Tomorrow is Purdue’s final tune up game of the year, and a tune-up is what’s needed. The offense in three of the last four games as been atrocious, and it has led to a pair of losses. Against Butler on a neutral floor without Matt Haarms, that isn’t bad, but when Purdue played terrible and still trailed by only four with a minute left one can only imagine how things would have been different had it been able to play offense for most of the game.
Against Nebraska… well, against Nebraska it led to a devastating loss that could be the difference between a conference title and no title later. Nebraska is the worst team in the conference this year and it is flat out embarrassing that the Boilers shot only 30% from the floor and score 56 points against the worst defensive team in the conference. Cal-Riverside, North Dakota, and Southern Utah all won at Nebraska, making the loss there even worse.
Purdue clearly needs to fix things right now. It cannot shoot the basketball with any consistency even though it is getting open looks. It continually misses shots within 5 feet of the rim and it seemingly can’t even make an easy putback. Against Central Michigan there will be plenty of chances to work on these things, because there is no excuse to not blow them out at home.
From: Mount Pleasant, Michigan
Game Location: Mackey Arena (14,240)
Date: December 28, 2019
Time: Noon ET
Radio: Boilermaker Sports Network
Odds: Purdue by 21
2018-19 Record: 23-12, 10-8 MAC (Lost to DePaul 100-86 in CBI Tournament)
2019-20 Record: 7-5, 0-0 MAC
Record vs. Purdue: Purdue leads 6-1
Last Purdue win: 64-38 at Purdue on 11/28/2009
Last Central Michigan win: 67-66 at Purdue on 11/21/2000
Blog Representation: Hustle Belt
NCAA Tournament History: 4 appearances, last in 2003. Reached 1975 Sweet 16.
Coach: Keno Davis (128-113 in 8th season at Central Michigan. 201-168 overall.)
I remember Central Michigan’s only win over Purdue. It was the season opener for the 2000-01 season, just after Purdue had reached the Elite 8 the previous year. I was in my junior year at Purdue and this game occurred just before Thanksgiving. Purdue had a big lead at halftime, so I left to head back to Kokomo for the holiday break. I managed to get home just to watch Purdue lose on a breakaway layup as time expired. Because of a 5 second difference between the game clock and shot clock the Chips elected to play defense, and a long rebound was tipped out into a 3 on 1 breakaway where the Chips scored as time expired.
That game might have been the beginning of the end for Gene Keady. Sure, that was the first of his last five seasons, but Purdue would only make the NCAA Tournament one more time during his tenure. In 2000-01 Purdue would finish 17-15 and in the NIT Elite 8, mostly because of critical injuries to John Allison and Rodney Smith in Big Ten play. Even the follow-up game for Purdue, a win in Indianapolis over No. 1 Arizona, couldn’t change the trajectory.
That was obviously a long time ago, and this year Central Michigan is coming off of a relatively successful season. It was their second season of 23 wins under Keno Davis and it lead to a rare postseason berth. They are a high scoring team. In fact, they are 4th in the nation at 87.9 points per game.
This comes with a caveat, however. They have three wins over non-Division I teams and they scored more than 100 points in each of those win. They also have a 134-78 win over Mississippi Valley State. I have to believe that the Delta Devils are just completely immune to defense.
The five losses have come to Minnesota, DePaul, Valparaiso, Texas, and Robert Morris. The loss to Texas is relatively recent, and it was 87-76 in Austin. Only four of their wins are against Division I teams: Sam Houston State, Mississippi Valley State, Youngstown State, and Tennessee-Martin.
A total of four players average in double figures for the Chips. Kevin McKay, a 6’5” senior guard, leads them at 15.8 points per game. He excels at getting to the basket because he is shooting just 8% from three. David DiLeo is at 14 points per game, Dallas Morgan at 13.4 points per game, and Rob Montgomery at an even 12. Their high scoring games have led to some skewed stats, like DiLeo getting 30 against MVSU.
As I said above, this should be the game where Purdue can work on its shots right at the rim. Assuming Haarms plays, Purdue will have a significant size advantage in the post. DiLeo is their tallest rotation player at 6’8”. We should watch out for Devontae Lane, who averages 4.3 assists per game and is a good table setter.
The truth is that Central Michigan has put up gaudy numbers against far lesser competition, but they have not beaten anyone of consequence. This is a game where the Boilers should win comfortably, and anything less should be considered disastrous. This game is about fine-tuning a struggling offense and working out some kinks before conference play restarts. Given this year’s Big Ten, there are no more opportunities to tune things up after this, so that makes this game important for that.