With Indiana's season suddenly following Purdue's down the garbage disposal; the game coming up tomorrow in West Lafayette is all of a sudden each fan base's respective super bowl. Neither group is going to ultimately feel good about how their seasons went, but at least having a win over their rival would be a small ray of sunshine among what will be a rainy cloudy off-season.
Pomeroy and Vegas have declared this one pretty much a toss up and the result likely determines the difference between where these squads finish in the conference standings in relation to each other. Purdue has been pretty bad all year long, but IU has been pretty awful on the road outside of the first 20 minutes of each game. I'm really uncertain about who I think is going to win this game.
Indiana has a ridiculous turnover percentage, but Purdue is poor at forcing turnovers. Indiana can't shoot, but Purdue is iffy at stopping teams from scoring. Those are the two stats that ultimately determine how this game turns out. If Indiana still finds a way to turn the ball over 20 times against a team that doesn't force mistakes, then this team is a complete lost cause. Add in the fact that Indiana is likely to ug it up on offense by shooting bricks and I don't think there is a ton of room for error. The offensive buckets will be few, so the mistakes need to be less.
Indiana's wild card is that they come in with the 18th best defense in the nation, so they may not need a whole lot of offense. Purdue boasts the 177th best offense and 9th in the conference. They've been bad enough on offense that they rank below Indiana. That says something. What Purdue does do well is grab offensive boards. Indiana is a top 15 squad in preventing offensive rebounds. Strength versus strength will be an interesting test down low.
Speaking of strengths down low, Purdue will likely lean quite a bit on AJ Hammons. The big fella has been having a pretty disappointing year for the Boilers but his raw numbers still look good because of his drastically increased volume of use in conference play. From poorly utilized in the non-con, Purdue now forces the ball to him with regularity. Luckily, he's proven if you challenge him he's just as likely to turn the ball over as he is to make a big play.
Unfortunately you can say the same thing for Noah Vonleh at times. Vonleh has been much more efficient on the season, and he's a stronger rebounder but he is going to be tested tomorrow. Hammons has all the physical tools to force Vonleh into tough defensive situations. At 6.5 fouls drawn per game, Hammons can make guys head to the bench with foul trouble. Vonleh is going to have to play smart in that sense.
Outside of the big men, the next interesting match-up is going to be Yogi Ferrell versus Ronnie Johnson. Johnson, is improved from last year and has been sharing the ball better than in the past. He still has runs where he just decides he's going to the rim over and over with his little floater (that is very inaccurate). That's when he gets bad at the game of basketball. Throw in that he still exclusively goes left and isn't much of an outside threat and I think Yogi should be able to handle him.
Brother Terone will be the final piece of the puzzle to keep in check. At 6-4 200 lbs he's a pretty big physical guard that will take it at the defense early and often. Also one who tends to get out of control for stretches it will be interesting to see how he can keep him emotions in check. Wouldn't be surprised to see Crean put the bigger and mouthier Sheehey on him to try and get him frazzled.
Other than that, Purdue's roster is full of role players. Basil Smotherman is a less athletic Troy Williams. Errick Peck is an undersized PF. Kendall Stephens is their Matt Roth, but only hitting 37% from three. Rapheal Davis is a shorter Jeremy Hollowell. Sterling Carter is a less efficient Evan Gordon. Travis Carroll and Jeff Howard are the same person. Jay Simpson and Hanner are both contributors who still are a year away and Bryson Scott is a shorter Stan Robinson. Literally in every roster spot there are comparable players between Purdue and IU. I do think that IU's players are better though.
Unfortunately what IU has more of in terms of talent and ability is constantly neutralized by their own poor decision making. I can't say enough of how much better Indiana could be if they just turned the ball over 15 times a game instead of 20 they would be 4 wins richer. That really just floors me to say. They're Indiana football at this point. Much like the defense, if their ball security was very bad instead of historically bad, they'd be a good team. Let's hope for once this year, they decide to at least take care of business in West Lafayette, so we don't have to catch crap from little brother all year.