Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Boilers face Hawkeyes in Big Ten opener

Well, its felt like forever since the last Purdue basketball game a week ago, but with the Big Ten season opening tomorrow for the Boilers, the season is about to kick into high gear.

Matt Painter faces a tough conference season ahead 
Purdue opens up conference play at Iowa Wednesday night and coming off a week break, the Boilers don't want to have a letdown like they experienced against the Hawkeyes late last season. If you remember, Purdue rolled into Carver-Hawkeye arena riding a 7-game winning steak, looking to solidify a number two seed in the NCAA tournament, only to see a less-talented Iowa squad send them into a season-ending tailspin that made the Boilers finish their season losing three of their last four.

I'm sure Boilermaker fans want to forget that one.

It's a new season and a new team for the Boilers, however.

With their inability to close out games late, Purdue, standing at 10-3 for the season, travels to Iowa City with something to prove.  Will they be one of the top four teams in the Big Ten and contend with the Ohio State's of the world, or will they take a step back and struggle to make the NCAA tournament?

It starts Wednesday night.

As proven by last year's debacle against Iowa, no games in the Big Ten can be taken for granted and facing a Hawkeye team that has struggled so far this year, going 8-5 in the non-conference, the same can be said for this game.

Basabe poses match-up problems 
Under his second year at the helm, coach Fran McCaffery's team definitely throws some match-up problems at Purdue. With Purdue's inexperienced and sometimes unproductive frontline, sophomore power forward Melsahn Basabe could be a handful.

Basabe is averaging 9.5 points and 6 rebounds in just 22 minutes. With Center Sandi Marcius still ailing from injury, freshman Jacob Lawson is expected to get his second career start. Part of the reason Matt Painter and Purdue recruited Lawson was for situations just like this. Painter not only wanted to get his frontline more athletic and versatile, but he wanted to be able to match up with the rest of the Big Ten as well. Here's a chance for the freshman to prove what he can do, just 13 games into his career at Purdue.

The Hawkeyes spread out their minutes similar to the Boilers, getting a total of nine players more than 10 minutes a game, with their leading scorer Matt Gatens (14 a game) leading the team at about 32 minutes per game. With a beaten up Boiler team (Marcius and LJ), this could be something to take into account late in the game.

This game has the makings of a no-win situation for Purdue. If you win, well great, you beat a mediocre team that lost at home to Campbell by 16. If you lose, well, it would be a tough reality check for where Purdue might be headed this season.

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