You have to think the organizers of today's event do not want a repeat next year. The combination of just one game, a mediocre matchup, and poor weather combined for a rather dull game at Conseco Fieldhouse today. The upper balcony was curtained off like a Fever game (by comparison, I sat up there last year for the Davidson game) and a good portion of the LiveBlog talked about Chris Kramer's football ambitions or Drew Brees' MVP candidacy. Even in the postgame presser there was more buzz about the controversial Butler-Xavier ending.
I really want this event to be a good one, and so does Purdue. I know Purdue looks at it as a good opportunity to get a game in Indianapolis for its fans down here and to have a little more national exposure. I can see the other side of the coin too. What major conference team wants to come for a virtual Purdue home game (with no return guaranteed) against a pretty good team? Since Notre Dame is a bunch of pansies and won't play us there either we're left with what we have today. Don't get me wrong, Ball State is a promising young team, but you know everyone involved wants a bigger name for this event. At least we get the trophy for another year.
It was a win though. Purdue didn't look fantastic, but they were still clearly better than their opponents today. This is especially true on a day when West Virginia struggled with a major (winning by two at Cleveland State), Tennessee got pounded by USC, Georgetown lost to Old Dominion, and Florida lost to Richmond. I'll pick apart dull 20 point wins all day as opposed to the alternative.
Positives from the Ball State game:
Kevin Messenger and the Conseco Fieldhouse staff - Just a big thank you for the media access today and for hosting the event. It was first class all around.
Patrick Bade - In a game that was fairly dull bade stood out a little to me. I noticed that he was a little more confident and more aggressive in going after the ball. It wasn't a lot, but it was a step forward. Two points and two rebounds in eight rebounds may not seem like much, but it was the intangible things that matter. I asked coach Painter about this with my one question in the press conference. Here is what he had to say:
"He's doing a better job. It's a hard role to play 10 minutes and get subbed in four times. By the time you get lathered up and loose coach pulls you out. It's very difficult to get in a rhythm.I like to tell guys like that, ‘I'm not taking you out, I am putting JaJuan Johnson back in.' He's doing a great job. It's just hard to be consistent. He's not established yet while JaJuan Johnson is. Pat does a great job. He played 18 minutes against Tennessee and really laid it out there. He's staying aggressive and we need him to just run, rebound, and defend. He's going to develop into a great player for us."
That just about sums it up for Bade. He is kind of getting thrown to the wolves at the moment with no proven depth behind JJ, but that will pay dividends in the end. I was kind of hoping to see Sandi Marcius play today but he still wasn't quite ready. Until he is, Patrick is going to get some key minutes that will help in the future.In that regard, I'd rather have three options down low as opposed to two. last year's game at Michigan showed how bad that can be.
And yes, there was a big laugh when JJ was asked about playing 31 minutes without getting a single foul.
Defense - It is easy to look good when you hold your opponent to 18 points in the first half. Purdue allowed one 3-point attempt on the day and forced 19 turnovers. There wasn't anything overly special, either. It is nice to have a pedestrian effort yield these results. It also becomes very easy to win if you hold a team under 50.
Robbie Hummel - Again, this was a rather pedestrian effort and he gave us 19 and 9. If you look solely at the box score you'll see exactly what this game was. It was a statistical domination in which our three big guns did most of the heavy listing. It fits in almost exactly with the season averages through ten games.
Jarrod Jones - It is not often that I compliment players on the opposing team, but Jones is an impressive young player. If Ball State has a successful season in MAC play he will have a large role in that success.
The crowd - It was a smaller crowd than last year, but Purdue did a very good job of trying to fill the lower two levels of the Fieldhouse. It got a little loud in some moments (notably Keaton Grant's breakaway dunk), but otherwise Purdue fans simply enjoy a workmanlike win. There wasn't a whole lot to get overly excited about, but there was a bigger crowd than I expected at least.
The Walk-on WhiteOut - Credit to reader dbaltman for the term. This is like seeing Mariano Rivera in the ninth. When they come in, you know it is over. You can also tell Matt Painter has total control of this team. He said no shots in the final minute and he meant it. I wouldn't have the same discipline in such a small amount of playing time.
Negatives from the Ball State game:
D.J. Byrd - He had just come off of maybe his finest game and followed it up with a pretty bad one. His final line: 0 points, 0 rebounds, 0 assists, 5 fouls, 15 minutes. There will be better days ahead. Kelsey Barlow also fouled out, but he had a nice moment where he attacked the basket for a layup.
3-point shooting - Let's save the 4 for 23 performances from long range for these types of games, okay?
Maintaining composure - Things got a little chippy at times with some hard fouls, but our guys kept their heads. Major positive there. Nothing escalated to shenanigans.
I think we can expect more of the same Tuesday against SIU-Edwardsville. It is yet another game in which we should not be challenged at all. I think you'll see more minutes from the freshmen and maybe even some time from Marcius as this will be the last game before the conference opener.
Another thing that coach Painter said in the presser was that he could only control what Purdue does. Someone brought up the Colin Cowherd statement about how Purdue wasn't a championship team because we don't have a great player. The guy kept baiting coach Painter too. I loved Matt's response:
"I can only control my schedule and what Purdue does. I think we have some great players. Robbie Hummel is a great player. JaJuan Johnson is a great player. These are guys anyone in the country would want. It is hard to judge where these teams are when everyone has still played so few games. I watched Kansas today and that is a very good team, but I would love to have a chance to match up with some of those great teams in March."
Very well said. We can only play who is put in front of us. Each game is about playing that game and that game alone. You play it, you get better, and you move on to the next one. Worrying about how good West Virginia is best left to the fans because the players are more concerned right now with SIU-Edwardsville. After that, it is a key conference opener at Iowa. By my count we have between 21 and 24 games (depending on the Big Ten Tournament) before we can even do anything about getting to the Final Four. Those games matter in regards to our seeding, but other than that they don't effect how we will play when we get there.
As long as we keep focused only on what is in front of us everything will take care of itself. You can win a lot of ballgames when you do that. That is how you beat teams like Ball State by 20 points with probably a C effort. Look at West Virginia today. Their C effort barely got a win at Cleveland State. Others weren't so lucky. This is why I choose to ignore the people that keep trying to tear us down. I know as long as we keep winning, it will speak for itself. In that regard, we still have a lot of talking to do.