With Purdue's season winding down, the Hammer and Rails staff has decided to come together around one metaphorical round table. The season has oscillated between a pandemic of sky-high expectations after an 11-0 start(FINAL FOUR YAY) before turning to abject horror and pessimism after blowing a 17 point half time lead at home to Iowa followed by a mind-boggling upset at the hands of the Fighting Illini(AT LEAST HAZELL DOESN'T MAKE US THINK WE'LL BE GOOD).
Now, the 18th ranked Boilers are coming off their 4th Big Ten loss against a top 4 Maryland team on the road to move to 19-5 for the season and the closing schedule doesn't get much easier from here with games at Michigan, Indiana, and Nebraska while playing host to Michigan St., Northwestern, and a rematch against Maryland.
Unlike last year, we're not on the outside looking in and needing a strong finish to get into the tournament, but these last six games might be even more important to the cause because of it. Depending on seedings and matchups, this Boiler team could be an early round exit or a potential Final Four team with a lot of room in between.
Let's get to it:
A three part question: Which win has been the most satisfying and which loss hurts the most? How do they compare to each other?
Pittsburgh was the most satisfying because Purdue started strong and, for the most part, finished strong. They were also hitting their jumpers with it being Ryan Cline’s best game to date. The loss that hurts the most is Iowa at home. That is really a game Purdue should have won under almost any other circumstance, but it fell apart in sections. It hurts more than Illinois because it seems like every team in America has a WTF loss, but this was a chance to have an excellent home win and, it seems now, stay in the Big Ten race. If Iowa runs away with it, however, it may not matter. Both games compare because we were up big in each, only to have the opposition make a big comeback. Against Pittsburgh (on the road no less) Purdue responded and won. Against Iowa at home it got even worse somehow.
cryan26 - Chose to not answer this question, which is fair, so I'll step in for him. I really enjoyed the Vanderbilt game. I thought the Boilers were going to collapse against an inconsistent, but occasionally brilliant team with legitimate NBA talent on its roster. That second half against Iowa is as bad a collapse as a team can have, and a marquee win taken away from us that will probably cost a seed in the tourney and any chance at the Big Ten Title. NINETEEN FRICKEN POINTS.
I know they are having a down year, but beating Ohio St. was extremely satisfying. They have a roster loaded with talent, and have always been a thorn in our side both on the court and with recruiting. I'm always happy when Ohio St. loses.
[Florida] cryan26: I'll be honest, Juan wrote me three novels for his answer. Here's the spark notes in direct quotes: "the Florida game was our first glimpse at the potential on this Boilermaker team." "The loss that hurts the most, outside of Illinois (because that's too obvious) would be Purdue's first loss to Iowa. Purdue completely abandoned its traditional style of play for 40 minutes." "I think I've indirectly mentioned how these two games compare. Purdue's strength is attacking the basket, and when they do it all game, they tend to win. When they abandon it, they tend to lose."
I'll have to go with getting the preseason tournament hardware against Florida for the most satisfying win...that is until we beat IU at Assembly Hall. The Iowa loss at home definitely hurt the most, and I should know, I was there for 3 of the 5 so far. One to one I'd say the loss to the Hawkeyes hurt more than Florida felt good, but overall this season's wins still far outweigh the losses. cryan26 - YOU BETTER NOT BE GOING TO BLOOMINGTON OR EVEN THINKING OF SAYING BLOOMINGTON OUT LOUD OR WATCHING THE GAME UNTIL WE TELL YOU IT'S SAFE.
What has been the biggest surprise this year?
That Purdue can’t have at least one shooter be "on" each game. I really thought that with Kendall, Dakota, and Ryan Purdue could just ride whatever one of them got the hot hand. Instead, it seems no one gets the hot hand for long stretches. I suppose part of that can be on Painter’s substitution patterns and the whole "get in rhythm" thing, but it is still odd. That Pittsburgh game with Cline is one of the few instances where one of them came through with the "look, just hit the open threes you’re going to get" role.
Honestly, I think the biggest surprise has been the three point shooting woes. With guys like Stephens, Mathias, and now Cline on the team I really thought three point shooting could be a strength but that just hasn’t materialized.
Other than A hiccup at Illinois, Purdue has avoided the bad loss. In fact, Purdue has rarely been challenged by bad teams. This consistency is a breath of fresh air, after dropping countless games to inferior competition over the last several seasons. cryan26 - in editing this, it gave me the option to turn comptition into completion or competition, I think I made the wrong choice.
Johnny Hill’s defense. From the beginning of the season I mentioned his tenacity of defense, and it has showed. He currently leads the team in steals, and while he only has 8 blocks, most of those blocks have come off of blocking an opponent’s fast-break drive after a Purdue turnover. That’s huge. If B1G Defensive Player of the Year were to come out of West Lafayette again, Johnny Hill would win it over Hammons and Davis. cryan26 - #hottake
Johnny Hill, just because I really didn't know what to expect from him, but he has been a not-so-poor man's Jon Octeus. P.J. deserves a mention here, but he didn't surprise me because I really had a good feeling about him going into the year.
