Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Considerable Importance in Champaign
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.