Going into Saturday afternoon Boilermaker fans don't know exactly what to expect. They expect the starting five to be the usual and the team as a whole to play hard, but how will the game unfold? This is the first road game (I don't consider playing in Puerto Rico to be a road game; I don't think you do either) for the Boilers this year, and it happens to arise when Xavier is an undefeated 6-0 and recently survived a tough road test at Vanderbilt earlier in the week.
Purdue is in a tough position.
Xavier is not only playing well, they have one of the best guards in the country in Tu Holloway, who's averaging 17.3 points per game. It is reasonable to assume that our best defender, Kelsey Barlow, will defend the versatile guard.
What's surprising about the Musketeers, however, is that Tu isn't even the leading scorer on the team. That honor goes to Mark Lyons, who's averaging an impressive 18 points a contest, also a guard.
Purdue will have a tough time with these guards - as they have notoriously struggled with defending great guards, specifically last year against Virginia Commonwealth University - and in turn will have to play great basketball to win in Cincinnati.
7 footer Kevin Frease - weighing in at a mere 280 pounds - is also talented and experienced ( something, that something being experience in the front court, we lack). Will Painter stick with a steady three man rotation for the 5, or will he give minutes to the most productive player? I think some of the times Painter gets so infatuated with depth and having players fresh, that he substitutes players in and out sometimes without noticing their productivity on the floor. I understand that with our pressure defense, players get tired fast, but put in the player that's playing the best. It seems obvious to me. I could be wrong, but that's my opinion. I, for most of the year, have liked Lawson at the 5, as he gives us production, alongside unmatched athleticism. I think Purdue should be keeping him in there longer than the minutes he's been given. I give the first off the bench to Maricus and sit Carroll. I just don't think he is Big Ten material. I just don't.
I think what Purdue needs to do is simple: Let Lewis Jackson run the show and give him the freedom to make plays; have our aggressive guards in Terone and A.J. drive the basket; allow Smith to shoot the open threes, as that is a quality shot ( he will begin to get hot again; I can feel it); give way to Hummel and let him do his thing; and finally, make our bigs play with energy and confidence - with no fear.
We do that, and play defense, we should be fine. Again, this will be Purdue's toughest match-up of the year, facing the 11th ranked Musketeers, but I have a feeling Purdue will show up and impress some people.