After three easy tune-up games the boilers will get into the meat of their non-conference schedule this weekend with the Hall of Fame tip-Off Classic. These two games are being played at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville Connecticut at the site of a Native American casino. It is better known as the home of the Connecticut Sun of the WNBA, the one-time employer of Purdue's Katie Douglas. The North Carolina A&T and Vermont games were part of the campus round of games, but Purdue is in the "Naismith Bracket" featuring the premier four teams that were invited. Technically, games continue all the way to next week when Vermont visits Florida.
Since Purdue has two games and three possible opponents I am going to forego the usual preview matrix, but here are the important details we need to know:
Saturday, November 21
Purdue vs. Old Dominion - Noon - ESPN3/WatchESPN
Sunday, November 22
If Purdue loses to Old Dominion - vs. St. Joseph's/Florida Loser - Noon - ESPNU
If Purdue beats Old Dominion - vs. St. Joseph's/Florida Winner - 5:30pm - ESPN2
All-time Records vs. Opponents:
Old Dominion - 1-0 (Purdue won 67-59 on 3/15/1979 in NIT at Purdue)
St. Joseph's - 1-1 (Purdue won 85-60 on 11/22/2009 in the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands)
Florida - 3-3 (Purdue lost the last meeting 74-67 on 3/18/2007 in the NCAA Tournament)
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We will technically have dueling open threads as for the first time maybe ever Purdue football and Purdue basketball will be starting at the exact same time. I am willing to bet that there will be a lot more interest in the basketball game.
This is a game we should not take too lightly, either. The Monarchs are also entering at 3-0 after double-digit wins over Niagara, Buffalo, and Morgan State. They have also won an impressive 27 games in a row at home, so it is a good thing we are not facing them at home.
Last season he Monarchs were a solid Conference USA team that just missed out on the NCAA Tournament. After going 24-6 during the regular season they were upset in the C-USA Tournament by Middle Tennessee State. They received a No. 1 seed to the NIT, meaning they were one of the last teams left out of the NCAAs. Once there they beat Charleston Southern, Illinois State, and Murray State to reach the NIT final four before losing to Stanford. They had impressive regular season wins over LSU, VCU, and Georgia State, but overall hey did not have the schedule heft to get into the NCAAs A final record of 27-8 was still damned impressive.
The Monarchs are led by Trey Freeman, a 6'2" senior guard who is averaged 16.9 points per game last season and is over 20 so far this year. Freeman can shoot the ball very well. He is over 40% in his career from long range and he is around 44% for his career from the field overall. Freeman does a good job of drawing contact and getting to the line too.
Brandan Stith and Aaron Bacote are also averaging in double figures so far on the young season. Stith is a transfer from East Carolina that just became eligible and he has started the season strong. At 6'7" 240 he is still undersized compared to our front line. Bacote is a fourth year player that averaged 15.5 points in 2013-14 but fell to 9.8 per game last year. He is also a free throw shooter above 80% and a career 1,000 point scorer.
Old Dominion lists a 6'10" sophomore in Trey Porter and a 7'1" senior in Payton Pervier, but Porter is ineligible after transferring from George Mason last year and Pervier has not played yet.
ODU is a pretty solid defensive team that normally rebounds well, but their own blog thinks rebounding is an issue this year:
Replacing Ross, Arledge and Douglas-Those three were far and away the most active Monarchs on the defensive glass a season ago. Douglas was elite at over 23 percent of available rebounds on the defensive glass. Arledge and Ross were over 17 percent. Ross/Arledge were also five year players who had size and ability to not only box out their man, but form a wall for ODU's guards to come in and clean up. Through just two games, Freeman, Baker and Bacote are all rebounding at a lower rate on the defensive side of the floor.
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St. Joe's is also off to a 3-0 start, but with much more narrow wins. They survived Drexel in their first game 83-82 before beating Niagara and Buffalo. This comes after a 13-18 season with no real good wins, but a lot of narrow losses. They had seven losses by 5 points or less or in overtime.
The Hawks are led by DeAndre Bembry, who is averaging better than 17 points per game and had a 17.7 ppg average last season. The 6'6" forward is an excellent shooter from the field, hitting 52%. Aaron Brown, Isaiah Miles, and Pierfrancesco Oliva were also averaging more than 12 points per game through the first two games. Oliva is their only contributor with any height, however, and he is just 6'8". Their tallest player is Skylar Scrivano at 6'10" and he does not play, so Purdue should have a huge height advantage.
Honestly, I don't expect to play St. Joseph's I expect to beat ODU and Florida to beat St. Joe's, so let's move on. Purdue should be able to handle St. Joe's in any matchup.
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This is the matchup we want in the final for maximum value from this tournament. We already get ODU as a quality mid-major opponent that can be an RPI boost later on. We need Florida in the final as a possible NCAA team from a major conference to add more heft to our profile. Florida is heading to Connecticut at 2-0 after wins over Navy 59-41 and North Carolina A&T 104-54. Last season they had talent, but underachieved at 16-17 and missed the NCAA tournament. This was after beginning the season at No. 8, but a loss to Miami at home ended a 33-game home winning streak and started a downward spiral where they lost pretty much every non-conference game to a team with a pulse. They were also only 8-10 in the SEC, which is not a basketball league.
Florida did bring in a solid recruiting class with KeVaughn Allen, Kevarrius Hayes, and Keith Stone all in ESPN's top 100 class. Allen was rated #56 as a 6'3" shooting guard, Hayes was #20 as a 6'9" forward, and Stone was #82 as a 6'7" forward.
The leading scorer so far has been Devin Robinson, a 6'8" sophomore who has 14 points per game this year after 6.4 per game last year. After him Florida has been incredibly balanced, but against overmatched opponents. We know how good NCA&T is (not very), so the scoring was really spread around. Nine different players are averaging 7 points per game or better through two games.
Purdue should also look out for senior Dorian Finney-Smith. The 6'8" forward averaged 13.1 points and 6.2 rebounds per game last year and this year he has 9 points and 11 rebounds per contest. He can step out and shoot the three too, hitting 42.6% of his long range attempts last season.
Unlike anyone else Purdue has played so far Florida has the size to match up with our front line. The 6'11" John Egbunu and 6'10" Schuyler Rimmer can play in the post while Hayes, Stone, Robinson, and Finney-Smith can match up with Caleb Swanigan and Vince Edwards.
Of all the possible games, this one looks like the best one for Purdue. Florida can definitely give Purdue a solid test on a neutral floor.