What has been the biggest disappointment?
The lack of a killer instinct in this team has been bothersome. The game at home against Iowa is a perfect example. The team lacked composure to put away a team they outplayed for 20 minutes.
Shooting is by far the biggest disappointment. I mean, come on, Purdue has been dreadful in big games at shooting under pressure. I assumed with Stephens, Mathias, and Cline on the roster we could find one hot shooter a game, instead, we continue to be ice cold against good competition. This team will go as far as its shooting will allow, which worries me.
I'm going to say Ryan Cline. I really liked this kid coming out of high school, and I really did think he would shine and surprise the B1G with his shooting. But so far, that hasn't been the case. I'm first going to argue that it was a good idea to not redshirt him, before you take my argument in that direction. Without him, Purdue would have lost at Pitt, who has been struggling a bit in the ACC. So that ends that discussion.
However, Cline hasn't been a threat for opposing teams, both on offense and defense. On offense, his shot selection hasn't been great, and even then, his shots aren't falling. While his made 3-point percentage (35.8%) is higher than Mathias, Stephens, and Swanigan in the regular rotation (Haas hasn't attempted a 3, and Hill is 0-3 this season), Cline has the worst made field goal percentage (32.6%) among Purdue's regular rotation. In fact, Cline only has 1 made FG inside the arc. I also noticed in the Nebraska game that Cline doesn't move around with the ball, at all. I think I could count of both of my hands the amount of times Cline took the ball and actually dribbled. This is an issue. If he's just going to stand in one place once he gets the ball, he just becomes a wounded gazelle in the middle of the Serengeti, allowing the defense to attack and eat him up quickly. Cline needs to move the ball not only to help Purdue's motion offense flow, but also create better space for himself so he can make better shots. If he's just standing around waiting to get open, or not moving once he has the ball, it can be a drag on Purdue's offensive ability.
As for defense, well, we've seen that he also becomes a liability. Just in the Minnesota game alone, even the announcers were noticing that the Minny players were attacking Cline because he was such an easy target to score on. Look, I really like Cline, so if you're reading this Ryan, do not take it personally. You have a lot of room to grow, but we need to see that sooner rather than later if we all want Purdue to succeed in February and March (and hopefully April). cryan26 - Is this what I sound like when I rail against Biggie?
I hate to say anyone has been a disappointment because we really are right at where we were projected to be, but I thought Kendall would be more involved than he has been. Oh, I was kind of disappointed to not have Basil this year, but I think a redshirt was the right move. Can't wait to have his bounciness and energy back next year though.
With just six games left, two against a top-ten team and one against our arch-nemesis, which win do you want the most?
Obviously I want all of them but if I have to choose one it’s got to be at IU for me. IU has played basically no one in conference play and they just lost to Penn State. I want to go into Assembly Hall and throttle them. They are a bit too chippy right now with their so so team.
Indiana obviously, because Indiana.
"Right now, Purdue HAS to go 2-0 against the Michigan teams this week. Michigan State is hot right now, but they have their flaws..." cryan26 - Juan must have been very bored at work today. He goes deep into the MSU matchup and then the Michigan game. Valentine and Costello=very good. Michigan=very not good. He also lives in Michigan, so I think he's got some regional bias. But an A+ for not just giving IU the sweep. Hate should not be cause for need.
ALL OF THEM!
How do you see this season finishing out? What seed do you think Purdue gets?
I think Purdue goes 4-2 in the final six games and winds up with a 4 seed in the tournament and avoids that pesky 5-12 matchup.
I see Purdure finishing out the next 6 games 5-1, and then having a horrific shooting night in the Big10 tournament and losing to a middle of the pack team. I'll put Purdue at a 4 seed when it's all said and done.
Best case scenario for B1G regular season: 7-0.
Worst case: 2-5 for rest of B1G season. Only wins come from last second efforts against NW and Wisconsin at home. MSU and IU tear up Purdue, Michigan wins on a last second open 3-pointer, Maryland repeats what they did, and Nebraska makes Purdue look silly.
Realistic: 5-2. MSU could come into Mackey and steal a win, Purdue struggles at Michigan but wins. IU goes crazy behind the arc, and Purdue wins the rest behind H&H. They still finish with a top 4 seed because the B1G is that crazy, they win the first day but once again fall apart in the semi-finals. Enter as a 5 seed and make the Sweet 16, before losing to an eventual Final Four team.
We are obviously going to win out and grab a 1 or 2 seed. If you want to be a pessimist, I guess we drop 2 more in the regular season and reach the semis of the BTT, leading to a 4 or 5.
Check back in later this week for the rest of our round table discussions. We'll talk about things like our favorite 5 on offense and defense, changes we'd like to see made, who our guy is, and Jumbo will take an inadvertant shot from Holmes.