Current record: 22-5 (11-3)
Current RPI: 7 (IU is # 180)
Current Sagarin: 8 (IU is #96)
Current Pomeroy: 5 (IU is #71)
2009-10 record: 29-6 /14-4 (lost to Duke in NCAA Tournament Sweet 16)
2009-10 RPI: 16
2009-10 Sagarin: 9
2009-10 Pomeroy: 16
Series: Purdue leads 111-84
Last IU win: 2/19/2008 (77-68 in Bloomington)
Last Purdue win: 2/4/2010 (78-75)
Last Purdue win in Bloomington:
Pomeroy scouting report
TV: 8:30 pm, Big Ten Network
Blogs: Hammer and Rails, Boiled Sports
It's only been two weeks since Indiana and Purdue met at Mackey Arena, but the landscape has changed a bit. IU's struggles are well-known here. In my preview of the first IU-Purdue game, I mentioned that while Purdue was having a good season, it wasn't yet clear if the Boilermakers were going to be a nice NCAA-bound team or if they had something more in store. After their last three games, it looks like the latter. Purdue played at Illinois and at home against Wisconsin and Ohio State, and won all three comfortably. Purdue is now only a game behind Ohio State for the Big Ten lead, and seems likely to earn a high seed in the NCAA Tournament. Of course, all of that could change if IU manages to pull the upset, but nothing in the way that either team is playing right now suggests that an IU win is much of a possibility.
Here are Purdue's individual stats:
Not much has changed since the teams played two weeks ago. Purdue remains very good at both ends of the court but particularly on defense. JaJuan Johnson and E-Twaun Moore continue to bear the lion's share of the offense, but that hasn't particularly hurt Purdue to this point. Moore went through a horrible slump in a nine-game stretch earlier in the Big Ten season, shooting 24 percent from the field and 28 percent from behind the arc, but in the last five games he has been much better, culminating with a 38 point performance against Ohio State on Sunday. Johnson, as a Purdue fan recently pointed out to me, has been able to remain out of foul trouble all season. In Purdue's 27 games, Johnson has not fouled out, has committed four fouls only once, and has committed three fouls in four other games. Purdue's heavy reliance on those two players perhaps makes them a bigger risk come tournament time, but as long as Johnson and Moore are in the game and playing well, Purdue is good enough to beat anyone.
IU played respectably at Mackey, staying close, but not too close, for most of the game until Purdue extended the lead to double digits in the closing minutes. Johnson wasn't dominant, shooting only 4-10 from the field, but thanks to 7-8 from the line he ended up with an efficient 15 point performance. Moore, of course, scoring 25 points on 15 field goal attempts, including 3-6 from the line. I was hopeful that Jeremiah Rivers could give Moore trouble, but he didn't. We'll see if it pans out any better tomorrow night.
So, at the moment, the landscape is fairly ugly for IU and really good for Purdue. Purdue being Purdue, however, its fans are oddly concerned with what IU fans think about our program--not what we think of their program, but what we think of our program. It's hard to follow the argument, but the essence of it seems to be: 1) Tom Crean is a drooling idiot who has led an NCAA Tournament-caliber roster into the Big Ten cellar; 2) IU fans are defending Crean for no good reason; and 3) it's unfair that IU fans are nicer to Tom Crean than they were to Mike Davis, who is a totally awesome coach.
It's hard to know where to start, so I'll just make a few stray points that explain my position. I don't claim to speak for all IU fans, but I think my position is representative of at least a decent chunk of the fanbase.
Our standards haven't changed. IU fans still expect Crean to regularly contend for Big Ten championships, to qualify for the NCAA Tournament nearly every year, and to at least occasionally have teams good enough to make tournament runs to the Final Four and beyond. That hasn't changed. The failure to live up to that standard, other than during one magical five game run, is what hurt Mike Davis. It's what led to lots of grumbling about Bob Knight during his last couple of years. The standards haven't changed at all. We simply don't think the rebuilding progress is far enough along to hold Crean to those standards just yet.
- Tom Crean is, at least, a good coach. I don't think that's a controversial statement. Before coming to IU, Crean was the head coach at Marquette, a program with a strong history but whose heyday was in the 1970s. Crean was quite successful there considering where he was, winning 65 percent of his games, making 5 NCAA Tournament appearances, making the postseason 8 of 9 seasons, and advancing to the 2003 Final Four. Some try to dismiss the last accomplishment as a gift form Dwyane Wade, but that's not fair. I would remind Purdue fans that if one great player were enough to reach the Final Four, then Gene Keady would have done it when he had the incredible Glenn Robinson, who was in a different class than Wade as a college player. In other words, at a program that is far less advantaged than IU, Crean posted very solid results. It stands to reason that he should be able to do at least that well at IU. That's not to say that IU fans would be satisfied with that (see my first point), but there is no reason to believe that he is an incompetent coach. If he were incapable of taking an NCAA-worthy team to the NCAA Tournament, that would have become apparent before now. He had good talent at Marquette, but not Calipari-level talent, and still won and had teams that played effective and heady defense.
The jury is still out on Crean. Despite all that I said above, that doesn't mean that IU fans are commissioning Crean's portrait for the IU Athletics Hall of Fame. While I expect that Crean soon will have IU back in the NCAA Tournament with regularity, it's far from established that he is an elite coach who will have IU back in the top 10 on a routine basis. I think he can, but I don't know, and neither does anyone else. He also should not be immune from criticism. There are plenty of substitution decisions, recruiting decisions, strategic decisions, and public statements that can be called into question. Believing that Crean is a good coach and that the program is moving (slowly) in the right direction isn't the same thing as believing that Crean is infallible.
So, that's it. We're not where we want to be, but I'm not pushing the panic button, either. Ultimately, we can go around and around about these issues, but we are going to get the answers in the next two or three years, not the next two or three days.
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