Beat Indiana and win the Big Ten.
I don’t know if the stakes have ever been as high in an Indiana-Purdue game at the end of the season. The closest is probably 2008, when both teams were ranked heading into the only meeting on February 19th. Purdue was 12-1 in the Big Ten and Indiana was 10-2, both with aspirations to win the league. Indiana won, then promptly quit once Kelvin Sampson was fired. Purdue would later lost at Ohio state and finished a game behind Wisconsin (a team it beat twice) at 15-3.
Indiana doesn’t have much to play for here aside from ruining our season. Yeah, a win tomorrow and a win this weekend at Ohio State might get them back into at large range, but at 8-10 in the Big Ten the Hoosiers probably shouldn’t merit at large consideration. The only wins they have had since January 21st are a triple overtime win over Penn State and Saturday’s odd run-filled win over Northwestern.
For Purdue, a conference title is on the line. All Purdue has to do is hold serve at home in front of a frenzied crowd and it will have a record 23rd Big Ten championship. A normal Indiana-Purdue crowd brings out the best in Mackey. Add in the possibility of a Big Ten trophy presentation afterwards, something that hasn’t happened in over 20 years, and the intensity should rise even more. It should be an excellent night at Mackey Arena. We say goodbye to a pair of seniors and probably one of the all-time greats at Purdue in Caleb Swanigan.
You had better believe that Indiana wants to ruin it and their fans would love to rub it in over the next rest of our lifetimes. If the roles were reversed we would be hoping for the same.
From: Bloomington, IN
Date: Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Tip Time: 7pm
Location: West Lafayette, Indiana
Arena: Mackey Arena (14,804)
Radio: Purdue Radio Network
SiriusXM Satellite: XM (Ch. 381); Internet (Ch. 968)
Live Stats: bit.ly/PurdueLiveStats
Odds: Purdue by 10
2015-16 Record: 27-8, 15-3 Big Ten (Big Ten Champion, lost to North Carolina in NCAA Sweet 16 101-86)
2016-17 Record: 16-13, 6-10
Opponent Blog: Crimson Quarry
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 116-89
Last Indiana Win: 77-73 at Indiana on 2/20/2016
Last Purdue Win: 69-64 at Indiana on 2/9/2017
NCAA Tournament History: 5-time NCAA Champion (1940, 1953, 1976, 1981, 1987). 43 appearances, last in 2016
Because of quirks in the Big Ten scheduling Purdue has played three straight games in Bloomington in this series. The first game in 2014-15 was in West Lafayette, and the second was a narrow Purdue win in Bloomington. Last season they only met in Bloomington, while a few weeks ago the third straight game was played down south. Purdue won two of the three games, and Indiana hasn’t won in West Lafayette since the 97-60 complete evisceration in 2013.
Purdue’s win a few weeks ago was the second of five straight losses that basically ended Indiana’s season. That streak was broken Saturday night thanks to a 22-0 run before halftime against Northwestern, then an 8-0 closing run for a 63-62 win. For most of the game Indiana looked awful, but 30 points in roughly 6 total minutes changed everything.
That is what gives me concern. I have called Indiana a dead team walking, but they have played close games in this stretch. It was in finishing games that the struggled. They lost on a buzzer beater to Minnesota and in overtime to Iowa. In both games they collapsed. They were tied with Purdue at the last media timeout and they played Wisconsin tight in Madison.
If James Blackmon Jr. is engaged he is a difference maker. He almost single-handedly willed them to a win in Minneapolis and he had a critical three-pointer to bring the Hoosiers within two of Northwestern Saturday night. Thomas Bryant had 23 against Purdue and struggled the last few weeks, but he is still dangerous and can pull our bigs away from the basket like Moritz Wagner did so effectively.
The most disappointing player in this run was Robert Johnson. The junior guard is undoubtedly one of the players Tom Crean called out after the Michigan loss and, aside from 19 points in the loss at Iowa, he has done very little. He was scoreless at Minnesota and had several mental lapses against Purdue. Indiana is going to need the effort he put forth against Iowa.
And thus we have the biggest question about the Hoosiers. Did the Northwestern win re-ignite something? How much does ruining Purdue’s party motivate them? Turnovers and poor shooting are still issues, but when they turn it on like they did for the 22-0 run over the last five minutes of the first half they can just blitz you offensively. It was a breathtaking run that many IU fans had to be wondering, “Where the hell was THAT all year?”
Then you have Purdue. It is no secret we looked off in both games last week. Purdue was able to survive in State College, but got shredded in the paint by the Nittany Lions and could not stop the pick and pop against Michigan. Indiana can run that with Bryant. They can shoot the ball and get hot from long range. If Purdue does not play demonstrably better after two sub-par games they can absolutely walk into Mackey Arena and win.
That’s why Purdue has to respond. We haven’t looked good. Caleb Swanigan was not his usual self last week. As Purdue hit a wall after peaking a little too early or were they momentary stumbles and a chance to tinker and fix things before March?
We’ll find out tomorrow.