Indiana men’s basketball is set to host Purdue in Bloomington for the first of two rivalry matchups this season.
We reached out to the folks at Hammer and Rails to talk ball, here’s what they had to say:
1. Purdue returns most of its lineup from last season. Which players have taken the biggest step forward?
The obvious choice here is Braden Smith. He was great as a freshman don’t get me wrong but he’s truly taken his game to the next level this year. He’s improved in basically all areas. He’s a better passer, better shooter, better playmaker, and just all around better decision maker. The point guard position is obviously incredibly important and Purdue has one now that makes everyone feel confident the right play will be made.
2. Purdue has a good deal of experience up and down the bench with former starters becoming relief players. How has depth factored into this season?
One of the worries coming into this year was that guys like Braden Smith, Fletcher Loyer, and Zach Edey would play a ton of minutes and wear down as the season progressed. The bench was meant to alleviate some of this and to an extent it has. Lance Jones has played a lot of minutes and taken some of the pressure off of Smith. Trey Kaufman-Renn is playing a lot of minutes at the same time as Edey and even starting alongside him but he still can play as a secondary center in case Edey gets in foul trouble. Meanwhile, guys like Mason Gillis, Caleb Furst, and Camden Heide have taken advantage of their minutes.
3. Lance Jones looked like a perfect fit on paper and looks even better on the court. What has he given this team?
He’s been better than advertised. Purdue desperately needed another player that can handle the ball and help to break pressure/the press. Jones has been able to do that with ease. The press has caused huge headaches in recent years but with the combo of Smith and Jones it’s basically become an afterthought. Plus, he’s not afraid of shooting even if things are tight and the rest of the team is hesitant.
4. Zach Edey is Zach Edey obviously, has he improved on anything from last year?
His conditioning continues to improve and he’s done a great job improving his passing. Those two combined with the fact that he’s already got elite size and very good hands and he continues to be one of the finest basketball players college basketball has seen in a long time.
5. Who are the shooters to watch out for because we know Indiana fans are going to be looking for them.
Some of the shooters for Purdue can be streaky. Fletcher Loyer is chief among them. He’s Purdue’s best pure shooter but he can go hot or cold. Among other dangerous shooters are Braden Smith, Lance Jones, and Mason Gillis. Gillis in particular is capable of hitting threes in bunches. The last one worth mentioning is Camden Heide who, while taking a small number, is shooting over 50% from deep.
6. You sleep through the game somehow and wake up to the news that Indiana won. How did they do it?
It wouldn’t surprise me at all. IU is a really good team with a lot of good pieces they just haven’t truly put it together yet. They’ve got an incredible amount of talent. Plus, playing at IU is never easy for the Boilermakers. I would say that Purdue had a lot of turnovers 15+ and they allowed IU to shoot a high percentage from deep. It is also possible that Edey got in foul trouble and played frustrated.
7. Result prediction?
I’m taking a Purdue win, I’m incapable of picking IU in this rivalry, but it’s going to be close. I’ll take Purdue 79, IU 73.