Finally, all the sniping via twitter, message boards, and through the comments on this site will have an actual game to discuss. In a way, just about the only reason I want Indiana to get good again is so our wins can have some meaning again. The mood I read on message boards from Indiana fans is one of, "Enjoy your win now, but our help is coming in 2012," as if this magical class will instantly turn things around. It's a catch-22. On the one hand, IU fans lament having a young team and they can't expect to win that way, while JaJuan Johnson, E`Twaun Moore, and Robbie Hummel were the rare "instantly good" class. On the other, they are expecting that 2012 class to be the same as our 2007 class and that they will instantly change things. I still maintain that there is a lot that can happen before the magical recruits get on campus, and that rings true for both teams. What I care about is here and now, and that should be a Boilermaker victory tonight.
As expected, the Hoosiers have had an up and down season. I got on them a few weeks ago for not being as good as I expected. Since then, the Hoosiers have knocked off a pair of ranked teams at home. That's more of what I expected at the start of the year because I figured they would contend for an NIT berth and be tough at home. Then they lost to Iowa, a team with three Big Ten wins (two of them against Indiana). Even for a wildly inconsistent team that is disappointing.
Still, they have played better at home. Their next logical step is to play better on the road. Indiana has won just once in their last 28 true road games, and that came last season at Penn State. This is a team that has not proven it can win on the road yet, and they are coming into the most hostile environment they will face all year. In short, a loss to them tonight would be an embarrassment.
2009-10 record: 10-21, 4-14 Big Ten
2010-11 record: 12-12, 3-8 Big Ten
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 110-84
Last Purdue win: 3/3/10 at Purdue 74-55
Last Indiana win: 2/19/08 at Indiana 77-68
Time & TV: 7pm ESPN
|Verdell Jones III||20||26.8||4.6||9.8||47.2||0.6||1.7||36.4||2.6||3.9||65.4||0.5||2.8||3.3||3.3||3.4||1.1||0.3||2.2||12.4|
Another reason that a loss tonight would be an embarrassment is the injury factor. Maurice Creek is out for the season once again, while leading scorer Christian Watford is also out tonight after wrist surgery. Still, Indiana managed to beat Minnesota with both out, so we have to take them seriously. Tom Pritchard, who has been a target at this site before, had a season high 12 points against Minnesota last week and he played very well in the first half of last year's game in Bloomington, but he virtually disappeared against Iowa (0 pts., 5 rebounds) in 26 minutes. Along with Bobby Capobianco and Derek Elston, they are the only post threats on the Indiana roster. Combined, they averaged less than half of what we get from JJ, sow e should expect a big game from him tonight. Elston has only been in double figures once in Big Ten play, while Capobianco has just two points in conference play.
This tells me we should give the ball to JJ and dare them to stop us. They do not have anyone that is remotely as good as him down low, so he should be able to dominate. Defensively, it is almost like the opposite of Ohio State. Travis Carroll and even Patrick Bade should be able to handle things defensively in the post, allowing JJ to cause havoc wherever he can.
Indiana's guards have had a decent season, with Jordan Hulls coming along in recent games. The 2009 Mr. Basketball in Indiana, Hulls had an impressive 24 against Iowa and is a dangerous 3-point shooter at 47%. Overall he is shooting 52.6% from the field, but if we have Kelsey Barlow guard him Barlow will have a major size advantage.
Verdell Jones III has been the primary scorer of late, but he had just two points against Iowa. Amazingly, they still went to him on the game's final play when he was 1 of 8 from the field even though Hulls was about to set the court on fire because he was so hot. Jones is the definition of a streaky shooter. He is just as capable of dropping 30 as having a 2 for 14 night. For example: He was 9 of 10 against Michigan 24 points, but 1 of 9 for 2 points against Iowa.
Aside from Jones and Hulls, Victor Oladipo has had some decent games. His highlight of the season was the Gus Johnson-gasm that is run incessantly on the Big Ten Network. Oladipo has a good shooting percentage from the field at 53.5% and averages 7.8 points in 18 minutes per night. That tells me he needs to play more.
In looking at the numbers I can see where we should dominate this game defensively. Jeremiah Rivers and Tom Pritchard play a lot, but are offensive liabilities. Rivers, even though he is a good defender, still turns the ball over a lot. Jones III turns the ball over a lot too, but at least he scores. Indiana also doesn't rebound well, with Watford leading the team in rebounding. Jones III and Hulls do a good job of distributing the ball (each gets three assists per game), but the offense can be a major problem as evidenced by the way they blew a 10 point lead late against Iowa.
Simply put, there is absolutely zero excuse to lose this game. It is one of the few times in the series that one team is clearly better than the other. JJ and E'Twaun have never lost to Indiana at home and they certainly don't want to blow their last shot at them. If Watford and Creek were both 100% Indiana would have a better shot, but missing them puts them at a huge disadvantage against JJ. No one has stopped JJ, and Indiana, in this contest, has about the worst cast trying to stop him that we will see in Big Ten play.
We need to have guys get back on track in this one. We've had a week off to heal and recharge before a very tricky stretch that will likely decide our seeding in March. I want to see E'Twaun show signs that he is going to be the dominant scorer we need him to be. He has slumped of late, but I will take it if it means we're getting his best basketball in the tournament. I also think we can get better play out of Ryne Smith and Terone Johnson tonight. TJ is due for a breakout and John from Crimson Quarry has openly questioned why he is struggling. What better time for him to break out because we haven't needed him to score, but it would be great if he can have a game or two where he showcases his talents.