|Who:||(4) Purdue Boilermakers (20-11, 12-6)|
|When:||Friday, 2:30 p.m. ET (~25 minutes after Michigan-Wisconsin)|
|Where:||United Center, Chicago, IL|
|TV:||ESPN (not 2, not U, not News, not 8)|
|KenPom Line:||Purdue -3, 64%|
|Enemy Blog:||Hammer and Rails|
We're scrapping the traditional preview format again today, mostly because typing has become extremely difficult with all this adrenaline pumping through my body. Instead, we welcome Travis Miller of Hammer and Rails, who was kind enough to answer our questions about Friday the 13th's matchup between the Nittany Lions and Boilermakers.
BSD: Let's start off with Purdue's awesome 12-win conference season. What was the biggest factor in their resurgence after a somewhat-iffy non-con slate?
TM: It started playing Purdue-style basketball again. That’s really it. We started playing better perimeter defense and A.J. Hammons was swatting everything within five feet from the basket. We don’t have a go-to scorer, but it helped that Purdue shared the ball and got contributions from everyone. One game it would be Vince Edwards. The next it would be Kendall Stephens hitting threes. Against Indiana it was Bryson Scott out of nowhere. You didn’t know who would be the guy on a given night and by playing nasty defense again we were able to get back to our roots.
BSD: A.J. Hammons broke through this year, and with all due respect to his teammate and B1G Defensive Player of the Year Rapheal Davis, Hammons was the biggest defensive force in conference play. Did freshman C Issac Haas light that big of a fire under his ass?
TM: I think so. I wrote all offseason that Haas needed to be a 7’2" boot up his ass and when Haas played very well during the non-conference season coach Painter made it pretty clear that Haas would play more minutes if Hammons didn’t turn it on. It looks like it worked.
BSD: Kendall Stephens killed Penn State (23 points, 6 triples) in the teams' only meeting this year in State College. The Nittany Lions have quite successfully packed the lane so far in the B1G tournament. Do you forsee Stephens being the key to the game? If not him, who?
TM: He hasn’t done a whole lot of late as Purdue has had a varied offense. I think a bigger factor is Rapheal Davis. If he is getting to the rim or to the line Purdue is playing well. We’re not a good enough shooting team to rely on outside shooting, so we have to find a way to get it inside while hitting the occasional three to keep teams honest. Stephens and Dakota Mathias are key there.
BSD: D.J. Newbill had himself a game in that one as well, going for 37 in 45 minutes. What is the general consensus among Purdue fans about Newbill, and do you think Matt Painter have any wrinkles in his gameplan designed to stop the conference's leading scorer?
TM: I would be fine with what my high school coach did in the state quarterfinals in 1997. We were facing Luke Recker, Indiana’s Mr. Basketball. We pretty much guarded the other four guys on the floor and dared him to score 50 and beat us by himself. We won 69-46. It’s a pretty sound strategy. Can Newbill score 50 and beat us by himself?
BSD: Penn State fans, as usual, haven't had much of a reason to keep up with Bracketology this year. Is this a must-win for Purdue's tournament hopes, especially considering Wisconsin will be tough to beat as they're hunting a #1 seed?
I don’t think it is a must-win, especially since Penn State would move into the top 100 of the RPI and it wouldn’t be a "bad" loss. In fact, it would make our win in Happy Valley a top 100 road win, which would only be our second. I think with the way teams like Texas, Texas A&M, and others are falling it might drop us to Dayton, but that is it.
BSD: Prediction time: how does the game play out, and who gets the honor of facing the Badgers in the B1G semis?
TM: I don’t think it is impossible for Michigan to stun Wisconsin, especially if they are hitting threes. I think Penn State playing a third game in three days can wear on you, especially since Purdue hasn’t played yet. We’re playing better overall basketball than we were in mid-January, and I think all that means we get a hard fought win.
Thanks again to Travis for his insight. Apologies to Michigan, especially if they can somehow find a way to beat Wisconsin. Enjoy the game today, y'all. Oh, if you need an excuse to get out of work, Pat's got you covered: