Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Purdue Arizona Storylines

Purdue will face the Arizona Wildcats Friday evening in the first round of the 2007 NCAA Tournament. It's a tough draw for a Purdue team that has gotten by this year largely by playing tough defense and generally overachieving with modest talent. Arizona scores the most points of any team in the Pac-10 averaging 78 points per contest and also is second in field goal percentage hitting 48% of their shots. The Indy Star not surprisingly is going with the Wildcats, but were nice enough to map out Purdue's path to the Final Four. The following are some storylines heading into Friday's game.

ARIZONA'S OFFENSIVE FIREPOWER
As mentioned earlier, Arizona boasts the most potent offense in the Pac-10. They are led by Marcus Williams (18 ppg), Ivan Radenovic (16 ppg), super frosh Chase Budinger (15 ppg), and Mustafa Shakur (14 ppg). Arizona has been held to less than 70 points eight times this season, losing six of those contests. Arizona coach Lute Olsen has said that he feels his team is ready for Purdue's defensive style of basketball after facing UCLA and Washington State in conference play. The Bruins and Cougars play a similar style to Purdue's and went a collective 4-0 against the Wildcats this year. Keys to victory for Purdue is to slow the game down and disrupt the Wildcats' transition offense. Mustafa Shakur....meet Chris Kramer.

LOOKING AHEAD TO FLORIDA
As soon as the Midwest bracket was announced everyone, including Arizona coach Lute Olsen, started looking ahead to a matchup between #8 Arizona and #1 Florida. GOAZCATS.com has written about how unfair Arizona's seeding is because they have to go through Florida and also about how Arizona's seniors want to leave a legacy by making the Final Four. It would certainly be to Purdue's favor if the Wildcats were looking past them as much as the Arizona media. There is no date with Florida without a win over Purdue.

PURDUE'S TURNAROUND
Matt Painter's rebuilding project of the Boilermaker basketball program is definitely ahead of schedule. A turnaround of 9 wins to 21 wins and a NCAA Tournament berth for a team picked to finish 8th in the Big Ten really shows what an outstanding coaching job Painter has done this year. Even if the Boilers are one and done in the NCAA Tournament, this season is an overwhelming success. That said, Coach Painter's Boilers are not just happy to be there, they want to "do some damage."

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Sizing Up The Arizona Wildcats

Purdue will face Arizona in the 8 vs 9 matchup Friday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Arizona, one of the most dominant programs in all of college basketball, is having a down year by their standards. They are coached by the legendary Lute Olsen, who has 4 Final Four appearances and 1 National Title to his credit. Arizona is a very dangerous and talented 8 seed, with no one giving Purdue much of a chance.

RESUME
Conference: Pac-10
Record: 20-10, 11-7 in conference
RPI: 14
How They Got In: At-large

BIG WINS
Arizona started the season strong by knocking off tournament teams UNLV, Illinois, Louisville, Memphis, & Stanford. They were 12-1 (3-0) at that point and ranked #7 in the country. Once the Pac-10 regular season got going they weren't able to build off their early season momentum. Their only 2 big wins during that time came @ Oregon and @ Stanford.

NOTABLE LOSSES
Arizona endured somewhat of a brutal Pac-10 season by their standards, losing twice to Washington State, USC, & UCLA. The Wildcats exited the Pac-10 tournament in the first round with a 19 point loss to Oregon, marking the second defeat at the hands of the Ducks this season. The ugliest loss by far was a 92-64 shellacking at home courtesy of North Carolina.

KEY PLAYERS
Arizona is led statistically by Marcus Williams, a sophomore shooting guard who averages 18 point per game. The key to an Arizona win might be the play of Mustafa Shakur, their senior point guard who averages 14 points and 7 assists a contest. The Arizona coaches feel that Shakur isn't playing his best basketball right now and needs to set the tone for their team as a senior who's been there before.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Purdue Doesn't Stand A Chance

Does anything seem wrong with the above image? It's part of a 12 picture slideshow called "Battle of the Bubble," by AOL Sports. Forget the fact that they put teams with worse records and worse RPI's ahead of Purdue, or the fact that they are way off the money with the assertion that Purdue will be "playing for its bubble life against OSU." You'd think they could at least get Purdue's record correct (they are 20-10, 9-7). It looks as though Purdue is in for a tough battle to make the tournament this year with AOL Sports tacking on losses after the season is over and ESPN removing key nonconference victories. Gary Parrish at CBS Sportsline continues to be one of the few voices of reason in the national media. He's had Purdue "in" since last Saturday.

WHAT PURDUE NEEDS TO DO
Beat Iowa. If Purdue can't beat Iowa on a neutral floor, then the Boilers don't deserve an invite to the dance. It would also help to play Ohio State tough, something they've done twice this year already.

THE CASE FOR PURDUE
-Won 7 of their last 10 (2 of those losses to #1 Ohio State).
-Nonconference wins against RPI #40 Virginia & #68 DePaul.
-Blowout wins against Michigan, Michigan State, & Illinois.
-20 regular season wins, 9-7 in the Big Ten, & RPI of 48.

CRITICAL GAMES TO KEEP AN EYE ON
-Memphis, 27-3, 16-0, needs to win the Conference USA Tournament.
-Nevada, 26-3, 14-2, needs to win the WAC Tournament.
-Xavier, 23-7, 13-3, needs to win the Atlantic 10 Tournament.
-Losses by Illinois and Michigan State in the first or second round of the Big Ten Tournament would also help Purdue's cause.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Seniors Go Out In Style

Purdue thrashed Northwestern 73-50 yesterday in Mackey Arena on Senior Day to finish the regular season on a three game winning streak. Purdue was led once again by seniors Landry and Teague. The dynamic duo combined for 38 points and 18 rebounds, with Chris Lutz chipping in with 14 points. With the victory, Purdue reached the 20 win plateau for the first time since going 24-10 during the 1999-2000 season. The Boilers also improved to 16-1 at home, which marks the first time since Mackey Arena opened in 1967 that they've won 16 home games in a season.

At 20-10 (9-7 in the Big Ten), things are looking good for at large bid for the Boilers. They finish the season tied for 4th in the Big Ten, with an RPI of 47. Michigan, Illinois, & Michigan State all losing on Saturday will certainly help their case as well. As mentioned previously, Purdue's nonconference wins over DePaul, Oklahoma, Missouri, & Virginia will likely be the difference. Barring a one and done disaster in the Big Ten tournament, it appears as though Ohio State, Wisconsin, Indiana, Purdue, & Michigan State are in prime position to carry the flag for the Big Ten in the NCAA Tournament. Gary Parrish of CBS Sportsline has Purdue as an eleven seed with Illinois and Michigan on the outside looking in.

Purdue will face the Iowa Hawkeyes in the four versus five matchup in the first round of the Big Ten tournament on Friday. The Boilers were blown out in Iowa City earlier this season, and will certainly be looking for some payback. If Purdue gets past Iowa, they will likely get another shot at #1 seed Ohio State.

Whether or not Purdue makes the NCAA Tournament, Carl Landry and David Teague's contributions to this program cannot be understated. I could not have said it better than Bob Kravitz, amazingly enough. Thank you David and Carl, you will be missed.