - Nebraska 57)

    Erik +219 (14-4 Against The Spread)
    Kirk -153 (6-12 Against The Spread)

    Values already bet
    Erik 2, 3, 6, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 17, 21, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 30, 31, 32
    Kirk 14, 15,16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32

    BOILER UP!!!!

    Basketball Recap: Purdue 60 - Penn State 42

    Games like these are great when you're swamped at work and trying to write a short recap during lunch.  Much easier to quickly talk about a blowout win than try to write a brief synopsis of why I hate all refs.  You all know I can't keep those brief.

    A couple observations from the game:
    - Rapheal Davis got the start after the small lineup appeared to make headway versus Ohio State.  Over the years, small lineups have been Matt Painter's bread and butter due to injuries - could this be the lineup that he sticks with the rest of the year?  However, it was very evident that the big lineup wasn't out there as Purdue ended up getting outrebounded on the offensive glass - a rare occasion so far this year.  It's a give and take, although I think I like having another potential scorer and lock down defender out there.

    - Anthony Johnson took a couple of hard hits and was really laboring in the first half.  He still played 21 minutes, but for someone who takes most of his shots from inside the lane, we really need him to start shooting better than 33% from the field (he's shot 33% in each of the last four games).

    - As the radio play-by-play guy of the Cleveland Indians over the last 20 years, Tom Hamilton might be my favorite announcer.  The excitement he gets in his voice while still painting the picture for the viewer/listener is unmatched in broadcasting (Gus Johnson gets excited but usually speaks gibberish while he's doing it).  I'm such a big fan that I even have his bobblehead.  Unfortunately, he gets so excited about having a game go down to the wire that he can often grind on fans of the favorite (ie. "THEY'VE CUT THE LEAD TO 15, STILL 5 MINUTES TO GO!!!").  This happened on Sunday.  Yes, Brandon Taylor made a 50-foot shot at the end of the half to cut the lead to 8.  It was a good shot.  But "all the momentum" did not shift to Penn State on that shot.  Plus EVERY time Taylor touched the ball, that's all he could talk about.  If I had time, I would have loved to count the times that shot was mentioned.  I bet it was at least 50.  Let it go already!  Although there admittedly wasn't much exciting to talk about in the second half.


    - On a similar note, check out the halftime stat posted by BTN below.  Yes, it appears that Taylor not only took 11 threes in the first half, but also had one of them count as two baskets!  Not sure how 4/11 FG and 3/11 3-PT FG is possible, but it didn't matter to BTN as they had the graphic up for a good 10 seconds.

    Nice win, Boilers...needed that one.

    Saturday, January 12, 2013

    Basketball Preview: Purdue vs. Penn State - January 13th - 12:00 pm - BTN

    After a tough loss to Ohio State, the Boilers look to regain some form against Penn State on Sunday.  The killer first three-game stretch of the season is over, and Purdue was able to get one win in a series that favored three consecutive losses.  That's something, and now the Boilers can build some confidence against some of the lesser teams in the conference.  I just hope those "lesser teams" don't include Purdue moving forward.

    The Nittany Lion enjoys pointing and laughing at Penn State players, too

    Why Purdue Will Win
    The Tim Frazier-less Nittany Lions aren't very good and only averaging 52 points per game in conference play.  That bodes well for a Boilermaker squad that sometimes has trouble scoring.  Just like Purdue, Penn State also shoots poorly and can be a bit turnover prone.  So basically they are Purdue-lite.  Add that to the fact that there's no one on their roster who can handle AJ Hammons, and this shouldn't be a difficult game for Purdue.  There's definitely the opportunity for a big blowout (check out Erik's prediction below) and a ridiculous number of Boiler points in the paint.

    Why Penn State Will Win
    Playing on the road, I honestly don't give Penn State much of a chance in this came.  And I mean like less than 5%, which is pretty sad since it's not like Purdue is a powerhouse.  The Lions only stand a chance if they can get Hammons in foul trouble, have an uncharacteristically amazing game shooting from the outside, and force Purdue into lots of sloppy turnovers.  They need all three of those things to happen, too, that's how rough this game may be for PSU.  But hey, stranger things have happened.

    One thing you absolutely need to know before the game 
    Despite the early season turnover problems of a young team, Purdue is now second in the Big Ten in turnover margin, winning the battle +2.67 per game (second to Wisconsin).  And that's all against some of the top teams in the conference. Penn State is worst in the conference at -5.67.  I'm expecting lots of fast break points and streaking layups/dunks for Purdue on Sunday, which is always very fun to watch!

