Purdue Basketball: The Pride of the Big Ten

Justin KundratCorrespondent IJanuary 28, 2009

The Big Ten is a mess this year.

Some play terrific defense and little offense (Wisconsin) while other plays terrific offense and little defense (Michigan State). Some have terrific home records, but just can't figure out how to win on the road (Iowa). And some still haven't even won a Big Ten game (Indiana).

Yet somewhere amongst this mess of a conference is a lone shining star, Purdue. The Boilermakers are the perfect mix of everything.

They have a balanced offense that combines for close to 72 points per game, while still getting dirty on defense (57.9 points allowed). They have the size, the shooting, the composure, the talent, the athleticism, and most of all, the teamwork to be a successful basketball program.

And Purdue is one of only two Big Ten teams to have three players averaging over twelve points per game.

After all, what isn't there to like about this team?

Junior Chris Kramer, despite only averaging 4.5 points per game, is a defensive leader for the team. He is their glue that builds the framework for such a potent defense. Yet he barely gets noticed due to the trio of sophomores that are the face of this upcoming program.

E'Twaun Moore, Robbie Hummel, and JaJuan Johnson combine for 40 points, 18.4 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game, it's no wonder Purdue is 16-4 on the season.

When one player goes cold, another steps up and fills his role.

Now, the Boilermakers have been more focused than ever following a three-point loss at Penn State in Hummel's absence.

They have now won five straight, including twice against Wisconsin as well as at Minnesota and Northwestern, two very dangerous teams. They have an exceptionally high scoring margin too for a team that puts so much of its focus to the defensive end of the floor.

Currently, they are outscoring teams by an average of 13.8 points per game, and while their upcoming schedule doesn't get any easier, Purdue seems ready for anything that comes their way.

The struggling Michigan Wolverines should prove to be no match for Purdue's defense, but the two games at Ohio State and at Illinois next week will prove to be a huge test for the young Boilermakers. Wins would pronounce them a top ten team in the country whereas losses would show that their defense falls apart in critical situations.

Yet Purdue leads the nation in both field goal percentage defense (35.6 percent) as well as opposing two-point field goal percentage (37.8 percent).

The fact that it is possible for a team to be held to 37.8 percent shooting FROM INSIDE THE THREE is the reason why they have quickly arisen as a premier program in the Big Ten.

A few losses may have plagued them earlier in the season, but now they quickly get back on their feet after a bad performance and continue to play hard.

In addition, Purdue is still so young. Barring any early draft entries (which is highly unlikely), the Boilermakers will return all five starters next season for what could be the best team in the country. The sophomore trio has developed significantly from last season and will continue to do so over the next two years.

Coach Matt Painter really has this team heading in the right direction after many unsuccessful years as a Big Ten program.

They are by and far the most unique team in the country, one that can get out and score quickly while finding a way to get the defensive stops they need to win games.

Now that is what a real team looks like.

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