Inside The Bloggers Unwashed, Unshaven, Studio: Purdue Basketball Edition

As part of BSD's effort to further educate you on what goes through the minds of other Big Ten bloggers during basketball season, we are proud to bring you the triumphant return of a football offseason favorite: Inside The Bloggers Unwashed, Unshaven, Studio. Unlike previous ITBUUS's however, which featured one basketball question to balance out the remaining football-centric questions, this one, and all subsequent ones over the next month or so, will be strictly hoops-related.

The fine gentlemen over at the popular Purdue blog Boiled Sports were kind enough to answer a few questions leading into tonight's clash between PSU and Purdue. Here's what they had to say:

Robbie Hummel returning surely has to act as a stop-gap measure for the graduation of the remaining "Baby Boilers" but we all know he can't do it alone. Who else has stepped up this year?

BS: His two senior teammates, PG Lewis Jackson and SG Ryne Smith are the go-to guys as of now, with some of the underclassmen slowly coming into their own. Kelsey Barlow is a junior who takes over games for stretches and can get to the rim and, honestly, wake up his teammates with angry dunks at times. Jackson has never been known for his scoring prowess, but he's been going strong to the rim more this season and getting the Boilers points when they need them. And Smith is exclusively an outside threat who, when on, is deadly (such as Purdue's blowout win over Illinois when he went 4-5 from beyond the arc). If Ryne is feeling it, it's bad for the opposition because defending him as far out as he'll fire begins to open space closer to the rim.

How lofty are the fan expectations for Purdue regarding B1G play/NCAA Tournament performance in 2012?

BS: Honestly, it depends who you talk to. There are some who were being realistic about losing two of the program's best in JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore and understood that those losses are hard to overcome -- thus expectations were lowered. However, the consistently high level of basketball that Purdue fans and students have been accustomed to under Coach Matt Painter has led to a "spoiled" mentality at times where top 15 teams and challenging for the Big Ten are expected. This isn't a bad thing, obviously, as expecting success means your program is in a good place. But it has led to some shocked reactions when Purdue has lost big leads and lost some tough games....and this befuddled reaction has also happened when Purdue has had close WINS. Again, a good place to be when winning close games isn't good enough.

To answer the question, we think this team is talented enough to challenge in the Big Ten, but their frightening inability to make free throws anymore and their below-average low-post presence this season has us very concerned. The 2-0 start in conference is nice and Purdue's three losses were all big leads at one point (so, theoretically, if they could close out games, they could have 0 or 1 loss right now, realistically), so things are going okay now, but again, we've got our concerns. We like that the younger guys like Anthony Johnson and Jacob Lawson are coming along nicely, but they're still raw and if the team winds up leaning heavily on Hummel and Jackson as they have at times this year, those guys will wear down.

Given that Purdue's arch-rival (Indiana) is back to its winning ways, I feel obliged to ask: Who wins in a clapping contest between Matt Painter and Tom Crean?

BS: What Crean lacks in coaching ability, he more than makes up for in enthusiastic, nonsensical clapping and forced, phony, cringe-inducing "Oh no he din'nt!" faces.

Purdue will face a formidable road test at Penn State tonight...and by 'formidable' I mean of course, 'easy as hell.' Seriously, is there anything about this PSU team that causes you concern?

BS: At Boiled Sports, we've had a soft spot for PSU basketball, mainly because there's nothing hatable about them and because they get zero support. We find that indefensible, really, given the large student body, great facility and the way the students worship football. We were happy to see their success last year and tourney appearance and we felt the pain that true fans went through having to watch Ed DeChellis fumble around and screw up the talent he did land.

One thing we've noticed about Painter teams is that they tend to stumble at strange road venues and they almost always are the ones everyone thinks that, on their face, should be "easy as hell." We also know Penn State knows they can play with Purdue, as evidenced by last year's near-win at Mackey. Sure, the cast of characters and major players have changed, but confidence can go a long way. So can the desire to deliver payback. So I guess the answer is that Penn State's resolve is something that causes us concern.

Give us your prediction on how this game plays out (cliched answers are totally welcome).

BS: I'm going to go with the odds and say Purdue pulls out the win, but I think it will most likely be a 68-64 kind of affair, with Rob Hummel gutting out a performance to lead his squad. How's that for a cliched answer?

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