It is about damn time. As a Hoosier and state of Indiana basketball fan, I have been waiting for this day for almost a year. Not only to prove to Purdue once again that we’re just better than them but because it always generates angry discussion on college basketball in Indiana for a few days. Nothing pleases me more than reading thread after thread of IU and Purdue fans flaming each other. It’s a time honored tradition for myself. But look past that and there is plenty of intrigue in the first of two match-ups between these two teams this year.
First of all, Indiana should win this game hands down. They’re just better at all positions at the moment. Of course this requires the prerequisite warning that no road game is easy in the Big Ten and Purdue in Mackey against a highly touted Hoosiers team just makes for even more intrigue and drive to send IU home crying. Look back across the last couple years when IU was bad and Purdue was good. Even with the disparity in 2010 they still played tight competitive games. It’s likely to be the same this year as well. Purdue is going to give Indiana a game for at least a little while. I’ll be shocked if they don’t. That said I expect Indiana to be cruising by the time the buzzer sounds.
Let’s dig a little deeper to understand why that is the expectation. First of all we can look at KenPom’s number and see that these teams just don’t stack up when it comes to efficiency. The Boilers just don’t have the firepower to keep up with Indiana’s offense. If we set the floor at a 17% usage rate you can see where the issues lie. Purdue has 8 guys that are used 17% or more of the time that they are on the floor. Indiana has 8 as well. So depth of each team from a minutes standpoint is pretty equal, but when we look at the offense rating numbers we see where the difference in depth lies.
DJ Byrd currently leads the Boilers’ offense with a 109.8 O-Rating. Of IU’s 8 players of use only Jeremy Hollowell and Yogi Ferrell (barely) are less efficient than the Boilers best. So Indiana if they can push the pace are going to get the points when need be. There are just so many weapons that Indiana can go to in the mismatches that it really doesn’t matter if one or two players have a night off.
Purdue basically plays the 7ft AJ Hammons and then not a single player over 6’5″ more than 36% of the time. Indiana is going to have the opportunity to play with a ton of mismatches on offense to generate points. The most important mismatch will come in the form of Christian Watford being defended by one of DJ Byrd or Ray Davis. Both measure in 4 inches shorter than Watford. Which means that either the Boilers are going to have to double down on Watford at times leaving them susceptible to the kick out three or play Donnie Hale more. Which means that the Boilers will have to suffer even more on the perimeter offensively.
On defense the hated zone that IU has been playing should actually be a boon to the defense against Purdue. Purdue shoots so poorly from distance that they couldn’t hit water if they fell out of boat. They don’t shoot a lot of free throws either, not that they would make them anyway. The Hoosiers should have no problem keeping the perimeter players in front of them and fighting off the drive and kick. As long as Yogi holds down Ronnie Johnson the rest of the perimeter defenders will be free to float.
In the end I just don’t see how Purdue can hang in this barring a incredibly poor shooting night by Indiana. The Boilers aren’t the most conditioned team and IU does a great job of turning defensive rebounds and made baskets into fast breaks. I don’t think Hammons can keep up with Zeller at that pace and it is up to Indiana to make sure it gets there. Give the Boilers credit because they’ll make it look difficult but in the end IU will be too much.