Is Sunday's game in Minneapolis a must win for the Boilermakers? All road games in the Big Ten, even the coming trip to Northwestern, are going to be difficult, but getting a win over some teams will be easier than others. Even though The Barn is the oldest venue in Big Ten Basketball, Purdue has historically fared very well up there. The Boilers are 30-46 all-time at Williams Arena, with only Welsh-Ryan Arena serving as the road venue with more Boilermaker wins than any other in the conference.
Minnesota is also one of those teams that Purdue is going too battle for position all season long in the Big Ten. Getting a victory on their home floor with a return trip to Mackey Arena in the cards would be huge. Also, RPI-wise it would be Purdue's best win to date, and the NCAA committee always places a premium value on true road wins.
|Purdue Boilermakers (10-4, 0-0)||Minnesota Golden Gophers (11-3, 0-1)|
|Terone Johnson - Sr.||Andre Hollins - Jr.|
|Ronnie Johnson - So.||Austin Hollins - Sr.|
|Kendall Stephens - Fr.||Oto Osenieks - Jr.|
|Basil Smotherman - Fr.||Deandre Mathieu - Jr.|
|A.J. Hammons - So.||Elliot Eliason - Jr.|
|Series with Purdue:||Purdue leads 98-80|
|Last Purdue win:||89-73 at Purdue on 3/9/2013|
|Last Minnesota win:||70-67 at Minnesota on 1/13/2011|
|Odds:||no line yet|
|Blog Representation:||The Daily Gopher|
|Best Postseason Result:||1997 Final Four|
|2012-13 record:||21-14, 8-10 Big Ten, lost 78-64 in NCAA Tournament Second Round|
|Coach:||Richard Pitino (29-17 overall, 11-3 in first year at Minnesota)|
|TV:||Big Ten Network|
|Radio:||Purdue Radio Network|
I had some questions about Minnesota before Thursday night's loss to Michigan. Their previous two losses were to Syracuse and Arkansas out in Maui, but they still had some decent wins over Florida State and at Richmond. They were unable to take advantage of Michigan missing its two best players, however, and the Wolverines pulled off a much-needed road victory.
That is what Purdue needs to do Sunday. Purdue's next major win opportunity is January 25 when Wisconsin comes to Mackey Arena. Between now and then I think Purdue must win at least four of its next five games. That would include wins over perceived bottom three teams Nebraska, Northwestern, and Penn State as well as a nice road win over either Illinois or Minnesota. If Purdue can beat the Gophers it takes the pressure off that Illinois game.
Purdue's rebounding advantage that it had over Ohio State needs to continue, especially if it means A.J. Hammons is going to put in the work he did against the Buckeyes. Minnesota is not a good shooting team at 43% from the field and at 34.5% from three-point land. That means there will be plenty of missed shots and we need Hammons to be as aggressive on the glass, especially with 6'11" Elliot Eliason there to battle with him.
The backcourt battle will be interesting as brothers Terone Johnson and Ronnie Johnson will go against brothers Austin Hollins and Andre Hollins. Like the Johnsons, the Hollins'lead Minnesota in scoring at a combined 28.5 points per game. They play a very similar style of basketball to TJ and RJ, but both distribute about evenly. They will look to attack the basket and get to the foul line. They also lead Minnesota in three-point shooting. Only Malik Smith takes as many threes as they do.
What makes me feel good is that Purdue played one of its best games of the 2012-13 season in blowing them out in West Lafayette. That was when they had Trevor Mbakwe and an overall better roster. They aren't as strong of a rebounding team with Eliason and Austin Hollins their only two players over five points per game.
Overall, I was pleased with the way Purdue played against Ohio State and a similar level of effort should result in a win. Deandre Mathieu, a transfer from Morehead State, has been a surprise so far at 11.4 points per game, but he struggled against Michigan shooting only 3 of 10 from the field. They are a guard heavy team that will struggle to score close to the basket as long as Hammons and Jay Simpson continue to protect the rim as well as they have lately. Purdue was very close to knocking off No. 3 Ohio State. If the normally reliable Kendall Stephens hits some open looks or Bryson Scott doesn't struggle it could have been a very different game.
As always with this Boilermaker team, consistency is the key. We've seen some pretty good effort in the last two games against West Virginia and Ohio State. It resulted in a good win and a near upset of a top 5 team. If Purdue is going to climb back into NCAA consideration it needs to consistently beat the Minnesotas of the world. I feel as if the loser of this game, who would be 0-2, is likely to slide out of NCAA contention while the winner stays alive. Purdue needs to be that winner.