St. Patrick's Day Boilermakings

I've got plenty of other good basketball news planned for later in the week. First off, I have agreed to host a Big Ten bloggers' roundtable. My answers to my own questions will not only reveal some deep psychological issues, but they will be found at the end of this entry. I am also planning a preview of both Mississippi State and Washington for our potential second round matchup. SBNation has some great blogs for both schools. Mississippi State can be found over at For Whom the Cowbell Tolls, while an older Washington blog is maintained at UW Dawg Pound. Since there is no Northern Iowa blog, I plan on having Q&A's with both this week.

Now on to the Boilermakings:

  • Baseball goes 2-1 at Dunn Hospitality Classic in Evansville - The field wasn't exactly Cal State Fullerton, Miami, and Texas, but the baseball team finally had a positive weekend down in Evansville. Big Ten Hardball provided a solid recap of the weekend for all the Big Ten teams. Purdue started the week with a convincing 12-3 win at Butler last Wednesday. They followed it up with a 12-3 win Friday against Mississippi Valley State and a 3-1 win against host Evansville on Saturday. Unfortunately, Purdue lost Sunday 1-0 to IPFW. In both Saturday and Sunday's game Purdue's starter (Matt Jansen Saturday, Matt Morgan Sunday) went 8 2/3 without giving up a run before losing the shutout. Sunday's offense was naturally pretty inept with just 4 hits in Purdue's first ever loss to IPFW.
  • Jansen had 11 strikeouts in Saturday's victory over Evansville - Purdue plays tonight and tomorrow against Horizon League favorite Illinois-Chicago up in Chicago. The Flames (2-11) have struggled early against a very difficult schedule at Texas, Alabama, and Vanderbilt. The Boilers then go on the road to Tennessee-Martin this weekend to play the hosts and Southern Illinois-Edwardsville before finally getting a home game against IPFW next Tuesday.
  • Softball has erratic weekend - The softball team travelled to Boca Raton, FL for the Florida Atlantic Tournament this past weekend. The Boilers began by topping #18 Texas A&M 3-1 behind the pitching of Suzie Rzegocki. Liane Horiuchi was 2 for 2 with an RBI double as well. Purdue then dropped games to Rutgers (9-7), Liberty (4-2) and Bethune Cookman (3-2 8 innings). A double-header sweep yesterday of Florida Atlantic moved Purdue to 14-8 as they finally come home this Saturday for their home and Big Ten opener against Wisconsin.
  • A.J. Kissel and Logan Brown headed to NCAA championships - Both wrestlers were awarded at large bids to this weekend's national championships in St. Louis. Jake Patacsil, Colton Salazar, and Luke Manuel will also be competing.
  • Swimming and Diving NCAA championships this weekend - Purdue will be sending three divers of each gender to the championships in College Station, TX this weekend. David Boudia has a strong chance at winning as well thanks to his Olympic experience.

Big Ten bloggers' roundtable - A formal wrap up will be posted tomorrow night.

•1.       For those in the tournament, what was your signature win that made sure you were dancing? For those out, what was that one loss that prevented you from going?

I think we knew we had a great chance of going back to the tournament early in the year with the lofty ranking. The performance in the preseason NIT solidified it too. We got a surprisingly solid win over Boston College and probably should have beaten Oklahoma. I also knew how good we were when we stomped Davidson in Indianapolis. From there it was a matter of taking care of business against the teams we should beat. We avoided bad losses all year, so a bid was rarely in doubt.

•2.       The conference jumped from four bids to seven this year, and it could have been nine with the right breaks. What is the biggest factor in this jump?

I think talent and experience is the biggest difference. A bunch of freshman last year became sophomores and it seemed like everybody began playing team basketball. The non-conference season wasn't an utter domination of other schools, but the conference got some very good wins with Michigan (Duke and UCLA), Minnesota (Louisville), Ohio State (Butler), and Michigan State (Kansas, Texas) leading the way. I think it also helped that almost everyone had Iowa and Indiana to beat up on. Let's face it, those two took an awful lot of losses that added up in the win column for everyone else.

•3.       Talk about your first round opponent for a moment. What advantages/disadvantages do you see in facing them (Penn State and Northwestern fans may talk NIT here).

I think we have a huge advantage in terms of our toughness. Everyone seems to think this is an upset waiting to happen, but I disagree. Northern Iowa played two games against NCAA teams this year, losing both. We played 16 and went 9-7 (four losses in overtime). That cannot be overlooked when considering this game. The Panthers were struggling to put Indiana State away while we have been playing NCAA caliber competition since December.

I do think Northern Iowa has an advantage in that they play a very similar style that we do. They see us every day in practice, and that could be an advantage. They are also an experienced team loaded with upper classmen. They won't be afraid of us.

•4.       What are your realistic postseason expectations?

I want the sweet 16. That was my expectation before the season started and it hasn't changed. I also think we have a very good chance against Connecticut because I don't see them as a strong #1 seed. UConn is one of those teams that annoys me because they always seem to play with a cocky, "We're going to be NBA draft picks so we should win on talent alone," attitude. I still love when George Mason played team basketball three years ago and shocked them.

•5.       How will your team get back to/make the step forward to the NCAA Tournament next year? This is officially known as the Iowa and Indiana question.

Honestly, with what we have returning and the talent we have coming in it would be a major disappointment if we didn't contend for the Big Ten crown, let alone make the tournament. I look for next year to be a potential Final Four season, with 2011 (if everyone stays) giving us possibly our best chance ever at a national championship. When I see what we will have that year in terms of experience and complimentary pieces coming in with the next two recruiting classes I can't help but get excited. Hummel, Moore, and Johnson will be seniors then, and the incoming freshmen that year will compliment them perfectly. Lewis Jackson will be an experienced junior point guard, and Patrick Bade, Jeff Robinson, Kelsey Barlow, and D.J. Byrd all will fill roles nicely. That team, to me, looks like it could go 11-12 guys deep. Just look at it:

Robbie Hummel, Sr. - Big Ten POY candidate, forward

E'Twaun Moore, Sr. - Big Ten POY candidate, scoring guard

JaJuan Johnson, Sr. - Big Ten POY candidate, dominant center

Lewis Jackson, Jr. - master point guard

D.J. Byrd, So. - a solid small forward that can do a little of everything. Think Kramer with more offense

Kelsey Barlow, So. - Point guard backup

Patrick Bade, So. - low post depth, Robbie Hummel backup

Jeff Robinson, So. - low post depth

Travis Carroll, Fr. - Developing center, huge asset as JaJuan's backup

Terone Johnson, Fr. - E'Twaun Moore 2.0

Anthony Jonhson, Fr. - E'Twaun Moore 2.5

I feel like Matt Painter has recruited pieces for a team, not stars, and 2011 will be the payoff because we will have experience, talent, and depth at every position. How can you not get excited looking at those guys, and it doesn't even factor in that Ryne Smith and John Hart will still be around to provide leadership, practice competition, and the occasional contribution. They'll both be juniors (Hart a sophomore eligibility-wise). Every single piece of that teams just fits!

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