Our Boilers have one final tune-up before returning to Big Ten play with Iowa next week. It is a big one, too. Yes, Belmont is a low-major program that we normally should beat, but they are a very, very good low-major. That need not be overlooked. Yes, Purdue went 0-4 against the bog four on its 11-game out of conference schedule, but we have had a few mid-major and low-major games that have been decent teams. Ohio is 7-4 overall. Davidson is 9-3 and a potential NCAA team. Ball State is good enough to win the MAC.
Then you have Belmont. The Bruins are absolutely dangerous at 9-1. Their lone loss was 100-92 at Linc Darner’s Green Bay team. They have won this year at UCLA, beat rival Lipscomb twice (one of the best small-school rivalries in the country because they are mere blocks apart and play twice despite not being in the same conference), and beat Western Kentucky. This is a very good team that has received votes in the AP poll the last few weeks and absolutely could challenge us in Mackey. They are heavily favored to win their conference’s NCAA bid and with a win at Purdue they would have a legitimate at large profile.
From: Nashville, Tennessee
Date: Saturday, December 29, 2018
Tip Time: 4:30 PM ET
Location: West Lafayette, Indiana
Arena: Mackey Arena (14,804)
Television: Fox Sports 1
Online: Fox Sports Go
Radio: Purdue Radio Network
SiriusXM Satellite: XM (Ch. 381); Internet (Ch. 968)
Live Stats: bit.ly/PurdueLiveStats
Odds: No Line Yet
2017-18 Record: 14-17, 7-11 MAC East
2018-19 Record: 24-9, 15-3 Ohio Valley
Opponent Blog: None
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 1-0
Last Belmont Win: None
Last Purdue Win: 98-61 at Purdue on 12/18/2002
NCAA Tournament History: 7 appearances, last in 2015, 0-7 all-time
Coach: Rick Byrd, 695-343 in 33rd season at Belmont
Last year was a bit of a hard luck season for the Bruins. They won 24 games and were 15-3 in their conference, but had no postseason bid. Murray State was the regular season and tournament champion at 16-2, so they went to the NCAA Tournament and Belmont just missed an automatic NIT bid. To make matters worse, they handed Murray State on of their two conference losses.
This program has been pretty good in recent seasons. All seven NCAA appearances have come since the 2005-06 season and they have also been to the NIT three times in that time. They have won 23 games or more eight times in that span. Once in the NCAAs they have yet to win a game, but they have put the fear of God into some teams. In 2008 they lost to No. 2 seed Duke by a point. They have also played Wisconsin, Georgetown, Arizona, and Virginia close as no better than an 11 seed.
This is a strong offensive team averaging better than 89 points per game. All five starters average in double figures as well. Dylan Windler, a 6’7” junior from Perry Meridian in Indianapolis leads them at 19.2 points per game. He also averages 9.1 rebounds and 2.7 assists as an all around solid player. He leads the team in three-point attempts and is shooting 35.8% from long range.
Nick Muszynski, a 6’11” freshman, is also off to a great start and will challenge Matt Haarms. He can play outside a bit (2 of 3 from three), but he has been dominant in the post. He rebounds pretty well and is an 86% free throw shooter. I hate to say it, but he is better than Haarms in most categories.
Kevin McClain, a 6’3” senior guard, is a steady presence in the back court. He averages 12.6 points per game and 3.9 assists as a guard with a ton of experience. He is not going to get rattled, and he shoots 34% from three. Grayson Murphy, a 6’2” freshman, has burst onto the scene and is averaging 12.3 points and a whopping 6.8 assists per game. Those are great numbers for a freshman and he had 12 points and 7 assists in the win at UCLA.
The fifth double figures scorer is Caleb Hollander, a 6’8” freshman. He averages 11.5 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. He rounds out a starting lineup that honestly looks quite lethal against us.
There are definite reasons for concern here. This team shares the ball extremely well at 21 per game. Both guards can distribute and Murphy does not play like a freshman. They have plenty of size at the forward spots and both guys can score. They also have a big that can score and rebound. He is solid defensively at 2.6 blocks per game. Honestly, this is a team built to cause a ton of problems to a higher seed in the first round of the NCAAs.
Three of their starters are freshmen too, so the experienced players like Michael Benkert, Nick Hopkins, and Seth Adelsperger come off the bench to provide key reserve minutes. Adelsperger is also a local product, as he is a 6’10” big from nearby Peru. Benkert played in high school at Center Grove south of Indianapolis.
Honestly, this is the type of test we need. This is a very dangerous team that is not going to be afraid to play at Mackey. They’re also really good. They play well together, have great individual stats, and have a nice mix of experience and talent. They are more than capable of winning this game.