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.

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