Purdue gets its first major test of the 2013-14 season with three games over four days starting tomorrow at the Old Spice Classic in Orlando. This is a relatively new tournament that is similar to the Paradise Jam and Puerto Rico Shootouts that Purdue has recently participated in. It still represents a chance to get three quality non-conference opponents on a neutral floor as Oklahoma State, Memphis, LSU, Butler, and possibly St. Joseph's are expected to battle for NCAA Tournament berths.
This season marks the 8th year of the event that has been won by Gonzaga twice, Dayton, Notre Dame, Florida State, NC State, and Arkansas. To show how competitive it is teams like Creighton, Minnesota, and Penn State have gone 0-for-3 in it.
Here is the schedule for the weekend:
Thursday, November 28:
Game 1: Purdue vs. Oklahoma State, Noon, ESPN2
Game 2: Butler vs. Washington State, 2:30pm, ESPN2
Game 3: Memphis vs. Siena, 6:30pm, ESPN2
Game 4: LSU vs. St. Joseph's, 9pm, ESPN2
Friday, November 29:
Game 5: Purdue-Oklahoma St. loser vs. Butler-Washington St. loser, 11am, ESPNU
Game 6: Purdue-Oklahoma St. winner vs. Butler-Washington St. winner, 1:30pm, ESPN
Game 7: Memphis-Siena winner vs. LSU-St. Joseph's winner, 5:30pm, ESPN2
Game 8: Memphis-Siena loser vs. LSU-St. Joseph's loser, 8pm, ESPNU
Sunday, December 1:
Game 9: Game 5 winner vs. Game 8 winner for Fifth Place, Noon, ESPNU
Game 10: Game 6 loser vs. Game 7 loser for Third Place, 2:30pm, ESPNU
Game 11: Game 5 loser vs. Game 8 loser for Seventh Place, 5pm, ESPN3
Game 12: Game 6 winner vs. Game 7 winner for First Place, 7:30pm, ESPN2
Since there are seven possible teams Purdue will play and we know of only one of them I'll try to give a very brief capsule of each. I am thinking that most likely Oklahoma State, Butler, Memphis, and LSU will win on day 1, giving Purdue Washington State on day 2 and either Siena again or St. Joseph's on day 3. Either way, here is a quick look at all seven teams:
Oklahoma State (1-0 all-time vs. Purdue) - Purdue gets the best team in the field right off the bat and a victory not only puts the Boilers in a great position to play two other quality teams, it gives them a definite resume win that would pay huge dividends in March. The Cowboys enter ranked 5th in the AP Poll and 8th in the Coaches Poll. Marcus Smart is averaging 21 points, 4 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 4.2 steals per game as a National Player of the Year candidate. This is not just a one-man team though. Markel Brown, Phil Forte, Le'Bryan Nash, and Brian Williams all average in double figures while Stevie Clark is just outside at 9.8 points per game.
Purdue should have a size advantage with A.J. Hammons and Jay Simpson in the post, but Oklahoma State is an extremely athletic team that loves to get out and run. Through five games they are averaging 100.2 points per game, so Purdue's defense will be tested. This is one of the best teams Purdue will play all season.
Washington State (0-3 all-time vs. Purdue) - The Cougars present a much easier challenge in the second game if Purdue meets them. While Oklahoma State is second nationally in scoring, Washington State is 245th at just over 70 points per game. DaVonte Lacy is a quality junior guard averaging 20.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 2.3 steals per game, but he does almost everything for them. Freshman guard Ike Iroegbu is the only player averaging in double figures at 11.8 points per game.
A famous name in their lineup is guard Royce Woolridge, who is the son of former NBA player Orlando Woolridge, who once played at Notre Dame. He started out at Kansas before transferring and sitting out last season. He is the No. 3 guard on a very guard-heavy team.
Butler (16-37 all-time vs. Purdue) - Interesting fun fact here: Butler is the non-conference team Purdue has beaten and played more than any other. The Boilers have 37 wins all-time vs. the reigning top program in the state. Butler has won three games in a row, however, and Purdue hasn't beaten them since 1998. If Purdue and Butler meet on Friday it will be the first of two games this year counting the Crossroads Classic in Indianapolis in a few weeks.
Sophomore guard Kellen Dunham has become exactly the type of player I thought he would become at Butler when I saw him three years ago in the Marion regional. That day he lit up the gym for more than 70 points in two games. He is a kid with in the gym range that can shoot with confidence from anywhere. Khyle Marshall and Kameron Woods give the Bulldogs a pair of solid interior players as well.
St. Joseph's (1-1 all-time vs. Purdue) - We saw the Hawks a few years ago when we beat them 85-60 down in the Virgin Islands during the 2009 Paradise Jam. As usual, they are a pretty strong mid-major out of the Atlantic 10 that is a regular in the NCAA Tournament. They haven't been since 2008, but they have a balanced team that could make a return this year, especially if they can grab a win or two here in Orlando.
St. Joe's is led by Langston Galloway who averages 18.3 points. Ronald Roberts Jr. is a good interior player at 16.7 points and 7.7 rebounds. He is not the rebounding machine that is Halil Kanacevic, who is a beast at 6'8" 255 pounds. St. Joseph's could be a tough team to defend with four players averaging in double-figures.
LSU (1-1 all-time vs. Purdue) - Purdue hasn't played the Tigers since Gene Keady's final NCAA Tournament win back in 2003. They brought in a solid recruiting class this season, but senior Andre Stringer is their leading scorer at 18.3 points, which is well above his average last season of 10.4. Johnny O'Bryant is their top interior player at 6'9", 256 pounds and he is averaging a double-double at 17.8 points and 11.5 rebounds per game.
Of the freshmen that came in 6'8" forward Jordan Mickey is playing very well at 14.8 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. This is a team that is extremely active on the glass. They are currently the best rebounding team in America at 52 boards per game.
Memphis (5-1 all-time against Purdue) - Surprisingly Memphis is the team Purdue has struggled the most against in this field. Purdue's only win over the Tigers came in 1988 and the final Keady teams lost a home-and-home with them in 2004 and 2005. they have shifted conferences this year over to the American, so a victory here would be a quality one.
Memphis is another fast-paced team t hat likes to get out and run. They are 12th in scoring at 91 points per game and their only loss was at Oklahoma State by 21 points. Nick King and Joe Jackson lead them in scoring with Michael Dixon Jr. and Ausitn Nichols also in double figures. They are not an especially tall team, but they share the ball well and can definitely score some points.
Siena (0-2 all-time vs. Purdue) - Purdue should get at least one victory in this tournament since it has already played Siena once and won by eight. Purdue struggled most with Evan Hymes and Brett Bisping, who had a combined 34 points off the Siena bench. Turnvoers were an issue with Purdue committing 15 and giving up 15 assists.