Saturday, January 7, 2012

Must win in Minny?

When Purdue blew out Illinois to go 2-0 in the conference a week ago, there was commotion of a possible Big Ten championship in the making. Granted, it was a long shot, but with the way Purdue looked in the second half of that game, it didn't look impossible. Especially with a favorable start to the conference schedule and every team already having one loss, expect for Michigan State.

But with an unexpected and almost embarrassing blowout loss to one of worst teams in the Big Ten, Penn State, expectations have suddenly wavered and questions about whether this team can make the big dance are prominent.

It isn't just because it lost at Penn State. Sure, over the period of a grueling, competitive season there are games where you just don't play your best.  Purdue fans, for the most part, can accept that, and with the loss of Moore and Johnson to the NBA and a star player returning to competitive play after two knee surgeries, fans understood this year would have more than a couple of those games.

What it didn't expect was for a Purdue team to get outfought, outworked, and outmatched for an entire game. It wasn't that Purdue lost, it was how they lost that got a lot of Purdue fans upset and concerned about the future of this team.

Well, it doesn't have much time to think about their performance on Thursday as they visit Minnesota Sunday. A Gophers team that, at 12-4 and 0-3 in the conference, are fighting for their tournament lives. A loss for Minnesota Sunday would put them winless through four conference games and seemingly out of post-season contention.

Conference road games in the Big Ten are tough, no doubt, but even more tough is a road game against a desperate team. That's exactly what Minnesota is right now: Desperate.

To a lesser extent so is Purdue. After taking a trip to the Barn, Purdue faces seven ranked teams in its final fourteen games that include road games at Michigan Sate, Ohio State, Michigan and Indiana.  It's tough to say Sunday is a must-win, but Purdue better play like it is.

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