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Are We Not Merciful? Indiana At Purdue Preview

In my random scanning of the internet yesterday I found that my old nemesis, John M of the Crimson Quarry once again took offense to something I had stated earlier this week. The passage in question came in regards to tomorrow's game and how I felt Indiana's return to relevance was easy:

apparently the new meme is that IU has not suffered enough for its sins:

Purdue is desperate to prove that Indiana hasn't passed them. Our fans are both tired about hearing how they're back and honestly, some are a little bitter that they can decimate their own program via cheating, yet suddenly come back like its nothing and pass us when we saw years of hard work lost because of injuries at the absolute worst time. Mackey Arena is going to be a very hostile place for them on February 4th.

Got that? IU was able to "suddenly come back like it's nothing."

Yes, they have come back like it is nothing in terms of recruiting, and this highlights one of the most ignorant and frustrating things I find when dealing with some in the media. There are those out there that make the ridiculous statement of, "well, college basketball/The Big Ten/the state of Indiana needs the Hoosiers to be good." Sorry, but that is a statement born from the height of arrogance.

I'm Purdue fan. Of course I am never going to think Indiana has suffered enough for its sins. These guys blatantly disregarded NCAA rules and showed they didn't care from the moment they hired a known cheater, then acted shocked, shocked he would cheat again multiple times. Yes, they did the right thing in firing him and Tom Crean did the right thing in getting rid of several ne'er-do-wells when he came along, but their comeback was easy because they were able to attract top notch recruits (better than Purdue's on paper) without missing a beat. Crean's first major class was a top 10 one nationally (thus proving it's a lie they "never had talent" before this year), Cody Zeller came on board because of the name recognition and they were back. Most programs would still be struggling to get recruits half as good as IU is getting, so it is a credit to Crean that he can get that talent based on school name recognition alone.

So yes, it makes me angry. It frustrates me, and I wouldn't be bothered in the least if Indiana was banished to the hell of the Big Ten basement for the next 70 years as punishment for their crimes, not rising again until after I am long dead. I think the same about Notre Dame football (another program that operates now more on name recognition than results and has the "college football needs Notre Dame to be good" meme), so what? The Kentucky win bothered me greatly because in one game Indiana rose to bigger heights nationally than we did in four years of hard work with JJ, Rob, and E'Twaun. We did everything right for four years to get to our moment only to have it stolen away by a freak injury. IU wrecks their program and suddenly is the nation's darling and everything is right with the world of college basketball because of one win over Kentucky? Hell yes, it's going to piss me off.

That's why I am glad tomorrow is finally here. Like many Purdue fans, I am nervous because this is far from a guaranteed win and we have much to be concerned about, but I would love to have a moment with five minutes left where Ryne Smith hits his seventh three-pointer to put Purdue ahead 25, Mackey is rocking, and I am screaming, "ARE WE NOT MERCIFUL!?!?!?!"

2011-12 record: 17-6, 5-6 Big Ten

2010-11 record: 12-20, 3-15 Big Ten

Blog representation: Crimson Quarry, Inside the Hall

Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 112-84 (but everything before WWII doesn't count according to IU fans)

Last Purdue win: 2/23/11 at Indiana 72-61

Last Indiana win: 2/19/08 at Indiana 77-68

Time & TV: 7pm Big Ten Network

FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
Cody Zeller 23 27.8 5.6 8.6 65.2 0.0 0.0 0.0 3.8 5.0 77.2 2.2 4.1 6.3 1.1 1.6 1.5 1.4 2.7 15.0
Christian Watford 23 27.9 4.0 9.2 43.6 1.5 3.3 45.5 3.0 4.0 73.9 1.3 4.2 5.6 1.3 2.1 0.7 0.4 2.1 12.5
Jordan Hulls 23 29.9 4.0 7.9 51.1 2.2 4.3 50.0 1.9 2.1 89.8 0.3 2.4 2.7 3.3 2.2 1.0 0.0 2.0 12.2
Victor Oladipo 23 25.6 3.8 7.8 48.3 0.3 1.6 21.6 2.1 3.1 67.6 1.7 3.5 5.2 1.7 1.7 1.6 0.5 2.5 10.0
Will Sheehey 18 18.9 3.1 6.5 47.0 0.7 1.6 42.9 2.2 3.1 71.4 1.1 1.8 2.9 1.1 1.5 0.3 0.1 2.3 9.0
Verdell Jones III 23 26.3 2.5 6.3 39.6 0.3 1.2 28.6 2.5 3.4 74.4 0.7 2.2 2.9 3.5 2.6 0.7 0.2 2.1 7.8
Derek Elston 21 12.8 2.0 3.3 58.6 0.4 0.7 60.0 0.5 1.1 47.8 0.6 1.9 2.5 0.2 0.6 0.2 0.4 1.3 4.9
Matt Roth 21 11.4 1.4 2.5 55.8 1.3 2.3 55.1 0.6 0.6 100.0 0.1 0.5 0.6 0.5 0.1 0.2 0.0 0.5 4.7
Remy Abell 20 7.7 0.8 2.0 37.5 0.3 0.6 41.7 1.0 1.4 71.4 0.4 0.5 0.9 0.7 0.5 0.3 0.1 0.5 2.8
Austin Etherington 11 5.7 0.5 1.3 42.9 0.2 0.7 25.0 0.4 0.5 80.0 0.4 0.7 1.1 0.1 0.1 0.2 0.1 1.0 1.6
Tom Pritchard 23 10.1 0.7 1.2 63.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.1 0.3 50.0 0.6 1.0 1.5 0.4 0.2 0.1 0.2 1.7 1.6
Kory Barnett 10 1.9 0.3 0.6 50.0 0.1 0.4 25.0 0.0 0.2 0.0 0.0 0.3 0.3 0.2 0.1 0.1 0.0 0.1 0.7
Raphael Smith 8 1.4 0.0 0.4 0.0 0.0 0.1 0.0 0.3 0.3 100.0 0.0 0.3 0.3 0.0 0.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.3
Daniel Moore 13 6.8 0.0 0.3 0.0 0.0 0.1 0.0 0.2 0.2 66.7 0.2 0.5 0.6 0.9 0.5 0.7 0.0 0.9 0.2
Jeff Howard 8 1.8 0.0 0.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.3 0.0 0.3 0.0 0.3 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.3 0.0
Taylor Wayer 7 1.4 0.0 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.1 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.1 0.0

