A loud yell and a big sigh of relief could be heard all around West Lafayette on Sunday evening. The Boilermakers narrowly got around the Texas A&M Aggies 63 to 61 in an overtime victory.
The Boilermakers, who were led in OT by senior guard Chris Kramer scoring six points in overtime including the eventual game winner, advanced to their second consecutive sweet 16 appearance, the first time that has happened since the inception of coach Matt Painter.
Everyone from your Aunt Jemima to the President of the United States had the Boilermakers (26-4) losing in the first round to Siena. The Boilermakers schedule was thrown out by analysts and bracketologists around the country, after start forward Robbie Hummel went down with a season-ending ACL tear against Minnesota.
The Boilermakers used this as motivation to succeed, and advance to the Sweet 16.
Now the Boilermakers have made it two rounds farther than most everyone expected, they will face off with the top seeded Duke Blue Devils (31-5) in what will sure be a physical matchup.
The Duke Blue Devils are a team blessed with height, physicality, and athleticism.
The Blue Devils' Starting Lineup:
1. Nolan Smith, 6'2" Junior Guard
2. Jon Scheyer, 6'5" Senior Guard
3. Kyle Singler, 6'8" Junior Forward
4. Lance Thomas, 6'8" Senior Forward
5.Brian Zoubak, 7'1" Senior Center
Now for Purdue's Starting Lineup:
1. Lewis Jackson, 5'9" Sophomore Guard
2. Chris Kramer, 6'3" Senior Guard
3. Keaton Grant, 6'4" Senior Guard
4. E'twaun Moore, 6'4" Junior Guard
5. JaJuan Johnson, 6'10" Junior Center
As you may have noticed Duke has an extreme size advantage. With the loss of junior forward Robbie Hummel, the Boilers lack size and a true four position player.
For the Boilermakers to be successful in this game many things need to happen.
First, Jon Scheyer who has been in a recent shooting slump is just waiting for a time to get out of it, has to be stopped. The senior guard who is averaging 18.1 points a game, and nearly five assists, will need to be shut down for the Boilermakers to be effective in this game.
Next, stay out of foul trouble. With the lack of size on the court the Boilermakers can kiss their Final Four hopes good bye if JaJuan Johnson doesn't stay out of trouble. The next option that Purdue has at center is freshman Patrick Bade. Bade, a freshman forward who has been showing signs of improvement, can be counted on for no more than 12 minutes of playing time. Playing him more than that could result in a disaster for the Boilers.
Chris Kramer will have to be prevalent for Purdue to be successful. Kramer, the senior guard averaging six points a game and almost two steals, will need to step up and take control. Against A&M, the senior willed the team to victory. Expect another heart filled performance for the all time steals holder.
Purdue's next key to success lies on the bench. The bench of the Boilermakers will need to be active in this. Along with the usual suspect Kelsey Barlow, the 6'5" freshman guard who started most of the year, expect some big minutes from Ryne Smith and DJ Byrd. Smith and Byrd provided a spark against the Aggies and Purdue will need to have them do that again if they are going to be successful.
Dukes Keys to victory are a lot simpler.
For Duke to be successful they need to contain JaJuan Johnson. Johnson, who averaged 15.3 points and seven rebounds a game, is the height of Purdue. If the Blue Devils can get the big man in foul trouble early, expect an easy victory.
Jon Scheyer need to break his shooting slump. The senior guard is playing in what could possibly his last game in a Duke jersey. His recent slump will need to be broken for Duke to be Successful in this one.
Finally Duke must take away the middle. Purdue plays an offense centered around JaJuan Johnson. If Johnson is playing bad, more than likely the team is playing bad. If Duke is able to shut down the middle expect the Boilermakers to start throwing up prayers. This would be a good thing for Duke as Purdue without Hummel is not a very good shooting team beyond the arc.
This game will be an intriguing match-up of size. We will see if the speed of the Blue Devils or the Power of the Boilermakers will prevail.
I am torn on who to predict on this one so I will be a homer and say Purdue 63-59. I guess it's more of a heart thing, but I just can't choose Duke or my fan card will be taken away, but it is sure to be an intriguing matchup.