(Photo Credit: USA Today)

It’s that time again. Football season is winding down, a sprinkling of snow has hit the Midwest, and the rivalry between the basketball state’s two college powerhouses is renewed. It’s time for IU v. Purdue.

Often, the pair meet when their pathways are diametrically opposed, one riding high on an upward swing while the other ebbs in a season of disappointment. Yet, this season is different. Currently, both squads are simultaneously in a rebuilding phase while also trying to contend. Each has Big Ten elder statesmen mixed with a crop of freshman soon to step into starring roles. Each has one of the best players in the conference. And, each is comfortably in the hands of the right coach with the right plan.

Yet, for both, the future of this season is a corridor of uncertainty. Neither is particularly happy with the trajectory of their season but there is hope. The NCAA Tournament still looms as the ultimate goal, despite the fact that safely securing a spot has become a greater challenge than either had anticipated at the beginning of the year. One thing is for sure: at this point in the season, every victory is important and neither team can afford to withstand many more setbacks.

IU sits 6th in the Big Ten but is coming off three straight losses, headlined by an embarrassing performance in defeat against Nebraska. The injury bug and their lack of consistency has bitten the Hoosiers badly. Still, victories against Marquette and Louisville are nice resume boosters to have in your back pocket. Meanwhile, Purdue holds the 4th position in the conference and has won 5 of their last 6 games.

Thus, round one of the rivalry is about more than just ferocious fan-bases and historical pageantry. The outcome matters… and, that adds just a little extra spice to a rivalry that’s never bland.

Here’s more on the match-up.

Meet the Boilermakers

Departing Players

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  • Vince Edwards – 6’8” / 225 lbs / Forward – Middletown, OH.
  • Isaac Haas – 7’2” / 290 lbs / Center – Hokes Bluff, AL.
  • Dakota Mathias – 6’4” / 200 lbs / Guard – Elida, OH.
  • PJ Thompson – 5’10” / 185 lbs / Guard – Indianapolis, IN.
  • Jacquil Taylor – 6’10” / 240 lbs / Forward – Cambridge, MA.

Projected Starters

  • Carsen Edwards – 6’1” / 200 lbs / Guard / Junior – Atascocita, TX. – Edwards is one of the best scorers in the country, averaging 24.9 points, 3.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1.4 steals per game. He shoots 38.4% from three and is the team’s best free-throw shooter at 85.9%. The entire offense revolves around him. He also commits 3.1 turnovers per game.
  • Grady Eifert – 6’6” / 195 lbs / Forward / Senior – Fort Wayne, IN. – Averages 4.9 points (shooting 41.9% from three) and is the team’s leading rebounder at 5.0 per game.
  • Matt Haarms – 7’3” / 250 lbs / Center / Sophomore – Amsterdam, Netherlands. – He averages 7.4 points and 4.4 rebounds per game, providing quality minutes in the post. He leads the team with 26 blocks on the year. (Boudreaux typically starts but has missed some time due to injury. His status for Saturday is unknown. Williams has been playing great of late and could potentially replace Haarms as the preferred backup and start the game if Boudreaux is out).
  • Ryan Cline – 6’6” / 195 lbs / Guard / Senior – Carmel, IN. – Cline posts 12.6 points, 3.5 assists, and 2.8 rebounds per game. He is an outstanding shooter, attempting 7.8 threes a game and making 40.9% of shots beyond the arc. However, he is more than just a shooter and has greatly improved his playmaking skills this season.
  • Nojel Eastern – 6’6” / 220 lbs / Guard / Sophomore – Evanston, IL. – Eastern is an elite defender. He is terrific on switches with the perfect combination of speed and size. He also adds 6.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 1.2 steals per game.

The Rotation

  • Evan Boudreaux – 6’8” / 220 lbs / Forward / Junior – Lake Forest, IL. – Boudreaux averages 7.5 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. He provides physicality and fundamentals. However, before transferring to Purdue, he posted over 17 points per game for Dartmouth. (Prior to his injury, he was a starter).
  • Trevion Williams – 6’9” / 280 lbs / Forward / Freshman – Chicago, IL. – Williams has become a crucial X-factor for Purdue. He came into the season overweight and needed to work on his endurance. He has reportedly lost over 50 lbs and has substantially improved his stamina. Now that his minutes have increased, Williams has been playing very well. Most recently, he dropped 16 points and 13 rebounds in 22 minutes of action against Rutgers. Look for him to see even more playing time the rest of the season and continue to produce.
  • Sasha Stefanovic – 6’4” / 195 lbs / Guard / RS Freshman – Crown Point, IN. – Stefanovic has been a nice surprise this season. He plays about 14.4 minutes per game and is a viable shooting option off of the bench at 40.5% on the year from three.
  • Aaron Wheeler – 6’9” / 200 lbs / Forward / RS Freshman – Stamford, CT. – Wheeler averages 4.9 points and 3.4 rebounds per game. He can provide a nice scoring boost and is typically used as a perimeter shooter, although he has a solid all-around offensive skill set.
  • Eric Hunter Jr. – 6’3” / 170 lbs / Guard / Freshman – Indianapolis, IN.
  • Tommy Luce – 5’10” / 155 lbs / Guard / Junior – Jeffersonville, IN.
  • Kyle King – 6’5” / 215 lbs / Forward / Freshman – St. Charles, IL.

