Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Seeding Critical

With Purdue's impressive road win against then thirteen ranked Michigan on Saturday it seems all but certain the Boilers will make the tournament come March.

It seemed all but certain Vincent Edwards would verbally commit to Purdue.

But in all seriousness, Purdue does look like its secured in the tournament, now it is just a matter of where it will be seeded.

If every scenario is considered, it looks like Purdue could finish anywhere from a 6 seed to an 11 seed. Not sure if a win on Wednesday night pushes them closer to a 6, but a loss it would definitely push them closer to an 11. For Purdue, the difficult matchups arise when it falls into that 7-11 range. If it wins the first round game in this situation, the Boilers would have to face a number 1 or 2 seed in the second round. The chances that Purdue could beat a 1 or 2 seed are obviously less likely than facing a 3 seed. Some of the size that the potential 1 and 2 seeds possess would be simply too much for Purdue to handle. Imagine Purdue trying to guard Anthony Davis from Kentucky. Uhhh...not gonna happen.

As seen in years past, seeding and matchups are important, maybe even more important than the talent of the team itself. Purdue doesn't want to face a matchup problem similar to the one it faced in 07-08 against UConn and Hasheem Thabeet.

Purdue just needs to keep winning and building confidence that it can win games like the one on Saturday. The Boilers have displayed that if they play together, attack the basket and knock down perimeter shots, they can play with the top echelon of teams.

And how about fans actually show up to senior night and show support to three players, namely one, that really propelled this basketball program to another level. I'm talking to you, Paint Crew.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Not So Fast

The 6-foot-6-inch high school sophomore Vincent Edwards is backing off his messages on twitter that more than indicated he would verbally commit to Purdue.

Obviously, any message that involves teenagers and twitter needs to be taken with a grain of salt, but it was pretty blatant that he was going to verbal to Purdue.

From his, "I got some news for coach @MicahShrews"(Assistant coach Micah Shrewsberry) tweet, to his mom changing her twitter handle to @futureboilermom. And on top of that, all the #BoilerNation mentions.

But as soon as the public and Purdue fans got wind of all of this, Edwards was just as fast to deny that he was committing to Purdue, at least as of now.

He tweeted these messages early Monday morning:

"Just to set the record straight I have not made a commit to anywhere don't get me wrong I like Purdue but all  this out hand and 2 much"

"Purdue is a great school don't get me wrong but I'm still young and have not made a commitment yet this is getting way out of hand"

"If I make a commitment I will let you guys know but I have not made a commitment to Purdue"

The sophomore from Middletown, OH., is reportedly averaging around 15 points and 12 rebounds for the season and is regarded as one of, if not the best player in his class from Ohio.

Obviously it's very early, but it does add to a frustrating list of recruiting struggles in the past 6 months or so for Purdue. Could it be due to some pressure from people in Ohio similar to Derek Willis and Kentucky? Who knows and it doesn't do much good to just speculate.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Boilers, Byrd and Booted Barlow

Let's first talk about Kelsey Barlow.

What happened Friday morning at Where Else? Bar is definitely unfortunate, but not overly surprising.

Kelsey Barlow's career at Purdue was a roller coaster. Since his freshman year he played a fairly significant role on a Boilers team that lacked ultra-athleticism, something Barlow was known for throughout his career.

The soon to be senior was always a shutdown defender for Purdue, but entering the home stretch of his junior season, Barlow was starting to show the offensive potential that everyone thought he possessed, and questions about Barlow being a future NBA player were starting to surface. Whether those questions were appropriate, who knows, Barlow will provide an answer to them as he moves forward with his career and life, but he did mean a lot to this Purdue team on the court as far as productivity. His ability to guard multiple positions made him one of Purdue's most important assets. At 6-foot-five-inches, Barlow could play the point, but he could also guard the '4' for Purdue. Something that Purdue was starting to do more and more as the season progressed. Going with that small lineup that is, and it was really paying off for Purdue. Coming off a big road win against a struggling Illinois team, Purdue had won two in a row and almost beat the #3 ranked team on the road as well. Purdue was playing well and looked to be gelling at the same time.

