|I'm on a horse. I smell like crap. Literally.|
Not to be too pessimistic, but the Boilers chances on Thursday look pretty bleak. While this year's team is definitely stronger than last year's, narrow wins against Northern Kentucky, Rider, and Siena don't bode well against a team that's beaten their opponents by an average of 38 points this season. And that includes OSU's smallest victory of 21 points against a highly ranked Memphis team.
Marcus Smart, who surprised many of us with his decision to stay in school for his sophomore season and pass up a chance at being the number one overall pick (would Cleveland have done that Erik? Better than the garbage you drafted instead!) to join the loaded 2014 draft class, is an outstanding player. He dropped 39 points against Memphis and he can do far more, forcing steals, pulling in rebounds, and dishing it out.
So how can Purdue stop him? The Boilers need to do something former Purdue teams excelled at but this team seems to have trouble grasping - play some freaking defense! If the game turns into a track meet, the good guys have little shot, as Oklahoma State is simply more talented and offensively prolific. But if the guards can cause some havoc for Smart and slow him down even a little, they may make the game interesting.
The Boilers also have a size advantage, as OSU features a lot of hybrid guard-forwards, but not as much height. Of course they are still incredibly athletic and while Purdue's rebounding against inferior-sized teams has left much to be desired this season, if the Boilers can box out and control the glass and clog the paint, it will help. Though with the new officiating rules, I still expect to see a lot of poorly guarded layups (ugh, I hate these new rules).
Purdue needs AJ Hammons to look like the player who wants to be an NBA draft pick, because right now he doesn't. Against EIU Hammons only had nine points, and he put up 12 against Siena, but mostly on free throws. Those aren't horrible stats, and he was often getting double-teamed, but AJ needs to turn his motor up and realize he's playing on a national stage for tons of scouts. If that can't drive a kid with such ambitions, I don't know what can.
Speaking of motors, maybe Bryson Scott can be the Kramer-esque x-factor in this battle, causing grief for Smart and putting up points on the other end. As a bit of a surprise, Scott had two huge games last week, leading the team in scoring (14 and 16 points efficiently) and assists in each. He's certainly earned more playing time, although with Ronnie also playing well, it may mean some interesting lineups featuring both (but please Painter, keep some shooters out there with them!).
Finally, another thing Purdue has going for it is the recent suspension of OSU freshman point guard Stevie Clark from the team. I'm not sure what the situation is, but Clark was a decent player. This could change how the Cowboys run their offense and rotations, but honestly, it's not as key as you'd think since without Clark earlier this week, OSU still beat South Florida by 26 points.
Give me more Old Spice!
If Purdue wins, they'll play the winner of Butler vs. Washington State on Friday (and if they lose, they play the loser). Either way, I'm hoping to play the Cougars since Purdue faces Butler in a couple weeks anyway. As long as the Boilers don't lose both games, they'll play a third game on Sunday.
Line: OK State - 13.5
Erik: Oklahoma State 82 - Purdue 72
Kirk: Oklahoma State 93 - Purdue 75