    Our Picks - We like to think we're better than Vegas.  So throughout the season, we'll be "betting" a whole dollar amount versus the spread between $1 and $32, but we can't repeat the same value twice. The spread for this game is Purdue by 11.

    Erik's Bet: $24
    Erik's Pick: Purdue 74 - Penn State 54

    Kirk's Bet: $15
    Kirk's Pick: Purdue 70 - Penn State 60 (edit: I had to tweak this from 11 to avoid matching the spread)

    Erik +195 (13-4 Against The Spread)
    Kirk -138 (6-11 Against The Spread)

    Values already bet
    Erik 3, 6, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 17, 21, 23, 25, 26, 27, 28, 30, 31, 32
    Kirk 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32

    BOILER UP!!!!

    Big Ten Basketball Power Rankings - Conference Season #1

    We're three games into the Big Ten conference season, so it's time for another Power Rankings.  Now that things have heated up, I'll be sure post a weekly list where hopefully Purdue avoids the cellar.  The start of conference play has seen only a few upsets (the largest being thanks to the Boilers), so there hasn't been too much movement since December.

    On to the rankings, where ugly shades of yellow are so hot right now and the bottom half of the conference pathetically stays the same.

    C'mon, there's no way we deserve to be this good man!
    1.   Michigan (16-0, 3-0, RPI: 5) [Last week's rank: 1]

    Since the last rankings, Michigan has wins at Northwestern and at home against Iowa and Nebraska, and all were blow outs.  Of course, all were against some of the conference's bottom teams (Iowa's only good at home apparently), so we haven't learned anything new about the Wolverines.  They are undefeated but face two huge tests this week: at Ohio State and at Minnesota. If they can win both those games, I'll be penciling them in for a #1 seed in March.

    2.   Minnesota (15-1, 3-0, RPI: 3) [Last week's rank: 5]

    I'm really surprised how good the Gophers have been so far, with wins recently against Michigan State, Northwestern, and at Illinois, they may shock the world and surpass Michigan and Indiana by the time the season ends.  How are they doing it?  Lots of talent, lots of rebounding, lots of defense, and efficient shooting.  What can stop them?  A penchant for turnovers and, of course, being Minnesota.

    3.   Indiana (14-1, 2-0, RPI: 13) [Last week's rank: 3]

    The Hoosiers have only had two conference games so far, narrowly winning at Iowa but destroying the Nittany Lions on the road.  That's not a bad start, but again, it's one that hasn't seen them face a real test.  I'm amazed any time they don't break 80 points, since with so much offensive fire power, that's a sign something is majorly wrong.  Maybe it's just a road vs. home thing, but we'll find out this weekend when Indiana hosts Minnesota.  Some home cooking could really build their resume, but I'll be rooting for the Bucktooths, and I do mean Tubby.

    4.   Michigan State (13-3, 2-1, RPI: 21) [Last week's rank: 6]

    The Spartans are good, but not remotely great.  Gary Harris is the real deal, and Brandon Dawson is the biggest jerk in the conference (you're welcome Derek Elston).  I can't write anything else complimentary about them, because I've lost a lot of respect for Tom Izzo.

    5.   Ohio State (12-3, 2-1, RPI: 39) [Last week's rank: 4]

    After getting routed by Illinois and having a tough fight against Purdue, OSU's road gets even tougher as they face Michigan and Michigan State this week.  Seeing a team that could barely win a game while shooting 20% better than their opponent leaves a lot of doubt that the Buckeyes can hang with the big boys this season.  And just for good measure, Aaron Craft is a punk.

    6.   Illinois (14-3, 1-2, RPI: 14) [Last week's rank: 2]

    I mentioned last time that Illinois always seems to have a knack for starting hot and then playing inconsistently once conference play begins, and of course they played to their role this season.  After a big upset loss at Purdue, the Illini crushed Ohio State at home but followed that up with a huge loss at home to Minnesota.  Still bipolar as ever.  Which team will show up at Wisconsin this weekend, and better yet, which version of Brandon Paul?  Probably the bad one that got Bruce Weber fired.

    7.   Iowa (11-5, 0-3, RPI: 92) [Last week's rank: 7]

    The Hawkeyes had nearly the roughest start to the conference season imaginable, with games against Indiana, Michigan, and Michigan State.  All losses, but both their home battles were incredibly close.  Despite the poor record, I still expect Iowa to finish in the middle of the conference and to make up ground as their schedule gets lighter.

    8.   Wisconsin (11-4, 2-0, RPI: 83) [Last week's rank: 8]

    Wisconsin still hasn't been challenged, with wins against Penn State and Nebraska, but they're doing what they need to do - beating the bad teams.  Opponents this week are Illinois and Indiana, and six of their next seven opponents are ranked.  I see the potential for Bo Ryan's head to explode (or he may bite the head off a live bat in a fit of rage) if the Badgers can't muster their distinct home court advantage this season.