But then this whole thing happened. I'm not going to get into any speculation because I don't know anything more than anyone else. But the events of Friday morning explain the key problem behind Barlow's career at Purdue: bad decisions. The undisclosed suspension last March, the bar incident, and from multiple reports, several other events that went unreported to the public. I think fans were always drooling at a what if scenario: What if he adopted and implemented the character,decision-making and determination of Purdue star Robbie Hummel. I certainly thought about it. What type of player would he be then? Has he ever really realized what type of player he can be? I don't think so. The potential of Barlow is undeniable and hopefully he can realize it and seize it somewhere else. It just hurts that it comes at Purdue's expense.

As for D.J. well, there isn't much to say. Byrd has always been a guy who has had high character and someone that is respected by his teammates. Did he make a mistake? Sure. But most college kids do, but I'm willing to bet he will come back more focused and more driven than ever. He is a Boilermaker.

What does all this mean for Purdue? Well, it has many implications this year and going on into next year with an extremely young team. For this year, Purdue will have to adjust its lineup. The versatile, athletic defender is not here anymore and it will hurt. It looks like, from watching the game against the Spartans on Sunday, Purdue will have to implement a bigger lineup. Perhaps that was in response to Michigan State's powerful frontcourt, but if you look at it, the small lineup might not work anymore, Purdue would actually be too small. Barlow's length is something that will be missed. So that means other players need to step up in his departure. Anthony Johnson showed some flashes of a previous top 50 recruit Sunday and he needs to continue to improve off that. I think we're at a point in time where we know what we're going to get from our frontline - not much. Hummel will get his, but when it comes to Carroll, Lawson and Marcius, there just isn't much hope for this season in my mind. Sure they all do some good things, but from an offensive standpoint all of them are liabilities. It comes down to what Matt Painter wants to do. We can sacrifice offense for some height on the defensive end, or we can sacrifice a huge height disadvantage defensively for some much need offense. I think it's safe to say that Painter can't go with four guards, all under 6-foot-five-inches and Hummel. It would just be too hard. But then again we'll see. It will depend on match-ups obviously.

There's not doubt about it: the loss of Kelsey Barlow from the events that happened Friday morning will affect not just the rest of this season, but next year as well. It could be the difference in making the tournament this year and the next. Ryne Smith has recently said that he thinks the loss of Barlow is addition by subtraction. While I think that may be true off the court and with the chemistry of this team, I have a hard time believing this team will be better off on the court without him.

Purdue has a must-win game against Nebraska Wednesday night. We'll see what comes out of all of this.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Considerable Importance in Champaign

Wednesday night has all the variables for a complete battle.

Illinois (16-9, 5-7 in conference) is in the middle of a season-ending tailspin, with six losses in its past seven games. With road games still remaining against Ohio State and Wisconsin, the Illini are in a similar situation to Purdue. If  Illinois loses those two games - chances are it will given the difficulty of playing at both venues - that means it would have to win its remaining games to break even in the Big Ten at 9-9. That would include the game against Purdue. In my opinion, this game is an elimination game for Bruce Weber's squad, and maybe for the coach himself, who has been on the hotseat of late.

For Purdue (16-9, 6-6 in conference), the implications of the game in Champaign are definitely important, but probably not at the level of Illinois. If everyone is making the presumption that a 9-9 record in the number one RPI conference will get you into the tournament, Purdue needs to go 3-3 in its last six games. That would put them at 19-12 going into the BTT. One win and one loss would put them at 20-13. Again, I'm not sure if this gets them in - it's tough to say. But with games remaining at Indiana and Michigan and home against Michigan State, the importance of Wednesday night's game looms large.

Purdue certainly has been playing better of late. With its great performance in a loss in Columbus and beating Northwestern on Sunday, it looks like the Boilermakers are trending in the right direction. But with the inconsistency of this team throughout the year, nothing is really ever as good as it seems. Purdue has been shooting well of late, and shooting, one of the components that makes any team excel, is something that Purdue relies on more than other teams. With the amount of perimeter shots attempted, Purdue can go cold at any moment and seemingly go 7-8 minutes without a field goal. Its done it multiple times this season. I do think, however, the Boilers have made an effort to get into the lane and attack the basket more often in the past few games. Barlow, Jackson and even Byrd have looked to attack more than usual and they are reaping the benefits.

