Now or Never: Purdue readies for IU
This season hasn't been good...for Purdue or IU.
This year's single scheduled contest between the in-state rivals, thanks to dumb policies by the B1G, looks like a battle for an NIT spot.
As Purdue fans, it's gotten tougher and tougher to enjoy watching our favorite team play...but as IU fans, it seems it's been even harder. Following their collapse against PSU at home, many of the Ass. Hall faithful booed the forehead off the court. That's pretty low, even for IU fans.
A year ago, IU was a top-10 team...they had not yet cut down the nets after a loss, nor had they disappointed in the tournament. Just 365 days ago, I was pleading with my friends who root for IU not to fall deeper in love with Tom Crean. Many didn't listen.
I told them that Crean wasn't much of an in-game coach...good motivator? Sure. Great recruiter? Yeah. Developer of big men? Nyet! In-game adjuster? Nine! Yet they dug their heels in.
But as Painter detractors debate how much time Matty needs to turn around this slow-moving, limping ship of a program, many IU fans are already done with the forehead. Man...that was fast.
The sad thing about both programs being nationally-irrelevent at the same time is that the game feels like an Oaken Bucket game...not a clash of elite programs. Heck, during the last decade, at least one of the programs has been ranked for most of the meetings...and usually in the top-15. That's not the case this time...but there's still a little sizzle to the match-up.
If nothing else, this game could help Purdue at least stake one claim that things are better than last year. Sure, IU was actually good last year when Purdue played them...but a win versus IU is a win versus IU...and Purdue needs it.
Some older Purdue alums come close to telling you that the rest of the season really pales in comparison with just the IU game. Most younger alums (let's say under 40) wanna see Purdue beat IU more than the rest of the teams on the schedule, but still struggle to see this season as a success in light of what we've been watching.
But three-straight seasons of losing to IU is unacceptable, regardless of who's down and who's up...and a loss tomorrow would give us exactly that. Sure, the last 4 losses followed a longer winning streak by Purdue, but that doesn't matter. When you're in the thick of a losing streak like this, it's tough to accept the situation.
Tomorrow's game has two match-ups that are really noteworthy:
Vonleh v. Hammons
RonJon v. Ferrell
In the first battle, we're almost-surely watching two guys who will probably be getting paid to play basketball this time next year. Vonleh's athleticism and skill has produced a game that's simply made for the league. At the same time, Hammons size, footwork, shot-blocking ability and upside have made him tough for scouts to ignore.
In the backcourt, two guys will be squaring off who have been around each other a lot during their careers. Both hailing from Indianapolis, these two know each other well. Ferrell was higher-touted, and has shown why in the last two seasons...but this year especially, he's become much more of an offensive threat. He's leading the conference in scoring and is in the top-5 in assists. All of that said, I am looking forward to seeing the underdog in this one; I'm positive he's aware of the stats and the rankings...so the chip will be on his shoulder.
Oh, and there are other stories within this one as well- Will Sheehy or TJohn end their careers strong? Will Mosquera-Perea's DUI lead to a suspension; And how will that affect IU? Will IU come off of the home loss motivated or sluggish? Can RayDay play defense the way we know he's capable of playing in order to slow down IU's athletic forwards? Will Stephens rain mad fire down on the shiny forehead?
I'm torn on this one- IU has struggled against their contemporaries in the basement quarter of the conference, actually, both teams have...but, I think a motivated Paint Crew and louder-than-normal Mackey can be the tipping point in this one. Mental breakdowns are something that both teams have struggled with this season...so look for that moment in which one of these teams completely soils themselves and rolls over.
Tip-off is at 4:00 on EsPN, live from God's country.