Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Game 28: Northwestern @ Purdue

The Matchup: Northwestern (16-11) @ Purdue (22-7)

Location: Mackey Arena (West Lafayette, Indiana)

TV: Big Ten Network (5:30 PM CT)
Radio: WGN 720 AM

Fun Fact: Purdue has beaten Northwestern 5 straight times, before that Northwestern won five straight over the Boilermakers from 2003-2006.

About the Game
This game is all about positioning in the Big Ten Tournament. Purdue will be in the top three, but where in the top three is up in the air (Update: It'll be 2 or 3. Michigan State won the Big Ten with their victory over Indiana). Northwestern is sitting in the number nine position right now, but would love to pull an upset or two during the season’s final week and move into the seven position. If the Wildcats do pull into the seven spot, it might mean a rematch between these two teams in round two.

Looking back at the first meeting between these two squads probably produces different responses from each team. Purdue’s comeback win kept them in the running for a Big Ten Title. Northwestern’s blown lead might be one of the reasons they end up playing in the NIT, CBI, or CIT instead of the NCAA tournament. What factor will these feelings have in this contest? Probably none, but Northwestern could gain an advantage if Purdue is overconfident and the Wildcats come out with something to prove. A similar situation produced the Wildcats biggest win of the year at Michigan State. (Note: Though I am not surprised the MSU game is leading the poll for the Wildcats biggest win thus far, I am surprised at the size of the lead).

To pull of the victory, Northwestern needs to force turnovers. Forcing TO’s kept the Wildcats in the game in Evanston. Fans should also note Purdue’s Robbie Hummel seems to be recovered from his early season injuries. He scored 17 points last time out against Ohio State. What defense Northwestern uses to try to contain Hummel will be a key to the game. The 1-3-1 produced a ton of turnovers in Evanston, but a healthy Hummel gives Purdue another three point shooter which can tear that zone up. If Northwestern plays the 2-3 or switching man-to-man, Kevin Coble will need to carry over his defensive effort from Saturday as he will be under the basketball trying to stop Hummel. The other Purdue guy under the basket is JaJuan Johnson. Johnson has an outside shot at Big Ten Player of the Year and made NU’s effort to get cuts at the hoop very tough in Evanston with 7 blocks. To counter this, Northwestern’s center position needs to pull Johnson away from the hoop. In order for this to occur, Luka Mirkovic will need to take some of the jump shots he passed up against Iowa. It is also possible NU might use Ivan Peljusic in this game. Although he hasn’t played since near the end of the Minnesota game, Peljusic’s athletic skill might matchup better with Johnson’s quickness than Kyle Rowley’s bulk.

Over the past few years Purdue has dominated teams at home. Of course, the same can be said about Michigan State. That said, Purdue has recently dominated a talented Ohio State team and looks to be hitting on all cylinders with the return to health of many of their top players. If Northwestern is to upset Purdue they will need above average performances from Kevin Coble and Craig Moore. Certainly Coble and Moore have such performances in them, we’ve seen them before, but the odds still favor a Purdue win. Purdue, 73 Northwestern 64

If want more tournament projections and RPI information be sure to visit http://www.baselinestats.com/ you know the site has good info as its run by an NU grad.

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