    9.  Purdue (7-8, 1-2, RPI: 149) [Last week's rank: 9]

    Thanks to the big upset over Illinois, the Boilers look more respectable than their resume.  They've played great halves against Michigan State and Ohio State, too, but half a game won't cut it in the Big Ten.  They better beat Penn State and Nebraska this week or the glimmer of hope will fade away.

    10.  Northwestern (10-6, 1-2, RPI: 86) [Last week's rank: 10]

    With tough blowout losses to Michigan and Minnesota, the Wildcats will probably lose to all the good teams but still have enough tricks up their sleeve to contend against the bottom half of the conference.  Even so, I only predict three more conference wins for Northwestern since they'll be at a huge talent disadvantage against everyone other than Penn State and Nebraska (and they only get to play Nebraska once).

    11.   Penn State (8-7, 0-3, RPI: 147) [Last week's rank: 11]

    I still feel bad for Penn State after losing Tim Frazier for the season.  He was fun to watch and gave them a chance in any game.  Instead, they lose to teams like Northwestern by 16 points at home.  Ugly. Purdue better destroy them on Sunday or else Painter should start using co-rec players as punishment.

    12.  Nebraska (9-7, 0-3, RPI: 65) [Last week's rank: 12]

    How on earth is Nebraska's RPI still so high?  They haven't won a game since December, aren't competitive against ranked teams, and are barely over .500.  Sometimes the RPI doesn't make sense, and I don't see how they even get to three conference wins this year.  Do I rip on these Corn Jerkers unjustly?  Probably, but I think we can all agree that you always hope to see them twice on the schedule each season.  Irony being Purdue only gets to face them once.

    Friday, January 11, 2013

    Basketball Recap: Ohio State 74 - Purdue 64

    Why is writing about these losses so dang hard?  You can tell Erik and I take our dear time to process what went wrong when the Boilers aren't victorious, and if you read his recap of the Michigan State game, you'll see why.  It could be appropriate to start this post again complaining about poor officiating, but the last thing we want is to be known as "those guys who always blame it on the refs."  And honestly, I used to be far worse than Erik, and I'm still pretty bad (it's that whole injustice thing), but while the officiating was horrible again, sometimes it went Purdue's way and often it didn't.  Them's the breaks.
    Not a foul, huh?
    Instead, the Boilers lost by ten to Ohio State for a variety of other reasons that they can actually control in the future:

