At A Glance:
Minnesota: 11-3. AP: NR ESPN: NR BP: 26 RPI: 52 BPI: 61
Purdue: 13-0. AP: 4 ESPN: 4 BP: 4 RPI: 4 BPI: 2
Local yokel Blake Hoffarber comes off a 24-point performance against Big 10 bottom-feeder Iowa. He’s really cut down on his turnovers from last season but can be beaten defensively. Counterpart Lawrence Westbrook struggled against the Hawkeyes but dropped in 29 against Penn State. He has increased his scoring every season and hits more than half his shots. Third guard Devoe Joseph is the Gophers’ version of the “Microwave”, providing nearly ten points a game off the pine. Al Nolen has been a Gophers’ fixture for years and they don’t miss a beat with him on the floor.
What E’Twaun Moore is to offense, Chris Kramer is to defense for the Boilermakers. Aside from the season opener Moore has been in double figures every game. By comparison, Kramer didn’t score a point in the win over West Virginia but had a significant impact with his football-style tenacity on the defensive end. Keaton Grant is similar to Minnesota’s Nolen with his experience and savvy.
Advantage: Purdue. You could make a case for Moore and Kramer as first-team Big Ten at the end of the season if they keep it up.
Ralph Sampson III isn’t the second coming but leads the team in rebounding and blocked shots. Colton Iverson is your typical Midwestern stereotype – he won’t dazzle you with acrobatics but puts his nose to the grindstone. Small forward Damian Johnson is the team’s best defender and has the best all-around game. Rodney Williams and Paul Carter provide enough support off the bench that talented frosh Royce White, who decided to leave the program, isn’t really missed.
JaJuan Johnson saw the endless supply of forwards that hail from the West Virginia mountains and scoffed. In addition to swatting the Spalding he has had three double-doubles. Robbie Hummel, the bloodied and unbowed one, only missed one shot against the Mountaineers and puts up similar numbers to Johnson. They need to stay on the floor, though, as only freshman Kelsey Barlow gets significant minutes off the bench.
Advantage: Even. Minnesota has more depth but Purdue has more star power.
So far, the change of scenery has done Tubby Smith a world of good. He has a respectable 53-28 record in Minneapolis and one NCAA Tournament appearance – none of which would make the folks in Lexington stand and applaud, which is probably the whole point as far as the Smiths are concerned. He continues to have a deep bench and preach defense – the Gophers are only allowing sixty points a game.
Matt Painter’s first Purdue team finished dead last in the Big Ten. That’s a distant memory. He has been a part of Boilermaker lore for decades as he defined steady and unsung on the early 90s editions of Purdue’s hoops squads. His teams are rugged, much like the teams he played on, but this one can score in bunches.
Advantage: Minnesota. Tubby has been able to take kids who weren’t on the recruiting radar and win twenty games like it’s a birthright.
A quick peek at the rankings might have the casual observer thinking Minnesota doesn’t have a chance. Aren’t you glad to took some time today to look further? This won’t be a pretty offensive game and will be very evenly matched.
Purdue 65, Minnesota 61.