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Senior Day for Tarrance Crump

An anonymous reader pointed out to me yesterday that Tarrance does have a bit of a legacy at Purdue. I had simply forgotten it because I was unable to watch that specific game. While my wife and I were in Hawaii for the 2006 football game against the Warriors Purdue took on Virginia in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and the allure of the beach was much stronger than watching Purdue and Virginia at 1pm. We were still feeling out this Purdue team after a trip to Maui had netted a pair of wins, but they were certainly showing signs of improvement over the previous couple of seasons. In a tight game Crump drove the lane and hit the game-winning floater to beat the Cavaliers and give Purdue its first victory over a ranked opponent in three years. Not only did that win become a critical resume-builder for a return the NCAA tournament, it may have been a key turning point in the fortunes of the program. If Tarrance doesn't make that shot there is a strong possibility that we lose that game, and maybe it undermines the confidence to win a few more games to get back to the NCAA tournament. In retrospect, Tarrance does have a much bigger hand in what Purdue is building right now because of that shot.

Tomorrow he will return to the scene of that shot for the final time. It is my hope that coach Painter gives him the start and he has a good game after all he has been through for the program. Our opponent is Northwestern, a team that is playing some of its basketball of the season and is encouraged after finally breaking through with a conference victory. They now leave Oregon State as the only major conference team without a conference victory this season. Not only that, they have been able to play well against some good teams of late, pushing Purdue and Michigan State while giving Indiana a scare last Saturday night. The Wildcats should present an easy challenge, but we still have to get the job done.

Since we last saw the Wildcats:

Thanks to Michigan we now have a winner in the race to be the worst major conference team in Division 1 and it is not from our own conference. My colleague over at Lake the Posts deserves some sort of medal, Nobel Prize, or vacation of his choice for following the Wildcats this season. He has spoken about their lack of a killer instinct for some time, but Craig Moore finally delivered it with a clutch 3-pointer in the final minute against Michigan. Sure, it was witnessed by approximately 8 fans (3 of which have the Big Ten Network and were watching at home), but a win is a win.

Moore has been playing incredibly well for the 'Cats lately and he is now their second leading scorer on the season. He connected on eight 3-pointers for 25 points against Michigan, and has been in double figures in eight of their last nine games. The one game he was under 10 points came when Purdue visited Evanston two weeks ago. In that game Moore hit only two of seven shots, but every shot was from 3-point land. Only Iowa's Justin Johnson has shot more 3-pointers this season than Moore conference-wise, and no one has made more (88) than Moore. This kid averages more than eight 3-point attempts per game.

So we know what Craig Moore is going to do, but the other dangerous player is Kevin Coble. Among active players (Geary Claxton is still up there) Coble is the best scorer in the league behind only White and Gordon at IU. Coble went nuts for 37 points against Indiana last week on 12 of 16 shooting from the field. Since he is only a sophomore, Moore a junior, and #3 scorer Michael Thompson a freshman the pieces are in place for Northwestern to actually make a little noise next season.

Aside from the win over Michigan and the close call against Indiana Northwestern lost another very close one on the road at Iowa 53-51 immediately after the Purdue game. Since the Hawkeyes come to Evanston next week Wildcats have high hopes for a home conference win now. Iowa certainly has not been playing well enough lately to give them a ton of confidence even against the likes Northwestern. Simply put, the Wildcats are playing their best basketball of the season, and with their quirky offense they have just enough spunk to require our full attention Saturday.

Fortunately, we should have learned our lesson he first time around. For 30 minutes in Evanston the Wildcats played us even. That is when we decided enough was enough and we finished on a 23-6 kick. Our own Moore, this time of the E'Twaun vintage, had a career day with 28 points, seven of them in those final 10 minutes. It was Keaton Grant, however, that got things going with back-to-back 3-pointers to break a 50-50 tie. Now that we know we can turn it on pretty much at any time against Northwestern it should serve us well tomorrow.

Game Outlook:

Nearly everybody thought this game was going to be our easiest game among the last four, and nothing has really happened to change my thinking on that. Northwestern is certainly a dangerous team because anybody can be dangerous if shots start falling and momentum gets going in their favor, but we are one terrible performance against Wofford from being undefeated at home. An IU lurker on the Purdue boards talked about how Mackey Arena isn't a tough place to play. If it's so easy to win in Mackey why is it the only team in the conference (Ohio State) to do so the last two years had three NBA draft picks on it? We are a completely different team since the Wofford game, and I honestly think it will take a Wofford-level performance to lose this one. One must remember: even in Wisconsin's impressive streak under Bo Ryan at the Kohl Center they still lost a head scratcher to transitional D-1 member North Dakota State.

Even with Northwestern's sudden scoring surge they are 10th in the conference in scoring and comfortably last in rebounding. As long as we don't have 16 turnovers like we did in Evanston I suspect we will be just fine. All we need to do is take care of the ball, be patient on defense as they work the ball around, rebound against the one team we have owned the glass against this year, and not overlook them. Those are pretty easy keys to a victory. Purdue 67, Northwestern 55.

Non-conference opponent updates:

It's been awhile since I have done this, but here is an update on how each of our non-conference opponents are doing in terms of helping our seed for the NCAA tournament. I'll try to rank them in terms of who is helping us the most, and who is doing the least.

Louisville (23-6, 13-3 1st place Big East) – A win over the first place Big East team is certainly the crown jewel of our non-conference season. It should help us avoid being put in the same bracket as them as well.

Clemson (20-7, 8-5 3rd place ACC) – Since this came on the road it is far from a bad loss. The Tigers are solidly in the dance and after beating Miami this week they are securely the #3 ACC team. Playing them close on their floor is a bonus, but I still feel we could have won.

Missouri State (15-15, 7-10 8th place MVC) – The Bears are here because they did just get a quality win over Drake. They have just enough in them to make a run in the Missouri Valley Tournament, making our win better.

Indiana State (14-14, 8-9 7th place MVC) – The Trees are the easiest team in the country to figure out. They are nearly unbeatable at home (12-1), and terrible on the road (2-13). They face Missouri State in Terre Haute this weekend. Willa neutral court in St. Louis yield ties?

Missouri (15-13, 5-8 10th place Big 12) – The Tigers have played a tough schedule, but had they done anything in the Big 12 they would be NCAA-worthy. We were in full control until the final 7 minutes too, which may have been the worst stretch of basketball we have played all year.

Iowa State (14-14, 4-9 11th place Big 12) – I think this one hurts more than losing to Wofford. At least the Terriers played out of their minds and are having a decent year. Iowa State is the definition of mediocre.

Wofford (14-15, 7-12 8th place So-Con) – Well, they were having a decent year before their current six-game losing streak. Getting to the dance would mean shocking unbeaten Davidson in the tournament.

Lipscomb (14-15, 8-7 6th place Atlantic Sun) – Right now they are hanging about even with Gardner-Webb, and we know what they can do.

Bethune-Cookman (11-17, 5-9 9th place MEAC) – A 26-point win over a bad MEAC team is what you would expect.

Loyola (IL) (11-17, 6-11 8th place Horizon) – They will offer no help as Butler, Wright State, or Cleveland State will win this auto-bid.

Florida International (9-18, 6-11 10th place Sun Belt) – The same as Loyala above with South Alabama and Western Kentucky replacing Butler and Co.

Texas Southern (7-20, 6-8 7th place SWAC) -- Check out this strange ending from when Texas Southern beat Arkansas-Pine Bluff. It doesn't really help us it is their highlight of the year.

Ball State (5-21, 4-9 10th place MAC) – At least they aren't dead last in the MAC like many expected. It will be years before they are good again.