Iowa preview (with Boilermakings)

I feel like I am back in college this week. Tomorrow will be my second of three trips to West Lafayette within a week as I have been asked to cover a couple of basketball games in the area. When you combine that with nest Tuesday’s Michigan State game it makes for the most time I have spent on campus in a short period of time since I was a student. Tomorrow’s 4pm tipoff of the Purdue game gives me the chance to enjoy watching the game in a great atmosphere on campus.

As a result, I wanted to announce that if there are any students that are up for an impromptu Iowa watching party I’ll be live blogging from either Jake’s or Buffalo Wild Wings on campus. I would prefer Jakes, but if they don’t have wireless internet (and if someone knows, please let me know) I’ll be headed to B-dubs. I figured that I had to find a place to file my first story on the Western-West Lafayette High game, so I might as well do it on campus.

Iowa presents an interesting challenge tomorrow. We dominated them by 22 points in West Lafayette, but historically Carver-Hawkeye has not been kind to us. Against an even worse Iowa team last year we only won by five in Iowa City. The 2007 team suffered a devastating loss 78-59 to a mediocre Hawkeye squad that nearly cost them a bid in the NCAA’s. last season’s win was our first in Iowa City since 2003, and I remember our 1996 team (I think) lost there on the final day of Big Ten play and it nearly cost us the Big Ten title and #1 seed.

I honestly don’t know if Iowa has enough offense to beat us. Everyone has been making a lot of our mystical 64-point threshold (We’re 18-0 when we hold teams under 64, 0-6 when they pass it). Can you honestly look at Iowa and expect them to score 64 points against our defense when they haven’t been there in their last six games. This is also the team that just lost to Indiana. Yes, it was in Bloomington and the Hoosiers played them tough in Iowa City too, but it is still this year’s Indiana squad.

That said, they have been tough at home like every Big Ten team is tough at home. All three conference wins came at Carver-Hawkeye, two of them against Northwestern and Wisconsin who played us tough. Only us and Illinois have better defensive numbers in this conference than the Hawkeyes do, and Michigan State is the only team to crack 70 points at home against them.

In our first game we did a good job of controlling their main scorers in Jeff Peterson and Anthony Tucker, but we let David Palmer (4.8ppg) go off for 19 points against us. I know the guy was an excellent President on 24, but it is disturbing that he is yet another interior player that has enjoyed a career day against us. Then again, when how much harm can he do if he was their only consistent offensive weapon.

A big key to our first victory was Keaton Grant hitting four 3-pointers and Chally giving us 10 off the bench. We rained threes on them to start the second half and it was really over from there. Though Iowa plays defense, they are not known for their offense and have not established a dominant scorer. I really like our chances in that regard, especially since we just shut out the Big Ten’s most prolific scorer. All we really need to do is go in and play our game and things should turn out fine. If we’re missing shots and letting Palmer go wild again without checking his teammates we’ll be in trouble. Purdue 65, Iowa 50.

Torri Williams returns

In a move that will make our secondary even better, Torri Williams has been granted a sixth year of eligibility and will return to the defense in 2009. Torri’s time in West Lafayette has been tumultuous to say the least. He has had three career-threatening injuries to go with multiple arrests, but really seemed to turn things around a season ago. He finished second on the team in tackles and lead the team (with Dwight McLean) with two picks. He shifted from safety to corner for most of season, and I like that move because he is the first big, physical cornerback we have really had in a long time.

The secondary, a glaring weakness a few years ago, will now be a major strength of our defense nest year. Williams, McLean, David Pender, and Josh McKinley all have starting experience and will return. Royce Adams is a quality reserve that has seen plenty of time on the field. Sure, it means that we’ll have to completely rebuild in 2010, but at least 2009 looks promising.

Baseball a week from starting

I have long tried to promote the Purdue baseball program because I feel they are the most neglected program in the athletic department. Everyone else has top notch facilities, but in reality our baseball field is an embarrassment. These guys still go out and work hard, so it is good to see them starting to get some serious recognition. They are now a week away from beginning what could be their biggest season in over 20 years.

Purdue made its only NCAA Tournament appearance in 1987, but that drought can end this year with a solid start. We finished second in the Big Ten last year to Michigan, which spent most of the season in the top 25 and took the conference’s only NCAA bid. Rivals.com picked us to repeat that performance, but what held us out of the tournament a year ago was a slow start. We were unable to win close games against ranked teams in Baylor and Kentucky. This year the schedule isn’t as tough, but we have to win some games against Cincinnati, Michigan, South Florida, and Notre Dame in next week’s Big Ten/Big East challenge down in Florida.

This season also features a change in scheduling. The Big Ten, always a weak conference, used to play eight four-game conference series with Saturday double-headers. This season they opened things up to more non-conference games by scaling back conference series to three game series like every other conference does. That allows us to play some decent non-conference teams, and one of those games will be March 31 when Louisville, a recent College World Series team, comes to Lambert Field.

Purdue Sports has a great preview for the baseball season posted today. I think a Big Ten Championship is possible, but we’re like the Cubs in that department. Our last Big Ten championship came in 1909.

Freshman David Boudia may be champion of the world

In another cool piece of news, freshman David Boudia was recently selected to compete in the 2009 FINA World Diving Championships in Rome. This is not a surprising move. Doudia finished fifth in the synchronized 10M platform event at the Beijing Olympics and 10th in the individual event. He already owns every school diving record possible and he hasn’t even finished his freshman season yet. He’s also already broken the record for being named conference Diver of the Week by winning that distinction seven times this year.

I don’t think it is a stretch to say that a 2012 Olympic medal may be in his future.

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