    • It's hard to win games when you're missing layups and shots in the paint

      • I can't find any stats on the topic, but Purdue had to miss at least half of their shots within two feet of the basket.  A few more converted layups and this game is very, very different down the stretch.  Remember, the OSU lead was only six points with just under three minutes to play.  That's also a time frame where Purdue didn't score a single point.  As frustrating as the outside shooting woes have been this season, I didn't expect missing layups to be this big a problem.  It's just another piece of evidence on how Purdue can do most things correctly, but still make simple mistakes (often out of youth) that make it all for naught.
    • It's hard to win games when critical players get in foul trouble
      • Before the game even started (by the way, what a horrible jump ball toss.  My grandma could have executed that better) I commented to my buddy that we were toast if Hammons OR Lawson got in foul trouble.  People often talk about Hammons needing to stay on the court as our only decent option at center, but Lawson is just as critical at the four spot.  When Lawson picked up his second foul less than four minutes into the game, I knew Purdue was in trouble.  Lawson's energy and defensive prowess are critical to this team, especially against physical teams (no matter their actual size).  It went down hill quickly (even with OSU losing Craft to foul trouble), and it then escalated when Hammons had to sit eight minutes into the game.
      • I don't like picking on players, but I have to be honest.  Carroll and Hale cannot be in the game at the same time.  They provide almost nothing offensively and played horrible defense.  Hale missed his only two attempts, and both were getting burned inside playing Olé defense.  Slow and plodding won't cut it in the Big Ten.  Thankfully after a couple minutes (where the deficit peaked at nine points), Painter realized the same thing and brought Lawson back in even with his two fouls.  Still, I was screaming for Painter to insert Marcius for Carroll, even though he hadn't played any meaningful minutes since the Lamar game (and that was a blowout, so he had basically been benched since the NYC trip).  My buddy thought I was crazy.
      • While I'm writing about what went wrong in the game, let me reserve this space for giving a great deal of respect to Chooch.  I begged for him amid laughter from my peers, and then the Croatian Sensation did me proud.  In his first minute on the floor, Sandi had two steals, an assist, and an offensive rebound.  Someone was fired up for playing time!  I know offensively he can look goofy and he airballed a contested over-the-shoulder put-back attempt later on, but I'm not asking for him to be a star.  I'm asking for him to do something, nay anything, to help the team while Hammons gets a rest.  Carroll sure wasn't.  Over the eight minutes Marcius played in the first half, the OSU lead leveled off, with the Buckeyes only scoring eight points during that time on three jump shots and a free throw.  His final stat line was two points, four rebounds (two offensive), three steals, and one assist in eleven minutes of action.
      • Due to Hale's poor play, Painter ended up using Ray Davis at the four spot, and he, much like Chooch, put in a great performance.  He played physical defense, went three for three shooting with a steal, and attacked the basket.  There's so much potential with Davis if he could show more consistency, but hopefully we see more of him in the rotation and less of Hale.
      • And we thought Purdue's depth in the front court was going to be a strength this season, yikes! At least Hammons and Lawson have a lot of years left.
    Chooch blocking the passing lane
    • It's hard to win games when you don't play as physical as the other team
      • Against Illinois, Purdue played 40 minutes of high intensity basketball and tenacious defense.  Against MSU, we saw some of it, but not for the entire game, and when certain calls went against Purdue, the life went out of the Boiler sails.  The same happened this week.  During stretches of the first half and down the stretch, it sometimes looked like no one wearing gold wanted to be on the court.  I don't care what personnel are in the game at that time, everyone can play with intensity and physicality.  Just ask Chooch.
    • It's hard to win games when you can't shoot from outside
      • Purdue almost shot the three ball (38%) better than from elsewhere (39%), which is pretty disappointing.  It seemed like they missed every long two-point attempt, and Terone missed all three of his three-pointers.
      • To make matters worse, Ohio State shot over 56% from the field, which if you had told me that stat going into the game, I wouldn't have given the Boilers any chance of victory
    • It's hard to win games when you don't take advantage of mismatches
      • I would have thought getting Craft in early foul trouble less than five minutes into the game would have been an asset, but a one-point deficit became a fourteen point hole.  I referenced some reasons why the Boilers couldn't stop the Buckeyes from scoring above, but to falter so poorly offensively when the conference's "best" defender was on the bench for such a long stretch is disgraceful.
      • For a stretch of the second half, Painter went small with four guards and Hammons in the game, and the offense really started to click.  Making that adjustment would have been nice in the first half when the team was hemorrhaging points, but hopefully it was a good experiment that will help the Boilers win games down the road.
    • It's hard to win games when you don't use your head
      • Either this team needs higher basketball IQ or there's a competition in the locker room to see who can shoot the most times per game.  Those are the only reasons for guys like DJ and the Johnsons taking really bad shots so early in the shot clock.  When you're offense struggles (and you have difficulty making deep shots), it means you need to work harder running the motion.  Things can eventually open up, but missing quick shots ruins a potential easier scoring opportunity while wearing you out by forcing you to get back on defense and exhaust 30 seconds of energy.  Make the opponent work for the stops!  There was a period in the second half where the offense was clicking incredibly well and getting the Boilers easy looks inside.  If only that had happened in the first half, the outcome may have been different.
      • If the refs are calling a foul for even breathing on Aaron Craft, figure out another way to stop him, including getting him back in foul trouble by driving at him.  I did appreciate on thing Dan Dakich said during the broadcast (and the only interesting thing he said): Aaron Craft told him he commits a foul every defensive possession, but the refs can't call them all.  So true, punk.

    I also have to comment about moving screens.  Like holding calls in football, they are one of my biggest pet peeves in the college game because some teams seem to constantly commit the foul, only to never (or rarely) be called.  It's a distinct advantage to play (and coach) that way if the refs aren't going to call it (just like holding).  I was thrilled to see one (or two?) call on OSU in the first half (and one on Purdue?), but then the whistle stopped being blown, and I have no idea why.  They were horrible, and they seem to always be when playing OSU and certain other teams.  In the second half, I don't think Amir Williams set a single clean pick.  It's hard for man defense to fight around a screen that keeps shifting illegally, so it puts the Boilers at a distinct disadvantage.

    Overall, this was a game we all expected to lose three weeks ago, so let's not get all bent out of shape.  Yes, it was a horrible missed opportunity, but this season Purdue is playing more for development than any actual post-season prize.  Hopefully games like this will just make the team more determined and hungrier to win in the future and they can work on the things outlined above.

    Boiler Up!

    p.s. the gold and black stripes in Mackey looked awesome!