Friday, November 8, 2013

Purdue beats Northern Kentucky, 77-76

Well, I was wrong again. I predicted Purdue would "roll" in its first regular season game. Instead, it stalled, barely, by the skin of its teeth, dodging what would have been an unthinkable loss. I thought I could make a prediction without doing much analysis, if any, because, well, it was Northern Kentucky. Northern Kentucky. One more time: Northern Kentucky. I was wrong.

A few things that I took away from the game:

1. I didn't see its second exhibition game, so take what I am about to say with a grain of salt. They could've been great in this area for all I know. I doubt it, but it's possible. What area am I talking about? Containing the dribble drive/keeping your man in front of you. This is a huge problem for Purdue. Huge. It was bad at containing the dribble in the first game against U of Indy and it was bad again tonight. I started following Purdue closely back in 2008. I know, not a lot of experience following Purdue basketball compared to some alumni that have been following the program for 40-50 years. I've never seen a Purdue teams struggle so much with teams getting into the lane at will. There is no resistance. None. None whatsoever. I don't know if it has to do with the new revisions on hand-checking or what, but to me, this is the biggest concern with Purdue right now. And it's not like Purdue is playing Michigan State or Ohio State. Far from it. It's really odd. Purdue's guards aren't what you would call extremely athletic. But they aren't Jim and Mark from the local Y, either. They have to do better. Maybe they have been so used to having A.J. Hammons at the rim, and he has, in a way, disguised some of the problem. I have know idea.

2. Jay Simpson was impressive. Potential. It's a word that has been linked with Simpson for what seems like a decade. He committed that early, and it seems like fans talk about what he could be every single day. He showed what he can do tonight, and even though it was against a team that has been apart of Division I for like two years, it's progress. That's a positive. To me, a lot of it comes down to Jay just finishing around the rim. Sometimes he makes a really solid move, beats his defender, but fails to concentrate and convert close to the rim. He has a solid shot. Maybe it will just take some time for him to get comfortable. He is a redshirt freshman after all. I thought his stamina looked better as well. Painter took him out fairly quickly in the first half, but he didn't look as fatigued as he did last year (I know, he only played like 10 games). Maybe that's me imagining things, who knows. When Hammons comes back, it will be interesting to see how Painter plays them. Will he play them together? I am going to guess not a lot, but it could happen. More importantly, and it was something that I referenced in my previous post, Hammons' absence provided an opportunity for other players to get more minutes and gain more confidence, so that when A.J. comes back there will be another added dimension that otherwise wouldn't have been there if he didn't get suspended. One of those players is Simpson.

Those are the two things that really stood out to me in this game. Some more jumbled thoughts:

Northern Kentucky was shooting out of its mind (13 of 26 from three) ... Peck hit a critical three in the final minute that probably ended up winning the game ... Ronnie Johnson made some bad decisions, but he played his best when it counted the most: in the final minutes. He hit two clutch free throws, and two three-pointers (one of those coming in the first half), if I remember correctly. Not sure if he could have done all of that last year. I read someone post on basically going crazy (not sure exactly what he said) that Ronnie attacked the rim too early with 13 seconds left in the game. What do you want him to do? Attack with four seconds left, miss and the game is over? You have to give your team time if you miss, so that you can foul and put them on the line, hope that they miss, and go back down the court and try again. Pretty simple ... Terone didn't play too well, that won't happen that much this season, in my opinion ... Stephens is wet ... I'd like to see Scott get more minutes ... It's really hilarious, these message boards. One day Scott should start over Ronnie for the rest of the season. Tonight: He's not good, can't shoot, too much ego, etc... I laugh at some of these posters. Sometimes their statements are so outlandish and pessimistic that I think I am getting punkd. I mean, these people can't be serious, can they?

What to expect

Purdue opens up its 2013-2014 season tonight against Northern Kentucky. The build up to this season has been interesting; for whatever reason, fans have continued to put bigger and bigger expectations on this year's team. It hasn't even played a regular season game yet, and fans are calling for 25 wins and a Sweet Sixteen appearance. It was 22 wins and a first round exit a few weeks ago. And a month ago, it was borderline NIT/NCAA.

What has changed? Sure, Purdue has played two exhibition games, and it won them both. Although the win against University of Indianapolis certainly wasn't what you would call impressive, struggling to put a far more inferior opponent away in the second half.

But that's what fans do: They make predictions and have expectations, sometimes albeit, unreasonable ones. Purdue fans are hoping for anything that can take their minds off of the disaster that is Boilermaker football. They are just begging, pleading for some kind of success for Purdue. They know it won't be in football this year. They are hoping it will be in basketball.

And we'll see. Obviously tonight's game will be missing Purdue's biggest player. And probably its best. That's when he puts his mind to it, that is. So tonight, similar to the previous two games, won't be the team you will see in a week from now. But it gives players that are battling for minutes more chances to shine, hoping that when Hammons returns those players can add another element to this team that might not have been there if the 7-footer didn't get suspended. That's the hope at least. Another hope is that Hammons comes back with a chip on his shoulder, ready to prove to everyone that he is a different player and person. But that's getting ahead of ourselves. One game at a time as they say. I don't think I am getting ahead of myself, however, when I say that Purdue will roll tonight.