USA TODAY Sports
For the first time in months it looks like, at least on paper, Purdue has an easy game.
Purdue's postseason gets underway tonight and I have already seen the same questions multiple times: If this is a postseason tournament strictly to build for next year should seniors D.J. Byrd and Dru Anthrop play?
The answer is yes, of course they should play. Anthrop has earned the right to go out playing and to not play Byrd would be prickish. With 872 career points and the possibility of six games left Byrd has an outside chance of reaching 1,000 points for his career (though he would need to average 21.3 per game in this tourney to do so). As much flak as he has taken, he deserves to play.
What I do want to see is a short hook for him. If he has it and is hot, let Byrd play. If he is struggling, it's time to send in the younger guys.
Western Illinois Leathernecks
Location: Macomb, Illinois
2011-12 Record: 18-15, 9-9 Summit League
2012-13 Record: 22-8, 13-3 Summit League (Regular season co-champion)
2012 Postseason: Lost to Oregon State 80-59 in CBI First Round
Blog Representation: Leatherneck Nation
Series With Purdue: Purdue Leads 4-0
Last Purdue win: 83-49 in the 1999-2000 season at Purdue
Odds: Purdue by 11.5
Western Illinois is here as the result of their best season since moving to Division I 30 years ago. They received their first ever postseason berth last year, but this year they shared the Summit League crown with NCAA entry South Dakota State (though, since they lost both games to SDSU, they did not receive the automatic NIT bid) and lost only eight games all year.
The 22-8 record came about with virtually no schedule strength. Purdue will be the first major conference opponent the Leathernecks have faced all year. The losses came at the hands of SIU-Edwardsville, Evansville, Savannah State, SDSU (twice), Oakland, Cleveland State, and North Dakota State. Against NCAA Tournament teams they were 0-2, losing both games to SDSU. The NDSU loss was especially painful because they defeated the Bison twice during League play only to lose the conference tournament semi-final by 12.
A major reason WIU lost was that Terell Parks, its leading scorer and rebounds at 12.7 points and 9.6 rebounds per game, was injured in the BracketBusters game against Cleveland State and has since missed four straight games. It is a foot injury and he appears to be questionable at best for tonight.
Even more heartbreaking is the case of Ceola Clark III, the No. 2 scorer for the Leathernecks at 12.5 points per game. Clark will feel right at home at Purdue. He has battled through two ACL injuries and this was his 6th year of eligibility granted like Trevor Mbakwe and Robert Marve. Like Marve, he suffered a likely third ACL tear in the conference tournament loss to NDSU. Clark is the all-time program leader in steals, 3-pointers made, games played and is second all-time in assists and ranks top-10 in career points.
The loss of Clark is simply devastating, especially when it seems as if the kid is a genuine good kid with his head on straight. He stuck through a rather moribund program for six years to lead them to their highest heights ever.
With Clark and Parks out it honestly looks rather grim for the Leathernecks. Combined they average 25 of Western Illinois' 59.3 points per game, which rates 329th out of 343 Division I programs. They also grab almost half their rebounds and dish out half the assists. Clark was a playmaker at 4.1 assists per game and their best three-point shooter at 41.5%.
This should be a game where Purdue is not even challenged in the interior. With Parks out the role of defending 7-footer A.J. Hammons falls to Jack Houpt and Michael Ocherrobia. Houpt is a 6'7" senior, but only weighs 210 pounds. Ochereobia is a 6'8" junior that weighs in at 260, but the advantage that Hammons and Sandi Marcius will have in the post is overwhelming.
The loss of Parks and Clark also deprives the Leathernecks of two of their four seniors. Houpt and Don McAvoy III are the other tow seniors, but combined average 13.8 points and 7.1 rebounds. WIU needs to get a lot more from its supporting cast and No. 3 scorer Adam Link (9.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists) needs a big game.
Depth will also be a huge issue. WIU normally only goes seven deep and without Clark and Parks they will have to go very deep to the bench. Jordan Foster is one of just six players that played in all 30 games and Remy Robert-Burnett played in 22. After that, there is a huge dropoff.
Purdue's strategy needs to be simple: attack the paint until the Leathernecks prove they can stop us. They shouldn't be able to After battling big forward throughout the Big Ten season this should be a much easier task. Houpt is the only three-point shooter left, so defensively we should pack it in and dare him to beat us alone.
WIU has had a great season, but they haven't played a team as big and as strong as Purdue and they have to do it without their two best players.
|Ceola Clark III||30||35.6||3.7||8.8||42.6||2.3||5.5||41.5||2.7||3.3||82.0||0.5||2.7||3.3||4.1||1.9||1.9||0.1||1.5||12.5|
|Don McAvoy III||30||24.5||2.4||6.0||40.0||0.5||1.3||35.0||1.1||2.0||55.9||0.5||2.4||2.9||1.4||1.6||0.6||0.4||1.7||6.4|
Prepare for Santa Clara if:
- Hammons and Marcius run amok
- Terone Johnson gets to the rim with impunity
- Houpt doesn't light up from the perimeter
- Ronnie Johnson continues his run of solid play
Be rightfully mocked by the rest of the Big Ten if:
- We completely and utterly crap the bed in an unimagineable way.
Purdue 81, Western Illinois 55