First off, some housekeeping. Word on the street is that the $60 allotment is sold out of our group tickets to see JJ and Smooge with the Celtics on January 14. The two balcony groups are still available, however, so buy today. The password is: Purdue.
Now, onto today's game. We're 4-0 all-time against the IPFW
Hoosiermakers Mastodons. IPFW likely ranks last among the state's Division I teams. They are the only program in the state that has yet to make an NCAA Tournament. With IUPUI's upset of Ball State last night they probably slid behind the Jaguars in this year's state rankings. Still, this is a team loaded with in-state players that are familiar with our in-state guys.
Corey Schmidt worked with this site last year when we played Oakland, and now he is the manager of an uber-Summit League blog called Summit Madness. He contacted me earlier this week to ask some questions about out Boilers, and he had the following to say about the Mastodons:
T-Mill: How has the transition from Dane Fife to Tony Jasick gone so far?
Corey: In the early going it was tough to judge. The Mastodons played just two games against Division I teams in November, losses to Xavier and Iowa. After two Summit League games in early December, they've had some better tests and have now won five straight. The signature win so far is a home win over a solid Valparaiso squad. The Dons were coming off their best season in Division I and lost two of their bedrock players from the backcourt and the coach who led them to that. Standing at 7-3 with losses to Xavier, Iowa, and UMKC of the Summit League, I'd say that the transition has been pretty solid thus far. They've taken care of business against weaker opponents and been close against tougher foes. That wasn't always the case at IPFW, so the fact that they're continuing to do so with a lot of newcomers and a new coach is promising.
T-Mill: IPFW has a bunch of Indiana kids and so does Purdue. Does their familiarity with each other through AAU and such growing up help the 'dons?
Corey: It's definitely possible, though it's not something I can comment on definitively. IPFW does a great job of finding overlooked guys with a lot of character, toughness, and good talent for a league like the Summit. Zach Plackemeier and Ben Botts, now graduated, were both examples of that, and this year's senior trio of Trey McCorkle, John Peckinpaugh, and Jason Smeathers continue that trend. They may not blow you away with their talent, but they compete and play as a team, which have been traits that have allowed IPFW to progress well over the past five seasons. It seems coach Jasick is sticking to that formula.
T-Mill: How does IPFW stack up with the rest of the Summit this year? Any chance of an NCAA berth?
Corey: Through the early results of non-conference play, Oakland, Oral Roberts, and South Dakota State appear to be the frontrunners in the Summit League. They've played the toughest schedules and have picked up some nice wins against those opponents. They're also the only teams that did not lose in the opening weekend of Summit League play. IPFW lacks the resume, but it has at least two major components that you see in championship contenders. First, the team has an All-League player in swingman Frank Gaines. He could be a lot more efficient, but at present he's averaging 21 points per game -- a number that should stay steady or even grow against Summit competition. He can generate his own shot off the dribble, rebound, and defend. Second, IPFW has a very good center in Trey McCorkle, who stands at 6-foot-10 and is averaging 15 points and 7.5 boards per game. It's rare to find a guy with McCorkle's size and ability in this conference, so he will give the Dons a significant advantage in league play. Beyond those two, however, they're a young team with a lot of newcomers. If those guys can gel and limit mistakes enough by the time the conference tournament comes around, they could make things interesting.
T-Mill: What do you feel IPFW has to do to pull the upset?
Corey: Simply, Gaines and McCorkle have to bring their "A" games, and the team will need some production from an unexpected source since it has struggled to find a consistent third-option on offense, which is a big reason why Gaines and McCorkle take 37 percent and 24 percent of the team's shots, respectively. If they can find creative ways to score against the Purdue defense (a tall task), I'd expect this game to feature a reasonably close score.