The 2008-2009 Season -- How We Got Here

Doing season wrap-ups at year end is always kind of anticlimactic and, really, just a space-filler. You've got nothing else to talk about so you do a wrap-up. So let's talk now for a minute about the current basketball season and how we got to where we are.

And where is that exactly? That's back to a very nice place to be... that place where you "contol your own destiny." Which sounds a bit more grand than it is. If I could literally "control my own destiny," I'd steer said destiny towards a place where I was independently wealthy and Jennifer Love Hewitt was on staff for no other reason than to be a motorboating companion.

Anyway, the Boilermakers are now 9-4 in the Big Ten, one game behind the Spartans and in control of whether or not they win the Big Ten regular season title.

Looking Back

Looking back on the season, we all expected big things from this team. And Boilerdowd noted right away that our expectations -- and the national media's -- were too high:

"Let's keep things under control," he warned, "Teams full of freshman don't often play like our guys did last year. They were playing over their heads."

"Also... I like a man's ass in bicycle shorts. What can I say?"

Okay, so he didn't say all of that, but you get the idea. And it's true -- last year's team was an aberration. No, it's not that these guys aren't good -- they are. But that it could all come together so well and that our boys could contend for the Big Ten title while being so very young.

Then this season came along, injuries plagued the team and an inexplicable 0-2 start happened. Suddenly, things were very different -- quickly. The hopes for a Big Ten title vanished and it simply became about having a good season. Hummel's back worsened, even as the team ran through six straight wins.

Looking back, though, at the losses, you could make a case that this team should be 12-1 in Big Ten play.

The 71-67 loss at Mackey to Illinois -- hit our free throws, even a little bit, and that's a win.

The 67-64 road loss to PSU -- come on, it's PSU. No excuse.

The 80-72 road loss to OSU -- I don't care if Hummel was out. JJ scored 30 and we had the ball for the last possetion of a tied game. Should be a win.

The road loss at Illinois was a sound defeat from start to finish.

Looking Ahead

So what's my point? I have no idea.

Oh, right... that things can go in different directions so easily and so quickly. This team went from media darling to 0-2 bust to gutty team to conference contender. And it feels like each switch happened in a matter of days. Could they be that team that gets their act together in March and wins four in a row to make the Final Four?

We suppose, but we agree here at BS that the Boilermakers time is a year or two away. This year's squad is indeed gutty -- but they're way too thin and injured to make a deep run, at least logic would say so. You can't rotate just seven guys -- with only 4 or 5 truly healthy -- and expect to keep up with the teams you'll need to beat in March. Would we be completely gobsmacked if they made it to Detroit? No. But we don't expect it to happen just yet.

Back in the beginning of the season, we said that a successful year would be consistently being ranked in the top 15 and making a run to a Sweet 16 berth. That looks strangely intelligent right now, mainly because we're S-M-R-T.

As for what's immediately ahead, there are five regular season games left.

Tomorrow against IU should be a win.

Next Thurs @ UM should be a win, but of course has us worried.

Two days later hosting OSU should be a win, but will not be a cakewalk.

March 4 against Northwestern -- there's no excuse to not win that one.

And then the finale in East Lansing. If the same smothering defense shows, I don't care how prepared MSU is and how much they remember their ass-whipping in WestLaf -- it won't matter. However, I have to believe the Spartans will hold serve at home in this one.

If the Boilers win the Big Ten regular season crown, we here at BS say take a dive in the Big Ten tourney. You gain little and could instead rest your guys. That rest is more valuable to this team.

What have we learned about these Boilermakers?

When JuJuan Johnson cuts to the bucket and puts down a beastly dunk (like the one pictured above), you should have a good feeling because it means good things. He's done this a number of times, and it always seems like a giant awakening, like a guy saying, "Okay, enough of this bullsh-t. I'm taking this mofo over."

We've also learned that JJ is a legit threat whenever he has the ball. The overpowering dunks are one thing, but the ability to pick-and-roll nicely as well as put in soft-touch baskets in the lane -- sometimes even while falling down -- creates a comfortable feeling. You can tell when Johnson's on and who doesn't like it when their Johnson is standing tall? Wait, I mean.... oh, never mind.

We've also learned that Big Shot Rob Hummel is someone the Boilers CAN play without. They've had to practice all season without him, so seeing the team get better at playing without him only makes sense. Now it feels like a team that is good enough to win on a lot of nights even if Robbie's not playing -- and when he gets in there, it's like having a sudden extra weapon. Boilerdowd and I also learned on a visit to campus on 1/31 that Robbie can have any freshman girl at Purdue he wants. When we stopped a group of frosh girls to ask some trivia about Purdue (video day...), one of the things we asked, just randomly, was who the best current player is. Without hesitation, and with that little girl, starry-eyed voice, they chimed, "Robbie Hummel." Oh, Robbie, you lucky dog.

If there was any doubt, Chris Kramer is the heart and soul of this team. He's a cocky boy, yes, but he's a co-captain for a reason (why KG is, I'm not sure, actually). His defense is the very definition of "smothering" and he's managed to piss off some of the smoothest and most talented offensive players to come through the Big Ten recently. I also know of several females who would not be bothered at all by having Chris Kramer in their personal space. Take note, Manny Harris.

We've learned a little more about who Keaton Grant is. He's not the guy who used to be more of an offensive weapon. It's time to deal with that fact. KG is a complementary player who, when he's feeling it, puts up beautiful rainbow threes.

We've learned that Bobby "Buckets" Riddell should be treated as more than a walk-on. Fortunately, it looks like Matt(y) has realized it as well, as Buckets is seeing time in the first half these days. This guy is a solid baller and he passed up opportunities to be the man at D-II and D-III schools just because he wanted to play for the black and gold. This, of course, makes us love him even more. His solid shooting and decision-making doesn't hurt, either.

We've learned that a lot of us don't like Nemmy Calasan. He likes to take ill-advised, boob-ass three pointers from the top of the key. Yes, Nem, have you ever wondered why you're open for those so often? You're not Detlef Schempf. (Dowd thinks Painter allows this to keep Nemmy happy.)

So those are just some of what we've learned thus far this season. Hopefully there will be more to learn.

Like how Jennifer Love Hewitt looks it a lavender-ish catsuit.

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