I've been waiting for a few days to see which of the 1-2 loss Big Ten teams was real and which were nothing more than products of getting fat on sub-par competition. Might we have our answer...in God's country?
Good teams play good defense (check)...and are opportunistic on offense (nope)...and make their free throws (do you mean about 50% of the time?)...and (here's a big one), they protect home court (stink).
Last season Keaton Grant played great defense, shot well from behind the arc, drew fouls and hit his free throws. After coming off of a knee surgery in the off-season, Keaton Grant has not scored easily (down 4 pts/gm) has played inconsistent defense (down .9 steals/gm), shot poorly (down about 10%/14% from three), been out of control while driving and has not even shot free throws as well (down 4%). While one man does not a team make, one man does make a huge difference on how a team is defended...and as Grant drives and misses lay-ups and can't seem to find his range from deep, the rest of the team isn't helping out enough.
Hummel is officially slumping...for three straight games he simply hasn't played well offensively. He continues to rebound very well and make smart passes, but following being awarded BT POW, he's averaged 7.3 points and shot 18% from the three point line...Hardly the numbers of a guy picked to win the Big Ten's Player of the Year Award. He's battled back spasms this season, and it seems those spasms might be hurting his shooting more than he's letting on.
While Hummel and Grant struggle, Moore has been able to score, but hasn't shot the ball well from behind the arc, at least for a few games. All that's tough to take, but probably the most noteworthy is Chris Kramer's absence. He's been injured for the last four games and his minutes show it.
While much of the team has struggled to get into rhythm, JJ and LewJack both continue to mature nicely...and Riddell and Calasan are both playing well, so it's not all bad.
So, the Big Ten seems to be much better than last season, top to bottom (Purdue included), but last season, Purdue lost 4 conference games during the entire season...The margin for error has become very tight...especially when you look at last season's BT Champ's record of 19-2. But all is not lost.
Our Boilers now head into what amounts to a bye week. It'll be seven days until Purdue heads to Happy Valley to play yet another Big Ten foe with only two pre-conference losses. The last time our Boilers had a 7-day break, they came back and beat Davidson handily...hopefully, this last seven-day respit of the season will cure what ails these Boilers...In my opinion, that's quite a bit at this time.
The old adage that it's not how you start, but how you finish might be especially poignant come March of next year...but right now, it seems that this team dominated by second-year players is going through a Sophomore slump, collectively.
After watching the ISU game in person, I was pretty down-in-the-dumps over what I saw...the next week, I saw a completely different team play Davidson, and had a bit better outlook. Once-again, after the last three games, I'm less-than-optimistic about the '08/'09 season.
Hopefully my over-analysis and over-reactive gnashing of teeth can be laughed at in the coming months as the true pretenders in the Big Ten are exposed...outside of West Lafayette..