Finally, we get to play Ohio State. When last season was put on hold, then cancelled, I had to stare for months at “Next game vs. Ohio State in Big Ten Tournament” on the back end of our publishing platform here. Obviously that game never happened, but it is now fitting that we begin the Big Ten season with the Buckeyes.
And what a Big Ten season it is going to be. There will be no easy games and, honestly, Purdue has looked like one of the weaker teams so far. That is not to say Purdue is bad. The Big Ten is an absolute juggernaut this year and as many as 10 teams could make the NCAAs.
This week will go a very long way towards seeing if Purdue will be one of those teams. So far the Boilers have had two tests in games against major conference teams. It failed both. Clemson is currently in the top 25 and looks like a really good team, so that isn’t bad. Miami, however, was without their best player and just lost to Florida Gulf Coast over the weekend. Purdue opens this week with another top 25 team at home, then the final non-conference game against Notre Dame. To me, it is imperative to get the Notre Dame game and get at least one of our major conference games out of league. If we’re 5-2 with decent wins over Liberty (a possible tournament team), an ACC team, and the only two losses against ACC teams that should be okay.
Then it comes to conference play. Finishing with a winning record (11-9) is probably more than enough to make the tournament this year as strong as the league is. Going 16-11, 11-9 is probably enough when you consider three of the four games we lost (we normally play 1 non-conference games instead of 7) were likely guarantee games against the likes of Chicago State or Oakland, so they wouldn’t have added much.
That makes this game important. There are no easy outs this year. Purdue is presented with another chance to prove itself and must take advantage.
Ohio State Buckeyes
From: Columbus, OH
Location: West Lafayette, IN
Venue: Mackey Arena (14,240)
Odds:: No Line Yet
Date & Time: December 16, 2020, 7:00pm ET
Live Stats: Purdue Sports
Blog Representation: Land-Grant Holyland
2019-20 Record: 21-10, 11-9 Big Ten
2020-21 Record: 5-0
NCAA Tournament History: 33 Appearances, last in 2019. 1960 NCAA Champion
Series with Purdue: Ohio State leads 91-88 (Only B1G Program with a winning overall record vs. Purdue)
Last Purdue win: 86-51 at Purdue on 3/2/2019
Last Ohio State win: 68-52 at Ohio State on 2/15/2020
Coach: Chris Holtmann (71-34 in 4th year at Ohio State, 185-119 overall)
The Buckeyes were very likely a tournament team last season, which would have been a sixth straight bid for Chris Holtmann counting his time at Butler. The Buckeyes rolled Purdue in mid-February, handing us the second of four straight losses after we won in Bloomington. It effectively ended Purdue’s at large chances had there been a tournament, and allowed them to increase their narrow margin in the all-time series.
So far this season the Buckeyes have been up and down. They got a good 90-85 win over Notre Dame in South Bend last week as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The other four games have come against mid- and low-major opponents, but Cleveland State pushed them on Sunday before losing 67-61.
Stop me if you have heard this before, but the Buckeyes may be without their leading scorer and best player. E.J. Liddell (15.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg) missed the Cleveland State game with an undisclosed illness and is officially day-to-day. Normally this could be beneficial if he missed the game, but last week at Miami the Hurricanes were without all-ACC guard Chris Lykes and it meant exactly dick, as they came roaring back and won without him. The Buckeyes are obviously much better if Liddell plays, but it is far from an automatic win without him.
We should be concerned because the Buckeyes have an excellent offense that is averaging 80 points per game and Purdue has not been great defensively at times. Duane Washington Jr. is averaging 14.8 points per game, Justice Sueing is at 14 ppg, and CJ Walker is at 13.2 ppg. Walker, of course, is familiar to Purdue fans as the point guard from Indianapolis Tech that originally committed to Purdue before flipping to Florida State. This is second year at Ohio State as a transfer, but I think things worked out for us as it allowed Carsen Edwards to come to Purdue. Walker has run the show extremely well, as he is averaging 4 assists per game.
So far Ohio State has been pretty balanced. They are shooting 35% from three with Washington and Justin Ahrens doing most of the work from outside. One of the differences between Miami missing Lykes and Ohio State missing Liddell is the position each plays. Miami had other talented guards that made replacing Lykes easier. Liddell is the main player in the post for the Buckeyes and is not someone who can stretch the floor much. Kyle Young, who hurt Purdue with 16 points and seven rebounds in last year’s game, will now have to play a much larger role down low. They do not have anyone even close to Zach Edey’s size.
I think this is almost a must-win for Purdue, especially if Liddell is out. Purdue absolutely needs to prove it can beat a team that is on the low end of the top 25, because it is going to get a lot of games against that type of opponent in Big Ten play. Right now it has two games against #20 Ohio State, two against “receiving votes” Indiana, two against receiving votes Minnesota, two against receiving votes Penn State, and one each against #19 Rutgers, #25 Michigan, #13 Illinois, and #12 Wisconsin. I know home court means nothing this year, but we still need to at least put on the illusion of protecting it even if all we get are the howling souls of the damned as piped in noise.