Why Purdue's Short Skid Won't Hinder the Boilermakers' March Madness Run
For those of you reading this article, please note that this will most likely be more biased than John Madden talking about Brett Favre. So consider yourself forewarned. If you would rather not read the biased opinion of a college student, I can save you some time and tell you to stop now.
But if you want to hear some, well, good stuff...stick around.
As many have heard, since the No. 13 Purdue Boilermakers jumped to their best start since Glenn Robinson was on the team back in the early '90s, the team has now dropped three straight in Big Ten play.
Now, I am a college student at Purdue, and, naturally, like any good student should, I attend every home basketball game, getting to games eight hours before tip-off to assure the best possible seats. So once again, I warn you, bias at its finest is on its way.
But that’s not what matters. I am just here to present you with some straight facts—a few reasons that help me cope with the recent losses of my dear Boilers and how this is going to be fixed.
So let us take a trip down memory lane back to ninth day of January this year.
An undefeated Purdue team took a trip to Madison and fell to the then-No. 20 Wisconsin Badgers for its first loss of the season.
I want to first argue for this one fate, seeing that Wisconsin ended Purdue’s last 14-0 start in the 1993-94 season. However, that argument won’t take me too far. So, where did the Boilermakers go wrong?
I think a better question is "Where did the Badgers go right?" Your answer, ladies and gentlemen: a lot of places.
First off, the Badgers are a highly underrated team. They have only four losses this season: No. 10 Gonzaga (neutral), No. 7 Michigan State (road), No. 25 Ohio State (road), and Green Bay (road).
Out of these four teams, three have at some point held a top-10 ranking. Ohio State would still most likely be among those rankings had it not lost Evan Turner. But we’ll talk more about The Ohio State University later.
Besides a fluke overtime loss at Green Bay, the Badgers have already proven they can compete and hang with the best of the best in the NCAA and will undoubtedly shake things up throughout Big Ten play and into March
Now, very noticeably, the road seems to be a weakness for Wisconsin. Actually, it is not necessarily that the road is its weakness but that its home is its strength.
Under Bo Ryan, who is currently in his ninth year in Madison, the Badgers are an unprecedented 130-10—an outstanding .929 winning percentage—at the Kohl Center. Not only was it hard for the Boilermakers to win at Wisconsin, but it will continue to be difficult for any team to win on the road against the Badgers.
Home court is an extremely important factor in basketball, even more so in conference play. I have witnessed the enthusiasm and noise made by student sections such as the Izzone of Michigan State and the Paint Crew of Purdue. The moral support associated with home-field advantage is without a doubt a huge advantage and one of the biggest factors associated with the Boilermakers loss in Madison.
A few days later, Purdue dropped its second straight against Ohio State at home in Mackey Arena. Will this void my previous home-court advantage argument? Hardly.
I was able to witness this game from the fourth row behind the basket. From what I could see, a few things went wrong for Purdue, and then one crucial thing went right for the Buckeyes.
Purdue started off the game on fire. Robbie Hummel went 8-for-10 from three-point land in the first half, scoring 29 points. Heck, at the half, Hummel was tied with the Buckeyes, as Purdue held a 41-29 lead. But then came the second 20 minutes.
In the second half, Purdue’s defense broke down and Ohio State’s stepped it up. Purdue was unable to charge in on the basket as the Buckeyes kept the Boilermakers outside the perimeter, forcing shots from beyond the arc
Ohio State was able to do the opposite. The Buckeyes forced their way through one of the best defenses in the nation, taking the ball up under the basket and most of the time making the basket and one.
What else went right for Ohio State? Evan freaking Turner.
Hands down, Turner is one of the best players in the nation. If you don’t believe me, go to his next game and watch him play.
Ohio State struggles without Turner, dropping half the games they played while he was out with a broken back. Turner scored a career-high 32 points at Mackey, 23 coming in the second half.
Purdue was unable to shut down Turner or the entire offense, for that matter—something extremely rare for the Boilermakers. Without a doubt, Purdue was able to use this loss as a defensive lesson.
And then there was Northwestern.
Ahhh, Northwestern. The Wildcats came into the season expected to be last in the Big Ten, but praise God that they have Iowa and Penn State to stop them from falling that far.
Actually, Northwestern took the entire nation by surprise from early on in the season, coming into conference play with only one loss to a respectable—not good, but respectable—Butler team. On top of that, the 'Cats were able to eclipse the top 25 for a while.
But there isn’t much to say about this game. Purdue got into foul trouble; the Wildcat faithful came out strong. I could use the whole “oh the refs sucked” excuse, which is entirely true. But that’s not the way this is going to go.
JaJuan Johnson played less than a half because of early foul trouble and was limited to two points. That kills a team that usually depends on its big man down under.
But no matter what, Purdue made mistakes over these last three games, and the other teams did things right.
Yeah, so what?
Learn from your mistakes. That's what. And that is exactly what Purdue will be doing from this skid.
What can be learned from this?
1. The best offense is a good defense. Purdue knows this and does a good job of it. As soon as the Boilermakers perfect shutting down a team from coming into the basket hard, Purdue’s defense will be tough to deal with for any team.
2. Work the court. Hummel goes 8-for-10 in the first half with three-pointers, Johnson can stand down under, receive a pass, and drop it in. West Virginia. 25 points. Enough said. And he has a hook shot that would make Kareem proud. Purdue can attack extremely well from anywhere on the court. But half the time it is one or the other. Getting all over the court every game and forcing the opponent to be on its toes will be prime for the Boilermakers.
I am not concerned about Purdue come March. They have proven that they can and do compete with the best of the best. What has killed them is road games in the Big Ten, where opposition in the stands plays a huge role in the game.
Thank the Lord for neutral locations in the tournament.
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