No, I have not been slacking. I got back from Minnesota at around 12:30 last night and my right eye officially has a bizarre infection or has an undeveloped sty, so things have been slow. I worked from home for the regular job, so this is the first I could get to tonight's basketball exhibition opener. I even shot a video in the Minneapolis sculpture garden yesterday, but YouTube is not uploading it for some reason. So, what follows is an abbreviated preview for tonight's game:
Location: Montevallo, AL
2011-12 record: 29-8, 12-5 Peach Belt Conference
2012 Postseason: Division II National Runner-up
TV: Big Ten Digital Network
Tickets: You can buy mine right here and print at home for $5 each.
This is not your average Division II team. These guys were the 2012 National runner-up, meaning they are likely quite a bit better than many lower conference Division I teams. Last year we drilled Northern Illinois in the first regular season game, but Montevallo is likely much better than a young and inexperienced Northern Illinois team that was among the worst in Division l last year.
Leading scorers D.J. Rivera (21.6 ppg) and Antonie Davis (14 ppg) were lost from their very successful team last year, taking with them more than 35 points per game. Jonas Brown and Drico Hightower return as their top twoleading scorers at just over eight points per game. Brown was a reserve last year, while Hightower was a starter.
Ryan May (6 ppg) and Marvin Fitzgerald (6.8 ppg) are the other two returning starters. Three more players with bench experience return, but this is largely a new roster from the one that made waves in March.
Here is the quick facts sheet on Montevallo. What you'll notice is that this is not an overly big team. That means I want to see what our new and improved frontcourt can do. First of all, I want to see what Jay Simpson, the most likely redshirt candidate, can do. Simpson has reportedly been praised by Painter lately, but he is still getting his conditioning back after a summer foot injury and did not play in Italy. I feel that being down two scholarship players we could use Simpson all year, but he is at a position of depth. A long-term benefit could be a redshirt.
A.J. Hammons and Sandi Marcius should be virtually unstoppable on offense and on the glass, so they only need to worry about foul trouble. Jeff Hefner and Silas Mills are the two tallest players at 6'8". Travis Carroll, Simpson, Marcius, and Hammons are all taller than that. Donnie Hale and Jacob Lawson are also right there.
We should have a huge advantage in the post and it will be the strength of the team, so I want to see us work on those things tonight. We know what we're going to get from D.J. Byrd, but the Johnson trio in the backcourt will be another interesting area to watch tonight. How will Ronnie Johnson fare in his first collegiate game? Can Anthony Johnson be more of a shooter? Is Terone Johnson ready to be The Man?
Montevallo is good, but they are still a Division II team. That means there is no excuse whatsoever for losing to them and we should be rightfully mocked if we do. A few years ago I mocked Syracuse, then highly ranked, for losing an exhibition to Division II LeMoyne. They tried to pass it off as, "Well, Boeheim didn't let us play zone." I don't care. There are too many advantages that a major conference team like Purdue has over a Division II squad. The D-I school should always win whether it is playing zone, man, zone even the olé defense inspired by our 2011 NCAA game against VCU.
So enjoy tonight. Purdue basketball is back!