That’s the big number we are facing when it comes to the Crossroads Classic. In the history of the event Purdue has had good teams and bad teams. In three of the five years Purdue has been good enough to at least reach the NCAA Tournament. Of the 10 games played at Bankers Life Fieldhouse overall 8 have been decided by 10 points or less.
But Purdue is 0-5.
It is a frustrating 0-5, too. It is frustrating because regardless of what happens in Indiana’s game, their fans get to gloat for a day, plus cheer loudly for Butler or Notre Dame. The closest Purdue has come to a win is the very first Crossroads Classic. Purdue led by 11 at halftime but shot 21% in the second half and lost to Butler 67-65 on a tip-in by Andrew Smith (RIP). Since then Purdue lost by 13 to Notre Dame, 6 to Butler, 31 to Notre Dame, and 6 to Butler.
But Saturday is a chance to change that. All four teams enter ranked for the first time ever, so it should be a great day of basketball. Purdue is 0-2 against ranked teams this season and really needs a quality non-conference win to legitimize some of the hype it has gotten. Also, it would be nice to beat the Irish for the first time in 50 years.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
From: South Bend, IN
Date : Saturday, December 17, 2016
Tip Time: 2:00 p.m. ET
Location: Indianapolis, IN
Arena: Bankers Life Fieldhouse (17,923)
Radio: Purdue Radio Network
SiriusXM Satellite: XM (Ch. 381); Internet (Ch. 968)
Live Stats: bit.ly/PurdueLiveStats
Odds: No Line Yet
2015-16 Record: 24-12, 11-7 ACC, reached NCAA Tournament Elite 8
2016-17 Record: 9-1
Opponent Blog: One Foot Down
Series with Purdue: Notre Dame leads 22-20
Last Notre Dame Win: 94-63 in Indianapolis on 12/20/2014
Last Purdue Win: 109-92 on 1/4/1966 at Notre Dame
NCAA Tournament History: 35 appearances (1978 Final Four, two straight Elite 8 appearances)
Purdue hasn’t beaten Notre Dame in over 50 years. The last win came in January of 1966 before the series took a 46 year hiatus. In that time both programs have had their ups and downs, but they have largely ignored each other. The Crossroads Classic revived the in-state rivalry and Notre Dame coasted to easy wins each time so far.
A Purdue win on Saturday will not be easy. The Irish are off to an excellent start and are ranked 21st after a 9-1 start. They own major conference wins over Colorado, Northwestern, and Iowa, plus a nice little win over Fort Wayne. Last week they led Villanova for most of the game before falling 74-66.
Their offense is definitely going to challenge Purdue too. They are 16th nationally in scoring at 86.6 points per game. Only Villanova and Northwestern have held them under 80 points. This is an experienced team with some seniors that contribute quite a bit.
Steve Vasturia, a 6’6” senior guard leads them in scoring at 16.6 points per game. He’s shooting 44.4% from three and you don’t want to put him on the line either. He is 32 for 33 from the free throw line for an impressive 97%. Bonzie Colson, a 6’5” junior has been very impressive at 16.5 points and 10.8 rebounds per game. Colson is just one of those guys that is going to outwork anyone he is facing to get the rebound.
V.J. Beachem, a 6’8” senior, is averaging 15.5 points and 4.6 rebounds while leading the team in three-point attempts. He missed the Purdue game two years ago, so we have never really played against him. He is still an in-state kid, however, that many of our guys are familiar with.
The fourth and final player that averages in double figures is point guard Matt Farrell, who averages 13 points and 5.5 assists per game. As a closer, he is even better than Vasturia. He is a perfect 24 for 24 from the line. That makes their back court an impressive 56 of 57 from the free throw line.
After those four the scoring drops off quite a bit. Matt Ryan (6.9 ppg) and Rex Pflueger (6 ppg) contribute a decent amount, but the Irish are mainly a core of four that does most of the work. Farrell and Vasturia both had 18 points against Villanova, but they could not stop Josh Hart, who had 37.
As with many teams, there is the question of how they match up with our size. Martinas Geben is their tallest rotation player at 6’10”, but he only plays about 15 minutes per game. That puts Beachem as their next biggest player. He is not your traditional banger, however, as he plays more inside-out like Vincent Edwards.
This is still a team that can score. They shoot 40% from three and 47.5% from the floor. They are going to get to the free throw line, and that is where they can really hurt Purdue. Not only do they shoot 86.4% from the line to give us death by papercuts, they can get Purdue’s bigs in foul trouble to level the playing field. They also do not turn the ball over.
Purdue is going to have to take care of the ball here. Notre Dame averages only eight turnovers per game and they play sound, fundamental basketball. They are not going to beat themselves. Purdue is going to have to stay out of foul trouble and play to its strengths.