Game Expectations

Purdue is 11-6 overall (4-2 in conference play) and are currently #13 in the KenPom rankings (IU is #32). It has been a bit of an up-and-down year for the Boilermakers but the team has seemed to find its footing over recent weeks. While Purdue lacks a signature non-conference victory, they have played the 5th best overall adjusted strength of schedule, including games against six teams that were ranked at the time of the matchup (Virginia Tech, Florida State, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, and Iowa).

When it comes to Purdue, there are two statistics above all that have defined Purdue’s season: 1) Purdue ranks 6th in adjusted offensive efficiency and 2) the Boilermakers rank 21st in offensive rebounding percentage (35.8%).

While the defense has improved over the last five games, Purdue’s bread and butter is still offense. As these statistics demonstrate, Purdue is elite offensively. Putting the ball in the bucket and creating second chance opportunities through offensive rebounding are cornerstones of winning teams. Just to demonstrate how substantially better Purdue is in these categories than their opponents, let’s compare them to IU. The Hoosiers are 35 spots below Purdue in offensive efficiency and 230 spots behind in offensive rebounding percentage. When it comes to offense, Purdue has a clear edge.

However, the defense is another story. As mentioned, Purdue’s defense has improved over the course of the season but is nowhere near as effective as their offense. Defensively, Purdue ranks 70th in adjusted defensive efficiency. In comparison, IU sits at 33rd.

Other Purdue statistics of note:

  • Average possession length: 17.4 seconds
  • 40.8% of their points come from three-pointers
  • Three-point field goal percentage: 37.4%
  • Two-point field-goal percentage: 52.1%
  • Free-throw shooting percentage: 71.2%

Individually, the conversation around Purdue has to start with Carsen Edwards. As you likely know, Edwards is one of the most dynamic scorers in the nation, averaging 24.9 points per game (5th best in college basketball). Moreover, his usage rate is outlandishly high. Edwards is incorporated in 34.8% of possessions (9th in the country) and his percentage of shots taken is 37.6% (7th). Individual box scores will also bear out his importance to the squad. For example, against Texas, Edwards either scored or assisted on 66.7% of Purdue’s points. Cline is improved and Williams has come on nicely recently, but make no mistake Edwards is the very definition of a one-man show.

Injury Watch

Race Thompson is likely out once again due to a concussion.

Jerome Hunter has declared his intention to sit out the rest of the year as a redshirt. Leg surgery has prevented him from seeing the floor this season.

Purdue’s Evan Boudreaux has missed the last two games with a groin injury. His status for Saturday is currently unknown.

What to Watch for:

  1. Bounce Back – IU put together a flat-out embarrassing performance against Nebraska. Sure, Nebraska is better than people think, but the Hoosiers were sluggish and simply disappointing. With many young players on the roster, it will be interesting to see if they can come out of the gates strong on Saturday and try to quickly move past the Nebraska defeat. Slow starts have plagued IU all season. The first 10 minutes of the game should be an important indicator of what kind of IU team will show up.
  2. Where’s the Bench? – Against Nebraska, Indiana only got a whopping 8 points from the bench (5 from Moore and 3 from Phinisee). Obviously, the team needs more production from the substitutes. Morgan and Langford cannot continue to shoulder the burden on offense by themselves. Someone has to step up. The question is: who?
  3. Carsen Watch – As Carsen Edwards goes, so does Purdue. He is their offense, plain and simple. IU won’t be able to fully corral him, but how much can they limit his effectiveness? Can they force him into bad shots? Can they eliminate easy buckets? Can they slow him down in transition? Can they force him into turnovers? The answer to these questions will dictate the outcome of the game.
  4. Post Play – Post defense has been a weakness of Purdue all season. Boudreaux provides the effort but is often outmatched. Haarms can block shots but can get bullied physically. Williams has the size and strength, but not yet the technique. This is an opportunity for IU to hammer the ball inside, as well as have the guards drive to the basket. Similarly, if Boudreaux is out, the Hoosiers can also use a constant post presence to draw fouls on the short-staffed Boilermaker bigs.
  5. Running the Point – Phinisee has returned from his concussion injury but still doesn’t quite seem right. Without Phinisee at his best, the Hoosiers seem to be lacking a definitive floor general and playmaker. Durham and Green have had stretches of success but have not quite found the perfect recipe to enable the team to run at full capacity. Hopefully, Phinisee will be back to normal after working himself back into playing shape. But if not, Durham and Green are going to have to be better. Not only in a statistical sense but more so in a playmaking and leadership capacity.

How to Watch

DateSaturday, January 19th
Time2:00 PM EST
RadioHoosiersTV Audio

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