Welcome to a basketball edition of Q&A with BoilerTMill of the Purdue blog, Hammer and Rails. Check out their coverage for today's game, including my Q&A in their neck of the woods. A big thank you goes out to T-Mill for taking the time to answer our questions.
We talk about the Crossroads Classic, Purdue's chances this year, and what to watch for in today's match up:
1. What does the Purdue fanbase think of the Crossroads Classic in now its second year?
We love it, and one reader suggested opening it up to all 10 Division I teams in the state. I love this idea. Sure, it won’t likely happen because it would practically become an exempt tournament, but what a tournament! Indiana used to have the greatest high school tournament in the country. This could be a natural extension of that since so many of the top Indiana players play in state. Teams like Butler, Valpo, and Evansville have been down of late, but one of my favorite years was I think 2001 when 5 or even 6 teams made the NCAA Tournament.
Indiana has some of the best basketball in the world, so let’s make a statement in college basketball.
I think so because in the five losses they have been extremely close in all of them. The Villanova loss was an absolute screw job by the officials, but in the others Purdue likely wins if its shots start falling. This is an extremely young team with a ton of potential. It just needs to figure a few things out. When it does, I could see a surprising run to start like the Baby Boilers went on in 2008 when they started 10-1 in Big Ten play.
A.J. Hammons is the first true center Purdue has had in some time. He was huge against Oregon State in New York and has the potential to be off to the NBA in 3 years if he continues to develop. He’s already taken over a starting role from two upperclassmen, and he seems to get better every week.
D.J. Byrd has struggled since the Clemson game, but when his shot is on he is pretty much Purdue’s best threat from long range. The problem is that in the losses to Xavier and Eastern Michigan he couldn’t hit anything.
Ronnie Johnson, the younger brother of Terone Johnson, is a developing point guard that was one of the top players in the state last season. He regularly went head-to-head with Indiana’s Kevin Ferrell and held his own most times. Since we didn’t get Ferrell, Johnson was the next best option and is not a huge downgrade.
The Boilers are going to have to shoot better from three point range and at the free throw line. Free throws absolutely killed them against Bucknell and Oregon State, while poor outside shooting was the key against Xavier and Eastern Michigan. Against EMU, Purdue looked clueless against a simple zone. Until it figures out how to beat zones it will struggle because people will pack in around Hammons and dare us to shoot over them.
I see Purdue making it more competitive than people think, but the Irish are the more experienced team. Every time Purdue has run into a more experienced team, aside from Clemson when Byrd shot the lights out, it has folded in the second half with a lead. Purdue can’t play much worse than it did in losing at EMU, but it will take a Clemson-level performance or better to win this one.