This is a week for conference pride. The Big Ten is 0-10 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge since it inception. Last year may have been the closest we have come to a Midwestern victory as the ACC one 6-5. Boston College and Clemson each won by only two points, however, and Maryland beat Michigan by five. The higher profile games were more embarrassing though. Michigan State got drilled in Detroit by North Carolina and Purdue showed it wasn't quite ready for primetime in a 16 point home loss to Duke.
This year is different though. The Big Ten has its deepest lineup in years. Even as I write this Penn State, one of the bottom teams in the conference this year, is on its way to an early 1-0 lead for the conference. Purdue has not helped matters, going 2-6 in the first ten years of the event (we did not play in 2001 and 2002 when the ACC was a nine team league). Our only two wins have come at home though, against Clemson in 2003 (when the Big Ten lost 7-2) and against Virginia in 2006 (when the Big Ten lost 8-3). I guess that means a Boiler win is bad for the conference. Ah well, I still want to beat Wake Forest.
2008-09 Record: 24-7 (Lost 84-69 to Cleveland State in NCAA First Round
Blog Representation: Blogger So Dear
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 3-2
Last meeting: 12/28/89 in Tucson, AZ a 66-52 Purdue win
Last Wake Forest win: 12/29/81 in New Orleans, LA 76-68
Many people are drawing their conclusions about Wake Forest from their last game. Despite a dominant 4-0 start over Oral Roberts, East Carolina, High Point, and Winston-Salem the Demon Deacons dropped their first ever November game at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Did they lose to a major power? No. They lost 78-68 to William & Mary from the Colonial Athletic Association. While William & Mary challenged UConn in their opener, they also lost to Harvard.
It is not like William & Mary hung around and got lucky on a late three, either. They led nearly the entire game (Wake Forest only led at 6-5) and played with confidence the entire game. Wake's leading scorer on the season, 6'9" forward Al-Farouq Aminu (18.8 ppg, 11.2 rpg) was held to just 11 points on 4 of 18 shooting. He had a career high 20 rebounds, but couldn't throw the ball in the ocean that night.
Wake Forest is a big team that has good balance statistically. Ishmael Smith and C.J. Harris each average 11.8 points per game, but they clearly miss David Teague's cousin, Jeff Teague. Jeff Teague was a phenomenal player who could have been a senior this year, but he is now sleeping on a pile of money with many beautiful ladies as the 19th overall pick by the Atlanta Hawks.
Ari Stewart (8.6 ppg), L.D. Williams (7.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 3.2 apg), Chris McFarland (6.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg), and Tony Woods (5.2 ppg) are the main rotation for the Demon Deacons. David Weaver has also played in all five games thus far, but is more of a rebounder than a scorer.
As mentioned, this is a big team. That size could give us some problems. Aminu can do a little bit of everything because Weaver and Woods each go 6'11". Sophomore Ty Walker is also a 7-footer, but he has played sparingly. McFarland is also a 7-footer. It will be critical for us to negate this size advantage with solid boxouts on the glass. Otherwise, we could be in for a long night. Wake Forest shoots almost 48% from the field, and that number can go up with a couple of 7-footers tipping in some second chance points.
One thing that should play into our hands is the fact that Wake Forest does not take care of the basketball. They are averaging more than 15 turnovers per game without playing a defense of our caliber. I expect that the Defense Lives Here sign will get plenty of work. This also means you should buy a shirt to match the counter.
I am concerned about Wake's ability to score the basketball. They are averaging almost 79 points per game. They pull down almost 44 rebounds per game. That is a lot. We don't have the size to match up with their rebounders. We have mostly the same lineup from last year and I remember what one big man did to us against UConn. Wake Forest has four guys like that. We cannot counter that.
Fortunately, we might want to get the Demon Deacons to the foul line. They shoot a dismal 65% as a team and they are even worse from 3-point land (29.9%). Harris is the only serious 3-point shooting threat. Despite their size, only Aminu and McFarland are in double figures on the season for offensive rebounds. There is no excuse for that with their size. Aminu does a little bit of everything and is a good shooter, but he is also a turnover machine (15 through five games).
I think we can win this because we play such good team basketball. We don't rely on just one player to do all the work for us. We get everyone involved on both ends of the floor. Just look at Mark Wohlford's efforts. We're also due for a better game shooting the basketball from long range. The crowd will also be a factor. Before the game we'll be unveiling the Big Ten Tournament Championship banner. This is something that hasn't happened in 13 years, and the 1996 banner finally won't be so lonely. Hopefully this will be a prelude to three more banner unveilings.
Finally, let's be real. This team got out-defended by William & Mary last week. With all due respect to the Tribe, that isn't exactly a Big Ten-level defense. Maybe Chris Kramer has some cousins playing down there. Who knows.
Keys to the game for Purdue:
- Keep Wake off the offensive glass
- For turnovers from a turnover-plagued team
- Don't guard Aminu at the expense of their other bigs
- Make them beat us from the perimeter
- Don't let them make the extra pass (15.2 assists per game average)
Prediction: Purdue 74, Wake Forest 70.