Something that Purdue can't do Wednesday night is fall in love with the three and when it's not going in, keep shooting. If their shots aren't falling, they need to attack the basket.

Even though Purdue has games remaining on its schedule to get them into the tourney, this game against Illinois seems to hold more importance than more people are giving off, especially against a vulnerable team who has lost six of its last seven.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Purdue plays great but loses

Purdue was beating the #3 ranked team in the country with under 6 minutes to play Tuesday night.

That's how well it played.

But some keys plays, and a blatant missed call was enough for Ohio State to take the lead with 4:30 left and not look back, beating the Boilers 87-84.

With 9:34 left in the second half there was a scramble for a lose ball. It was tipped and chased after by both teams, eventually finding the hands of Ohio State's William Buford, who was then bumped and fouled by Ryne Smith.

Foul assessed to Ryne Smith, right? No.

The refs proceeded to mark the foul on D.J. Byrd, who scored 17 points in the first half (5-5 on threes) and had a career-high 24 points for the game, and send him to the bench for the better part of eight minutes.

That's a pretty pivotal call to miss, sending Purdue's hottest player to the pine.

Ohio State's situation wasn't entirely different, however.

Although they didn't have any players get assigned fouls they didn't commit, they did have their two best players on the bench, Sullinger and Craft, for about the same stretch in the second half.

But what Purdue doesn't have, Ohio State does.

They don't have anyone named Buford, nor anyone near his capabilities. So when Ohio State's stars sat on the bench, they watched another star fill it up and bury the Boilers. Buford scored a career-high 29 points on 10-for-17 from the field.

Purdue didn't go down easy. Kelsey Barlow looked like another player out there on the court. After missing his first two shots badly, he proceeded to go 5-for-10 from the field for 14 points, highlighted by a towering dunk over Ohio State's Sullinger in the first half. Barlow's ability to attack the basket and get to the rim with ease was amazing to see, especially against one of the best defenders in the Big Ten, if not the country in Aaron Craft.

Lewis Jackson and Ryne Smith were both placed on the bench to start the game in an attempt to send a message and change things up. Both played well as Jackson scored 14 points, while Smith chipped in with 9.

It just wasn't enough.

The talent on Ohio State was just too much for Purdue.

There has to be some positives taken out of this game for the Boilers, though. In a game where Purdue was thought to get blown out because of its poor play of late, the Boilermakers came out with an edge and a fire that hasn't been constant this season. Its been there, but its been in spurts. Purdue played its best 40 minutes of the year on Tuesday night. Going forward, even though it was still a loss, this game has to instill some confidence in Purdue that they can string together some games and make the tournament.

It just has to go out and do it.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Can't back down

Ohio State is really good.

At 20-3 (8-2 in conference), the Buckeyes have won five straight games heading into Tuesday's nights match-up with Purdue.

Does Purdue have a chance to win?

Recent play by the Boilers says no. While the seventeen-point loss to Indiana on Saturday was a disappointment, it certainly wasn't an indicator of the entire game. Sure, they got beat and even Matt Painter said it would have been a shame if IU lost, but the final score doesn't tell the whole story. Purdue was within four points with just 4 minutes left.

The game vs IU does have the appearance of a bad loss - with that 17-point margin, at home - but Purdue doesn't have time to hang its head as it heads to Columbus to take on the #3 ranked team in the country.

Ohio State is a favorite close to that of the margin Indiana won by. Ohio State opens up as 15-point favorites. As it should be, Ohio State has won every home game (16), except for one, by 15 or more points. The only win that was less than 15 points was against Florida, where they won 7. They have been dominant at home and there's nothing that says - from the play of Purdue and the great play of Ohio State - this time will be any different.

After facing Cody Zeller Saturday, Purdue faces another one of the premiere big men in the country in Jared Sullinger. The sophomore is averaging 17.4 points per game to go along with 9.1 rebounds.

