If Purdue loses at Marquette tomorrow night prepare for a firestorm.
I am not saying that because it means Purdue is a bad team. As we learned last year, the Boilers did not have a single quality win outside of the Big Ten (maybe Belmont was one?) and it was 6-5 at Christmas. It still won the Big Ten and came two tenths of a second from the Final Four. I think on Saturday night against Texas, which was stunning because it occurred in Mackey Arena, you saw a team that will come to together as the year goes on and will be significantly better in February and March than in mid-November.
That said, a loss to a good Marquette team would put Purdue under .500 for the first time since the end of the 2013-14 season. There are still plenty of chances for excellent non-conference wins and a tough road loss is not damaging, but there is a small but vocal minority of the fanbase that loses it after every loss regardless of circumstances. They will call for blood if Purdue loses and we’ll have to deal with it.
Saturday night was deeply frustrating because, quite literally, let a win slip through its fingers. Up 62-57 with the basketball and less than 3 minutes left is winning time at Mackey. Unfortuantely, both Aaron Wheeler and Eric Hunter Jr. mishandled passes and Matt Haarms was called for an illegal screen. They were frustrating, uncharacteristic mistakes that Purdue just does not make at home.
Fortunately, there are plenty of other chances, and that includes tomorrow night in Milwaukee against a possible NCAA Tournament team in Marquette. win on the road and the Texas loss becomes a lot easier to digest.
- From: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
- Game Location: Fiserv Forum (17,341)
- Date: November 13, 2019
- Time: 9pm ET
- TV: Fox Sports 1
- Radio: Boilermaker Sports Network
- Odds: No Line Yet
- NET: 28
- KenPom: 15
- 2018-19 Record: 24-10, 12-6 Big East (Lost to Murray State 83-64 in NCAA First Round)
- 2019-20 Record: 1-0, 0-0
- Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 9-0
- Last Purdue win: 86-71 at Marquette pm 11/14/2017
- Last Marquette win: None
- Blog Representation: Anonymous Eagle
- NCAA Tournament History: 29 appearances, 1977 National Champions
- Coach: Steve Wojciehowski (98-69 in 6th season at Marquette)
On paper, Marquette is more highly rated than Texas, but it is still very early in the season. In the rankings Purdue, Marquette, and Texas are all just about even and that also is true in the KenPom ratings as well. Marquette is 13th in adjusted offense and 30th in adjusted defense. Of course, they only have one game as a sample size and we have two.
Last season was a decent one for Marquette that ended in disappointment. They comfortably made the NCAAs, but were a first round upset victim to Murray State and No. 2 overall pick Ja Morant in a 5/12 game. It was a bitter end to a season that saw them drop six of the last seven games. They also had an ugly early season 23 point loss at Indiana.
We’re still somewhat familiar with the Golden Eagles because we played them two years ago in this event. Purdue won in Milwaukee 86-71 behind 22 points from Isaac Haas and 15 from Carsen Edwards. The two players left we have from that game, Haarms and Nojel Eastern, had different nights. Haarms had 7 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 blocks in 19 minutes while Nojel was scoreless in 4 minutes.
The main player to watch though is Markus Howard, and he played in that game as well. He had 24 points on 8 of 13 shooting and hit four threes. Howard is basically Carsen Edwards for the 2019-20 college basketball season. He made a huge statement in Marquette’s 88-53 win to open the season over Loyola-Maryland to open the season last week. He had 38 points on 11 of 20 shooting with seven made threes. He averaged 25 points per game last season, shot 40% from three, 89% at the line, and also averaged 3.9 assists. If we still had Carsen it would be really fun to see those two just duel for 40 minutes. They could easily combine for 90 or more and it would be a damn lot of fun to watch.
Where Purdue has a significant advantage is in the paint with Haarms and Trevion Williams. Jayce Johnson, a grad transfer from Utah, is their lone player over 6’9” and he did not play in the opener. Anonymous Eagle definitely had some concerns for him.
In the opener Sacar Anim and Koby McEwen had 11 points, but Theo John was the only post player that did much. He had 7 points and 8 rebounds, but this is definitely a guard and perimeter-oriented team. They shot 60.9% from three, hitting 14 of 23 attempts from long range. Given Purdue’s struggles with the drive and kick game against Texas that is a major concern. Brendan Bailey provides some size at a forward spot at 6’8”, but he had only 3 points in 21 minutes.
Howard is obviously what makes this team go. Like Carsen last year, he is going to give Marquette a chance on any night against anyone. Carsen damn near took down the Champs by himself in Louisville and Howard is more than capable of having a similar performance. What I want to see is Purdue dominate a game inside with Haarms and Williams trading off. If the best defense against them is a foul-prone 7-footer they can feast all night.
Avoiding silly turnovers is also key. Purdue didn’t struggle with the ball just in the closing minutes. Simply catching passes was a major issue all night against Texas. Right now it will only take a few small fixes for Purdue to improve significantly: just catch the ball and have a little more touch at the rim. If Purdue does both of those things it beats Texas by 10 on Saturday.
Of course, the other good matchup is Nojel on Howard. When facing a player of his caliber you have two strategies: Shut down everyone else and dare him to score 70 by himself and beat you or put a lockdown defender on him and see what happens. Nojel has the size to cause fits for the 5’11” Howard. He had 38 point in 26 minutes against Loyola, but Nojel also put lottery pick Romeo Langford in a box for two hours last season. That makes for a very fun subplot here.