There are two major reasons that Indiana is light years better this season than in recent years:

1. Cody Zeller

2. Improved three-point shooting

Really, that's about it. Zeller was college basketball ready the moment he walked onto campus and he finally gives the Hoosiers a legitimate post presence. At 15 points and 6.3 rebounds per game he allows the Hoosiers to actually play some inside out, and their shooters have taken advantage. Zeller is a legitimate threat to score and has excellent footwork on the low block, unlike Tom Pritchard, who has regressed to the point he couldn't score against a chair.

What concerns me the most is Zeller drawing the defense inside to open up things for a whole host of BOMAFUWFWLOFST candidates because they shoot well over 40% from long range. Jordan Hulls is the annoying specialist guard that cherry picks threes and absolutely cannot be left open. Derek Elston, Christian Watford, Matt Roth, and Will Sheehey can float around outside and shoot threes all night because we're so bad at switching. I will say this right now: If we continue to defend the perimeter as poorly as we have at times this year we will lose. The Hoosiers shoot the three too well to think otherwise.

In recent games Elston has gotten to the rim more, but Victor Oladipo is one of their more dynamic scorers. All told, four Indiana players (Zeller, Hulls, Oladipo, and Watford) average in double figures. Sheehey is just outside that mark at nine per game, while the mercurial Verdell Jones III has a love/hate relationship with Indiana fans.

Even with Zeller Indiana isn't a particularly good rebounding team at 34.3 per game, but we still have to keep Zeller, Watford, and Oladipo off the offensive glass. This game will be won or lost depending on how well Indiana shoots. They rank 4th in the country in field goal percentage and 19th in scoring. Anything we can do defensively to make them miss is critical.

Lately Indiana's own defense has been called into question. Iowa shot better than 62% on Sunday, but because they didn't bother to play defense themselves they got blown out. Trey Burke was running the point very well on Wednesday at Michigan and getting to the rim in crunch time effectively, so I am eager to see a healthier Lewis Jackson attack. Unfortunately for us, we're not consistent enough on offense to make me confident we can take advantage of their lapses.

Coach Painter has said he will go with the small lineup of Robbie Hummel at the five and four guards. I don't like that because Travis Carroll has experience against Zeller (played against him in the 2010 semi-state championship game) and he was effective earlier this year in frustrating Meyers Leonard. Zeller is much better than Leonard, but it is still encouraging for TC that he can get some minutes out there.

To me, we absolutely have to take advantage of the raucous crowd and return to playing defense like we're accustomed to. If Indiana comes out, hits some early threes, and builds a big lead like Wisconsin and Michigan did, we're in serious trouble. We cannot let the crowd get out of this one. Last year against Ohio State a fantastic crowd made the Buckeyes literally wilt, as you could see it in the second half. This Indiana team does not have the confidence or championship pedigree of that Ohio State team, so it is up to you, Mackey Arena (not the Paint Crew, EVERYONE) to bring it tomorrow.

Finally, this is another chance to get a win over a ranked team. Yes, they will fall out of the top 25 after this week if they lose to us, but it is still a ranked win as of right now. That would go a long way toward buoying our profile for the NCAAs. I admit I am nervous. A win, especially since we're coming in rested, could be the springboard to a strong finish. Even though they are better, we still hold the upper hand in this rivalry, and if the Hoosiers snatch it back on our home floor it could be a devastating blow.