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The Fallout

The women's softball team won four of five games this weekend at the Buzz Classic Tournament down in Georgia. Their only loss came in eight innings in their opening game against Bowling Green. They then beat Indiana State, Jacksonville State, Georgia Tech, and Boston College to move to 11-5 on the season.

That is how far I had to search to find some positive Purdue news today. The Wrestling team finished 10th in the Big Ten championships. The Women's basketball team lost a heartbreaker yesterday afternoon to Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament championship. The baseball team was swept in dominating fashion by Texas State. Finally, we had the atrocious second half in East Lansing as Purdue built a new orphanage for those in need up there with all the bricks they threw up in the second half.


 About the only thing that didn't happen to West Lafayette, IN yesterday...


It makes you want to just take a vacation before the Big Ten Tournament gets going in earnest this week.

The highest profile game amongst those was yesterday's beatdown in East Lansing. Michigan State played a great game. For a game that really meant nothing to either team there was plenty of intensity on both sides. I felt our defense played well, but for the second straight game we had an awful stretch of offensive play in the second half. I admit I am concerned about our basketball fortunes at the moment. 10 days ago we were in very good position to steal a share of the Big Ten title despite all the injuries and illnesses we faced. Since then, we have looked like an average team at best  aside from the second half against Ohio State. There is almost no momentum going into the postseason.

There really isn't a whole lot to break down from yesterday in terms of positives and negatives. We didn't hit our shots, and unless you shoot the ball well it doesn't matter how good your defense is. You are going to lose. This is also the fourth time a team has played us much better and beaten us in a rematch this season. It should be noted, however, that Illinois, Michigan State, and Michigan all had their respective rematches on their home courts.

We have to find a sense of urgency on offense again. In viewing our last two second half performances it seems like we are almost afraid to shoot at times. We'll drive, but we won't even attempt to finish the drive. Instead, we'll kick it out for a reset and take an awful shot as the shot clock winds down. Teams seem to figure us out the second time around. While this can hurt us in Indianapolis, it may help us once we get to the NCAA Tournament.

Speaking of the Big Ten Tournament, I actually like the draw we ended up with. We don't play until late Friday night now against either Penn State or Indiana. I like the matchup with Penn State because the one time we played them with a full lineup we crushed them. The loss in Happy Valley came when we were essentially playing a six man rotation without Hummel and Kramer. I also think they are still pretty safe bubble-wise as long as they don't lose to Indiana. The urgency won't be there as much as it would be with a Northwestern or Michigan. From there it is very difficult to project what will happen because you just can't accurately predict who would be there in the semifinals.

I admit that this regular season was a disappointment with an 11-7 conference finish. We didn't defend our home court well in going 7-2 and our road record was 4-5 after going 6-3 away from Mackey last season. That is what ultimately allowed Michigan State tow in the conference. They were an identical 7-2 at home, but they finished an astounding 8-1 on the road. As tough as the conference was this season that is a very impressive mark. Winning the Big Ten is about protecting your home court and surviving on the road. If you can protect home court half your work is done. Getting any win on the road is doubly damaging because it means another team didn't protect its home court. Not a single team in the conference was undefeated at home this year, and Michigan State is the only team that had fewer than four road losses.

When you look at our 4-5 we were very lucky to get the four wins away from Mackey Arena we did get. Northwestern was an escape. Wisconsin was a war. Iowa was an ugly slugfest we barely pulled out. The only game on the road in which we played really well and controlled was Minnesota. It certainly looks like the Big Ten is back to the days where every single home court is a battle each night. If you are a fan of the conference as a whole you have to be excited. I can't wait to see how well we do once we are unleashed on the country en masse during the tournament.

We have to regroup now. I am convinced that when we are on, there are very few teams that can beat us. This season is far from lost and can be salvaged by reversing our Big Ten Tournament fortunes and playing well once we get to the NCAA's. A goal of two wins in each tournament is not asking for too much, and personally I think anything less would be a disappointment. We have to start shooting better and we must return to forcing multiple turnovers defensively first.