Ready or not, basketball season is finally here! This is the earliest we have ever started a season, and there are a lot of changes. We have a 20-game Big Ten schedule. We have four new starters. We have a ton of newcomers. What we do know is that Mackey Arena will continue to be one of the toughest venues in all of college basketball for visiting teams. We only lost once at home all of last season, by one rebound, essentially.
But this team is new. We are turning over another page and hope that THIS is finally THE year for a run to the Final Four is anew. It all starts tonight with Fairfield.
From: Fairfield, Connecticut
Game Location: Mackey Arena (14,240)
Date: November 6, 2018
Time: 7pm ET
TV: BTNPlus (The only regular season game on BTN Plus on BTN2Go)
Radio: Boilermaker Sports Network
Odds: Purdue by 21
2017-18 Record: 17-16, 9-9 MAAC (MAAC Tournament Runner-up)
2018-19 Record: 0-0, 0-0
Record vs. Purdue: Purdue leads 1-0
Last Purdue win: 106-64 at Purdue on 11/18/2017
Last Fairfield win: None
Blog Representation: Message Board
NCAA Tournament History: 3 appearances, last in 1997.
Coach: Sydney Johnson (107-125 in 8th year at Fairfield, 171-177 overall.
Purdue is a little familiar with the Stags, as we played for the first time last season. The Boilers blasted them 106-64 in the third game of the season and set a school record with 19 threes in a comfortable win. It was a game where every got to play, even the very short-lived Eden Ewing. Dakota Mathias was 6 of 6 from three and led us with 23 points.
The Stags recovered and very nearly made the NCAA Tournament. They were 9-9 in the MAAC, but caught fire and made the conference tournament final with wins over Marist, Niagara, and Quinnnipiac. Their luck ran out in an 83-71 loss to Iona.
While Purdue lost quite a bit and is breaking in a mostly new roster, the Stags are too. Tyler Nelson led the MAAC in scoring at 22.2 points per game and Ferron Flavors Jr. is also gone after scoring 12.3 per game.
The Stags will have to rally behind Jesus Cruz, who was third on the team at 9.1 points per game. Jonathan Kasibabu is a senior that averaged 9 points per game and guard Aidas Kavaliauskas had 92 assists in 20 games. Other major contributors back are Wassef Methnani and Matija Milin. Cruz had 10 points against us off the bench last season, but given the margin of victory, that doesn’t mean much.
The Fairfield roster has players from all over the world. They have a player each from Egypt, Tunisia, Serbia, Congo, Sweden, Lithuania, and Puerto Rico. That’s quite a diverse number of styles we’ll be facing. Their tallest player is Milin at 6’9”, so even without Haas we have a good size advantage.
Let’s be honest: This should be a game Purdue wins in a blowout. We’re going to see what we have and how everyone new on the roster fits together. I expect to see some experimental lineups to see what works and what doesn’t. If I had to guess at starters it would be as follows:
PG: Carsen Edwards
SG: Ryan Cline
SF: Nojel Eastern
PF: Evan Boudreaux
C: Matt Haarms
I am most interested in seeing how the freshmen play. We’re going to bring four off the bench with Aaron Wheeler and Sasha Stefanovic along with Eric Hunter and Trevion Williams. We can go 10 deep too as Grady Eifert has really come along. He might even start at the 4.
As for how the rotation fills out, we’ll see. It is a whole new team it feels like for the first time in a very long time.
UPDATE: As far as streaming goes, this is the lone BTNPlus game on BTN2Go this season. Casey will be in attendance and livetweeting.