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Preparing For The Demon Wood Of Xibalba

In Indiana, there are no alcohol sales on Sunday, so please stock up today. Tomorrow at 6pm we will have the drinking game of "How many times will we see Robbie's injury before every Purdue fan snaps?" I am betting on a minimum of six replays of the Demon Wood of Xibalba rising up to tear Robbie Hummel's knee and steal the 2010 national title from us.

Of course, if you follow me on Twitter, one reader who shall remain nameless believes that coach Painter was the reason we lost the title once Robbie got hurt because he didn't recruit an indispensible leader and 6'8" power forward with a Swiss Army knife of skills to slide in and replace him. Oh wait, he did. We call him The Traitor and he is currently finishing his career at Notre Dame because he wanted to be closer to his girlfriend.

A lot of people are very angry right now, and it is starting to border on the absurd. Half of the people who want Painter gone blame his inability to get past the Sweet 16 round of the tournament, plus his coaching deficiencies against a zone. The other half blame his recruiting fallacies and the fact that a steady pipeline of 7'2, 325 pounds of pure muscle centers that have point guard handles and range from 35 feet are kicking down the doors to Mackey Arena and come play for us. There is a third group that blames Morgan Burke for not having the facilities to get said 17-star recruits, forgetting the multi-million dollar renovation we just finished.

A summary of comments regarding the Penn State disaster from some:

  • I've kicked readers off for saying we should have let Painter go last spring (which did not happen)
  • Painter was the reason we couldn't get past the Sweet 16 with Hummel/Moore/Johnson (except for the fact that Hummel wasn't playing in the second Sweet 16 and if he was, I guarantee we make the Final Four at minimum).
  • We haven't shown Final Four potential (completely ignoring the past two seasons)
  • We can sign any big time coach we want at any time, including Brad Stevens (not true)
  • The ghost of John Wooden has nothing better to do than haunt Purdue basketball for the last 45 years and insure mediocrity, despite the fact he's only been dead for about 2 of them.
  • There is absolutely no hope for the future and we might as well downgrade to Division III and hope we can compete with Wabash College.

Everyone needs to relax. It was one awful loss in which everyone was to blame. In retrospect, yes Painter deserves blame, but his body of work is more than enough reason to not run him off right now. In fact, it was only 10 months ago that EVERYONE (fans, players, the mainstream media, etc.) was collectively losing his shit that he might be gone, and a 12-4 mark int he 16 games since his extension with a depleted roster is a fireable offense?

Players like Ryne Smith had a bad game, but his body of work (he is our No. 2 leading scorer) make him far from a wasted scholarship. Nearly every single player on the roster was abysmal at Penn State. Let's throw away the tape and move on.

I admit I went overboard talking about a Big Ten title and predicting an easy win over Penn State, but can you blame me? Judging by the way we had played in our most recent outing ad the way the Nittany Lions had played all season of course it looked like an easy win, and I would predict it again if we played tomorrow. They are not a good basketball team and we absolutely should beat them easily because of how we have shown we can play. This is what we call an aberration, folks. The real test comes tomorrow at Minnesota.

2011-12 record: 12-4, 0-3 Big Ten

2010-11 record: 17-14, 6-12 Big Ten

Blog Representation: The Daily Gopher, From the Barn

Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 96-80

Last Purdue win: 73-61 at Purdue on 1/29/11

Last Penn State win: 70-67 at Minnesota on 1/13/11

The biggest story for Minnesota this season is that the Demon Wood of Xibalba has claimed one of their own, and it now has the power to do so away from home. Trevor Mbakwe, a potential All-American, was lost in their only non-conference loss to Dayton in the Old Spice Classic down in Orlando. They were able to stabilize and go 12-1 outside of conference, but they have lost to Illinois (in double overtime) Michigan, and Iowa to start the league. That is the biggest factor, honestly. This is a team that cannot afford an 0-4 start with trips to Indiana and Penn State afterward followed by a home game against Minnesota and a road trip to Michigan State.

This is a major turning point game for the Golden Gophers. Win it, and they can keep their NCAA hopes alive. Lose it, and I can see them sitting at 2-7 in the middle of Big Ten play well out of the race. Since we play them only once this year, and on the road, no less, it is big for us too. Their RPI is still respectable, and as we saw on Thursday, road wins cannot be taken for granted in this conference.

Since Mbakwe went down they have lost their leading scorer and rebounder in him, forcing them to change things up a bit. Ralph Sampson III is a plyer that should step forward, but honestly, he has been a major disappointment. As a 6'11" senior Big Ten center he should be a dominant player. Instead, he ebbs and flows. He had 22 in a mano-y-mano game against Meyers Leonard and Illinois, but only six the next game against Michigan. He averages only 9.3 points per game and a meager 5 rebounds. Folks, I am confident I could get five rebounds per game based on sheer hustle, and he has a foot height advantage.

Julian Welch has taken the bulk of the scoring load, but he is the only player averaging in double figures. Unlike Tim Frazier in a similar role for Penn State, Welch is not much of a rebounder and he only has 2.6 assists per game. Rodney Williams and Austin Hollins help out, with Williams being the primary forward in Mbakwe's absence. Maverick Ahanmisi, Chip Armelin, and Andre Hollins round out the rotation with respectable numbers as you can see above.

Minnesota presents an interesting case because since Mbakwe's injury, they have really done everything by committee. Mbakwe was serious 15 and 10 every night potential for them, so the adjustment has seen them spread everything around. They are a very deep team with 11 different guys seeing regulation action out of necessity. In a way, they are similar to us in that matter. They have to have everyone pulling their weight or their machine quickly seizes up.

We saw it at Penn State. Kelsey Barlow, DJ Byrd, and Hummel were the only players doing much of anything. We got essentially nothing from the rest of the roster and look what happened. As much as I would like to see us throw out a zone for rest purposes and because no one expects it from us, I don't think it will ever happen (it is my biggest beef with Painter). We can get very predictable not only offensively, but defensively.

Minnesota isn't a strong rebounding team without Mbakwe, so that should help us. Jacob Lawson needs to grab and secure the ball, not grab and immediately try to dribble. If we can get Sandi Marcius back and if Travis Carroll continues to improve, this could be a big game for all three of them. On the point guard front, Lewis Jackson needs to sit and heal, and I hope he does so we can prepare for life without him.

As much as this is a tipping point game for Minnesota, it is a huge one for us. We must come out and show that the Penn State debacle was a fluke. Wisconsin and Iowa would be more than happy to end our home winning streak if we don't wake up. Win this, and the Big Ten race is still technically in our control too since everyone except Michigan State has a loss. Yes, we need to focus on that game, but as long as Big Ten title is mathematically possible I am going to have it as a goal, and so should this team.

I hate to say it, but this is a must win for Purdue. Our season really is in the balance right now.