I’m back–like a bad rash.
- AP: #6 (up from #9)
- Coaches: #5 (up from #9)
- Blogpoll: #6 (up from #11)
- Sagarin: #7 (up from #8)
- Kenpom: #9 (up from #11)
- RPI: #6 (up from #7)
- Bracketology: #2 seed (steady from last week)
- Crashing the Dance: #2 seed (steady from last week)
Crashing the Dance has us as the highest of the #2 seeds. So grabbing a #1 seed is possible–but far from probable. Pitt beating UConn tonight doesn’t help, as it bumps them up from #4 in the nation, but doesn’t move UConn down that far from #1 in the nation.
I don’t think we can lose more than one game from here on out (not counting the BTT final) and be in the conversation for a #1 seed. And really, it’s probably still too early to even be talking about it (but that’s what blogs are for, right?).
Monday Night Links
- MSU’s Roe is Big Ten Player of the Week
The first of many such awards, we hope.
- MSU might get 15-20 Morgan minutes
Emphasis on “might.”
- Recruiting Roundup (2-16-09)
Dylan on Trey Zeigler at the MSU-UM game.
- Ten Saturday Thoughts
YABC: “Kalin Lucas, MSU, the one-man secondary break.”
Purdue Game Preview
7:00 Tuesday. Mackey Arena, West Lafayette, Indiana. ESPN (Vitale/Shulman/Andrews).
With MSU having opened up a two-game lead on the rest of the league, this game doesn’t look quite as enormous as it might have when the season started. But it’s still pretty big: Win it and and we can start eyeing where that league championship trophy should go in the display case; lose it and it’s a whole new ballgame.
Purdue comes in at 8-4 in league play, having won 8 of its last 10 games. Most recently, they squeaked by Iowa 49-45 on Saturday. After sitting out the previous three games due to his continued back issues, Robbie Hummel played 24 minutes, but scored only 2 points.
Our all-conference forward, meanwhile, has also missed the last three games (and played very limited minutes in the two prior games). The extent to which Morgan and Hummel can play–and play effectively–tomorrow night will have a big impact on match-ups on both ends of the court. But I think it’s safe to say Purdue needs Hummel more than we need Morgan.
Tempo-free evidence (conference-only numbers):
|MSU Off||Rk||Pur Def||Rk|
|Pur Off||Rk||MSU Def||Rk|
Having held each of our last three opponents under 0.80 points per possession, MSU now ranks as an equal of Purdue defensively. Offensively, though, Purdue remains in the middle of the pack. Whether Hummel can play at his standard level of production will be a major factor, given how reliant the Purdue offense is on him and JaJuan Johnson. Among the eight Purdue players playing at least 40% of the team’s minutes, those two are the only players with an offensive rating above 102 for the full season.
Johnson has become a monster in conference play, averaging 14.7 points/game on 55.8% FG shooting to go with 7.3 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game. Those numbers are even more impressive considering how inconsistent the Purdue perimeter players have been. E’Twaun Moore is averaging 12.7 points/game, but shooting just 31.0% from beyond the arc. Keaton Grant is averaging only 7.6 points/game on 35.4% FG shooting. Lewis Jackson is averaging 3.7 assists, but also 2.5 turnovers, per game.
Defensively, MSU has to find a way to contain Johnson. Goran Suton may not be athletic enough, particularly with his recent knee issue. So Delvon Roe will need to play some tough minutes inside and keep Johnson from using his length and explosiveness to create easy baskets.
Beyond that, it’s a familiar story: Stick with the opponent’s smaller perimeter players, force a tough 3-point look, and secure the rebound. The last part of that equation shouldn’t be too tough, as Purdue ranks just 9th in the league in offensive rebounding percentage. The first and second parts of the equation may be a little tougher, as either Suton or Roe will have to guard either Hummel or one of the Purdue guards for most of the game. This is where 10-15 minutes of Raymar Morgan could help; he should be able to guard on the perimter for short stretches while still providing an advantage in the post and on the boards on the offensive end.
Again, whether Hummel can play most of the game will make a big difference. For the full conference season, Purdue is shooting a respectable 36.0% from beyond the arc. In their last three games, with Hummel out, Purdue has shot just 11-48 on 3-pointers (22.9%). MSU, meanwhile, now ranks first in the league in opponent’s 3-point shooting percentage at 30.6%. (How is that we’re bigger than everyone else, yet our perimeter defense is better than our interior defense?)
On offense, MSU will again to look to take advantage of its size. Another double-digit scoring game from Delvon Roe against undersized defenders would be a great help. And we need to get back to 40% territory on the offensive boards. Purdue doesn’t give up easy looks at the basket, and they don’t foul much, so getting some second-chance points will be key. Despite their lack of interior depth, though, the Boilermakers have only allowed one of 12 conference opponents to get to the 40% offensive rebounding percentage mark.
The good news is that Purdue isn’t forcing as many turnovers as they once did. Only three conference opponents have turned it over on more than 25% of their possessions. Chris Kramer remains a menace, though; he’s averaging 1.7 steals/game in league play.
Kenpom predicts a 66-63 Purdue win in a 67-possession game. I really have no gut feeling going into this game. The Hummel/Morgan situations add an additional level of intrigue. If Hummel plays 20+ minutes effectively and MSU still finds a way to win, we’ll have real reason to believe this team could be headed toward something special. (Of course, if Hummel doesn’t play effectively and we win, we’ll take it.)
P.S. Maybe Kalin Lucas will feel slighted by the focus being on the other two all-conference performers in the game and come up big. Off the Tracks notes that Lucas scored a combined 36 points in the two games against Purdue last season. The Boilermakers didn’t have the equally-quick Lewis Jackson last season–but Lucas may be able to use his strength to create good looks at the basket in the lane against the smaller Jackson.