Similar to the other top teams in the country, however, is the amount of talent that surrounds their stars. William Buford, Deshaun Thomas, and Aaron Craft all seem to be future NBAers. Craft, who is arguably the best on ball defender in the country, presents a lot of problems for an ailing Lewis Jackson. Craft's quickness defensively matches Jackson's speed step for step. That's not good news for Purdue fans if Jackson can't get to the rack, because in seemingly every game this year where Purdue has excelled, he has been penetrating and creating things for the offense. On Tuesday night that will be tough to do.

Purdue enters this game at 15-8 (5-5 in conference). To expect a win at Ohio State would be unrealistic. I just want to see us play a solid game and build toward a successful end to the season. Purdue still has a chance to make the tourney, although that chance is dwindling.

The mindset of this Boiler team has to be different than that of mine, however. It needs to go in there thinking it can win. The last thing Purdue needs right now is to lose by 30. Purdue fans are questioning Matt Painter and the talent on this Purdue team. We don't want the players doing the same. Play together, play hard, and go out and fight.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Big Game

It's a little less than 24 hours before tipoff.

And the anticipation for a renewed rivalry between Indiana and Purdue - something that hasn't been seen in  a while - to start again is evident.

The anticipation for an atmosphere that can't be topped. Mackey has always been loud, notable games against Ohio State and Michigan State come to mind as ones that had deafening sound a year ago, but when Indiana comes to town Saturday, expect to see another level. It marks a game where Purdue can be proud if they beat a Hoosier squad (even on its home floor), whereas in recent years it was close to the feeling of beating a Coppin State. Sure, there was some emotion, the emotion that comes along with beating Indiana, but not nearly the satisfaction it would feel if it beat them Saturday. Indiana certainly isn't a powerhouse this year like some at the beginning of the year were proclaiming them to be, but they are better.

At 17-6 (5-6 in conference) the Hoosiers aren't the doormat they have been in the past. They already beat #1 ranked Kentucky and #3 ranked Ohio State this season. Sure, they were at home, where they play significantly better, but they beat them nonetheless. That shows what they are capable of. They have yet to show it on the road, however. Coming off another road loss on Wednesday to Michigan, Indiana has lost 5 of its last 7 games. Out of those 5 losses, 4 of them came via the road. With the game being at Mackey, in primetime on a Saturday, against a desperate Purdue team, that's tough to ask for a team that struggles on the road.

Even though Purdue has a huge advantage as far as the home court, Indiana presents a lot of problems for Purdue, home or away. Probably the biggest problem for Purdue Saturday will be how they contain freshman Cody Zeller. Zeller, who is averaging 15 points per game ( their leading scorer), is something that Purdue hasn't seen this season. OK, Meyers Leonard, but honestly, Zeller presents a lot more defensive problems than Leonard did. It might not even come down to how good Zeller is (and he is that good, Purdue fans), but how pedestrian Purdue is in the frontcourt. Who is going to match-up with Zelller? Well, the answer is going to be determined on what type of lineup Purdue will put on the floor. In the past couple games, Purdue has resorted to playing a four guard lineup with Hummel at the '5'. It seems to give Purdue a lift offensively when it struggles to score, something that it cant do against Indiana. Indiana comes in as the leading scoring team in the conference at 78.5 points per game. Purdue has only scored more than that total twice in conference. It goes both ways, though. Indiana is obviously not a great defensive team either, but if Purdue doesn't show up the in the first 10 minutes, Indiana could score a lot and be up a lot. It's a give and take with the lineup. If Purdue goes 'small', it will probably score more, but will it give up more? You would probably have Hummel guarding  Zeller defensively. There is no way Zeller could run side-by-side with Hummel in Purdue's motion offense. So it would be expected that in that lineup, Indiana would go zone. Not sure, just a guess. I think Purdue should go with the small lineup. If it can get out and run and get the crowd involved with some exciting basketball, that can only bode well. If Lewis Jackson is feeling a little bit better with that week off of game action, he is huge in this game. If he can attack the basket and get to rim, he can open up everything for Purdue

Again, many things to look at in this game, but I think containing Zeller is the biggest thing. They do have other  improved players that can "go off" also. Christian Watford is very versatile at six-foot-nine, with the ability to hit the three and bang inside.  Hulls can be deadly from three and so on.

There's so much to talk about in this game, I could go on for days. I'm just looking forward to tomorrow.