This Thursday, Indiana (18-9) will travel to West Lafayette to face the reeling Purdue Boilermakers (14-14) in one of the last games of the season. Only four games remain in the regular season, and despite facing no more teams that are currently ranked, each game provides a unique challenge that the Hoosiers will face. Also, each will provide an opportunity to boost (or harm) their resume.
According to the latest Lunardi Bracketology, Indiana has been slowly moving up the bracket to now a 10th seed while their opponent this week, Purdue, is no where to be found. Despite this fallout and a 0.500 record, Purdue is heavily favored in this upcoming game with the Hoosiers as they will face in Mackey Arena and Coach Miller has not won against the in-state rival since arriving to Indiana. Their last victory came February 20th, 2016 under head coach Tom Crean and led by Yogi Ferrell and Troy Williams.
This will be Indiana’s game with the lowest chance of winning the rest of the season per Kenpom with only 32% likelihood of getting the W. Even the game at Illinois who has been at the edge of being ranked has a higher chance at 33%. Part of the reason is due to Purdue’s uniquely high Kenpom ranking of No. 25 despite having as many wins as losses. Purdue also boasts a Net Ranking of 36 (they moved up from 37 despite going 0-4 their last four games).
The final regular season game of this rivalry will boast a lower College Basketball Power Index with a rating of 82.5 which is lower than their last game of 93.3. However, passion and desire to beat their closest rival will make the game more interesting than numbers can provide.
How to Watch
|Who||Indiana Hoosiers at Purdue Boilermakers|
|When||Thursday Feb. 27, 2020 7:00 p.m. ET|
|Where||Mackey Arena — West Lafayette, Ind.|
|Tickets||Find the Lowest Tickets on SeatGeek|
Getting to know the Boilermakers
Purdue is continues to be ranked high by Kenpom at No. 25 which is the highest team with a record of 14+ losses by far. The next closest 14 loss team is Georgia Tech at 77 with 14 losses. Washington has 15 losses and is ranked No. 57 as well. They have been ranked this high due to their impressive offensive and defensive efficiencies at No. 46 and 22 respectively.
Purdue and Indiana have gone separate trajectories since they have last met. In fact, the last game Purdue won was at Indiana February 8th, and have since gone 0-4 with 2 losses at home and away. They have fallen from a debatable bubble team or 10+ seed, to first four out, to now not considered. However, with some more wins under their belt, they can sneak back into the conversation due to their high NET ranking. Indiana has gone 3-1 since the teams met almost a month ago to contrast the Boilermakers.
Senior forward Evan Boudreaux has been one of the most exciting Boilermakers to watch, but as of late has run cold. He has seen plenty of attempts and minutes on the court, but apart from the OSU game, he has only scored 6 points since playing Indiana. Ohio State he was on fire again, but he has not been able to reproduce this as of late.
Trevion Williams has maintained a high level of productivity making similar numbers of FGs and getting a double-double in three of the last four games. However, over the last two games alone he has thrown up 35 FG attempts showing more desperation in the play of the Boilermakers. He still remains the highest scoring Boilermaker with 11.4 ppg and getting 7.7 rpg. is the team’s dynamic sophomore standout. He leads the team with a 11.2 points and 7.4 rebounds per game and shooting 56.9%. They only have two players scoring over 10 ppg, Williams and Hunter Jr., but have two players scoring over 9 ppg.
Also, Matt Haarms has been struggling as of late, only getting 14 points over the last four games and 12 rebounds. He has come up crucial in key moments and has never been one to light up the scoreboard, but his defensive ability has always been instrumental in the Boilermakers’ success at home and on the road. He has had 7 blocks over this span as well.
Sustained success on the court has been a struggle for Purdue and Indiana this season. The Boilermakers have two lopsided losses to Illinois and another home loss to Texas along with losing to Florida State who the Hoosiers beat earlier this season.
As a team, Purdue is on life-support and in desperation for a win. Odds are in favor for Purdue winning comfortably in West Lafayette against Indiana, but this is the longest loss streak that Purdue has been on since 2014 when they ended the season 0-7 including the Big Ten Tournament. Probably the most concerning part of this loss streak is Purdue being blown out by 8+ in 3 of the four games and two of which were at home.
We can expect Purdue to once again play with the fire and passion they did against Iowa as they and Indiana are looking to capitalize on the opportunity and secure a spot in the tournament.
Projected Starting Lineups
|Indiana Hoosiers||Purdue Boilermakers|
|G: #1 Al Durham (Jr.)||G: #12 Evan Boudreaux (Sr.)|
|G: #10 Rob Phinisee (So.)||G: #55 Sasha Stefanovic (So.)|
|F: #3 Justin Smith (Jr.)||G: #2 Eric Hunter Jr. (So.)|
|F: #4 Trayce Jackson-Davis (Fr.)||F: #50 Trevion Williams (So.)|
|C: #50 Joey Brunk (RS Jr.)||F: #20 Nojel Eastern (Jr.)|
What to Watch for
1. Race to the finish line
Race Thompson has been a key to the latest exceptional play by Indiana over the last several games as he has continued to develop his skillset and become more comfortable on the court.
Coach Miller has acknowledged Race’s progression and notices that Race comes to play and be physical on the court and he doesn’t create many mistakes.
Apart from the mistake of fouling on a blown play against Penn State, Race played another exceptional game and has been more prevalent in the game plan from Archie while fellow big-man Brunk has started to fall down in play time.
2. Checking Purdue off the list
Purdue is on the short-list of teams Archie has not beaten yet in the Big Ten and this game looks to be a good opportunity to create an upset on the road. Purdue is reeling and Indiana playing its best basketball on the year leading to a great chance to beat Purdue for the first time since 2016.
In order to win, Indiana needs to get out the gate quick and hard and sustain an aggressive mentality to quiet the crowd and keep control of the game. When they lose control, they seem to lose control bad and have a tough time catching up when they get in a big hole.
3. Getting the Green Light?
Devonte has started to calm down and take an appropriate number of high-percentage deep shots. He is less reliant on becoming very hot and has been more consistent as of late. The ability to be a deep threat has been something the Hoosiers lacked last game with Green only hitting one three against Purdue.
Struggling from deep was a glaring issue last time as they only hit 33% of their deep shots from Purdue’s 50%. The percentage was not bad for Indiana, but the quantity of 7-21 led to many wasted possessions that Indiana wishes they had back in the last game.
4. The Final Stretch
For the first time in Archie’s tenure, Indiana looks to be in the driver seat in making the NCAA Tournament. They do not have to win Thursday or even Sunday against Illinois, but they need to stay consistent, competitive and locked in each moment.
They appear as comfortable as ever in the difficult, deep Big Ten and need to ride the momentum and consistency when the postseason is near. Winning in Mackey will lead to a huge weight off of Archie’s, player’s and fan’s shoulders as March will be a great month this year around.
Featured Photo: Purdue University Athletics