So, How We Doin'? Purdue
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Here's where I land with a game like this.
So far, we are 3-0 at home in the Big Ten. Can we go 10-0 at home? We used to do it all the time at home (what was the stat - three total home losses in five years at the beginning of this centruy?), so we know it's possible. Is this the kind of team that can go 10-0?
Let's say we go 9-1. Just... for now let's say that. Then of these seven games, which one are we going to lose?
Even before Michigan State lost to Northwestern I felt like they were the kind of team that would start 5-0 in the Big Ten and then finish 11-9, so I feel good about that one. With the game at home, I feel really good about beating Northwestern and Penn State, so take those off. We already won at Iowa (plus I can't see us losing on Senior Day), so remove the Hawkeyes. That means if we go 9-1 in the Big Ten at home this year, we're either losing to Ohio State, Wisconsin, or Purdue. Of those, I fear Purdue the most by far. The reason? They have answers to the Kofi question. I'm not sure Wisconsin has an answer besides "here's hoping Johnny Davis scores 47 points to offset everything" and I'm not sure Ohio State has an answer at all.
My conclusion: if we do go 9-1 in the Big Ten, the loss is likely Purdue. Now, obviously, we could go 7-3 with losses to two others so this isn't some "we're almost certainly going 9-1 at home in the B1G" kind of statement. I'm just saying that this has the feel of a "won nine of ten at home in the conference" kind of team, and so I go looking for the most likely loss. This is why I'm predicting Purdue to win tomorrow.
Maybe I should make a list of the reasons I think Purdue takes this one:
- They have the best answer for Kofi of any team on our schedule this year. Two answers, really. Someone who can body Kofi and someone who is 7'-4" and can block Kofi. The big man has his work cut out tomorrow.
- Andre Curbelo is still over there on the bench. We were all thinking it about halfway through the second half against MIchigan on Friday night: "these are the moments where we need 'Belo to run the show." I have a feeling we might think the same kind of thoughts tomorrow.
- Starting 7-0 in the Big Ten is really hard to do. Everyone loses games eventually. Michigan State just lost to Northwestern. Baylor was torching the world and then they lost at home to Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. Duke is rolling along and then they lose to Miami at home. Everyone loses.
- The game is at 11:00 am, which is totally weird. And Purdue has this tiny advantage in that their body clocks are an hour ahead. It's not technically a morning game for them.
- Purdue is really good at basketball. Mostly because they have three exceptional players in Ivey, Williams, and Edey. There's a decent chance all three are among the 60 picks in this year's NBA Draft.
Add it all together and, well, I feel like this one is a loss. We played poorly against Nebraska but then turned it on in the final six minutes and won. We played poorly against Michigan but then turned it on in the final six minutes and won. I feel like we might put together a much better performance in this game... and lose because Purdue is really good.
It all comes back to "I think they're the team on our schedule best-equipped to handle Kofi." If they can do that, we lose. I hope they can't do that. But I think they can do that.
So I have to perdict a loss.
Purdue 77, Illinois 73