2010-11 RTC Class Schedule: Purdue BoilermakersPosted by zhayes9 on September 7th, 2010
Zach Hayes is a editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court. To see the entire group of 2010-11 Class Schedules, click here.
This is the year for Purdue. The Baby Boilers that burst onto the scene as freshmen with a win at the Kohl Center are now wily veterans, seniors on a mission to take that next step to the final Monday of the NCAA Tournament. The progression for the trio of Robbie Hummel, E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson has been steady- a second round falter in 2008, a Sweet 16 loss in 2009 and another in 2010 that could have been so much more had Hummel not torn his ACL at Minnesota in February. The glory of playing under the Final Four’s bright lights in their home state was supposed to be Purdue’s rather than Butler’s to enjoy. The sour taste of how last spring concluded for Purdue has to be incredibly motivating. The return of Johnson and Moore after a brief NBA Draft flirtation immediately validated Matt Painter’s program as one to be reckoned with in 2010-11. West Lafayette’s Big Three have one last chance to accomplish something truly special. The urgency is palpable. Their time is now.
Team Outlook: For the first time since Glenn Robinson was gracing the hardwood, Purdue has legitimate hopes of winning a national title. Matt Painter hit the jackpot with his recruiting class of four years ago and that group’s final chance is quickly approaching. The main questions: Can they replace the toughness, tenacity and selflessness of Chris Kramer? Will JaJuan Johnson play with a fire in his belly from November through March? Can a healthy Lewis Jackson provide steadiness and reliability at the point guard spot? Will there be enough depth if Purdue should fall victim to the injury bug yet again? You won’t find a more complete trio in the nation than Hummel, Johnson and Moore. Painter has instituted a phenomenal man-to-man defense that has resulted in top-16 finishes in defensive efficiency the last four seasons. Those are two ingredients that even the biggest Indiana diehard has to admit gives Purdue a punchers chance to emerge as the final team standing in Houston. Navigating a rough-and-tumble Big Ten with a mountain of pressure and expectations is no piece of cake, but if anyone is up to the task, it’s Painter, Hummel and the talented Boilermakers.
Non-Conference Schedule Rank (ranked 1 thru 10, 10 being the most difficult): 5. Unlike their rivals and primary Big Ten competition Michigan State, the Boilermakers opted to refrain from loading up their non-conference schedule, although there are three definite tests that lie ahead. Their stiffest challenge is the ACC/Big Ten matchup at Virginia Tech where they’ll have to handle Malcolm Delaney and a raucous Hokie faithful. A close second is a return trip to Morgantown smack dab in the middle of Big Ten play to face Kevin Jones and West Virginia. After winning down in Tuscaloosa last December, the Crimson Tide return with a visit to Purdue’s home floor, although few project Anthony Grant’s team to be NCAA-bound this March. The other intriguing matchup is part of the Chicago Invitational should Purdue beat Southern Illinois and Richmond down Wright State. Richmond features one of the toughest guards in the nation in reigning A-10 Player of the Year Kevin Anderson. The other true road game on the non-conference slate is Valparaiso, a middle-of-the-pack Horizon squad.
Cupcake City: The Boilermakers bring in their fair share of cupcakes to Mackey Arena this year. They’ll likely start with three blowouts against Howard, Alcorn State and Austin Peay, although Oakland could cause some problems in the middle with Keith Benson back for another run at the Summit title. Purdue also welcomes North Florida and IPFW in December and the defections from Carbondale has left Southern Illinois and head coach Chris Lowery fairly depleted. Indiana State lost two of their top three scorers from a 17-15 (9-9) MVC team. There’s a solid batch of easy sledding for Matt Painter on this year’s non-conference schedule before gearing up for the brutal Big Ten.
Toughest Early Season Test: Richmond may be a borderline Top 25 team for most of the season and the Mountaineers will be anything but a pushover down in Morgantown, but this distinction isn’t even close- the trip to Blacksburg is a game that Purdue absolutely can lose. The Big Ten certainly didn’t catch any breaks with Purdue, Michigan State (at Duke) and Ohio State (at Florida State) all taking difficult road trips this December. Seth Greenberg won’t be hyperventilating this Selection Sunday if his team comes close to playing up to their potential. Almost zero production was lost from a squad that finished 10-6 in the ACC but was relegated to the NIT due to their super-soft non-conference schedule. With ACC POY candidate Malcolm Delaney joining Jeff Allen and Dorenzo Hudson for Virginia Tech‘s own version of the Big Three to match Purdue, Tech could be the main competitor to the Blue Devils in what appears to be a mediocre ACC. Blacksburg will be absolutely rocking for this one. Luckily, Painter has some tremendous seniors that have played in extreme environments many times in the past.
Hardest Big Ten Stretch: From January 22 to February 1, Purdue gets a first taste of some of their toughest Big Ten competition. It begins with a hostile welcome for Michigan State to Mackey with ESPN’s College Gameday in the house for a primetime duel. How Lewis Jackson handles State’s star Kalin Lucas could determine the outcome. Remember, post-Hummel injury the Boilermakers were embarrassed at home at the hands of the Spartans last year, notching just 44 points and 30% FG. Up next is a visit to Columbus to face likely preseason top ten Ohio State. It’s no given Thad Matta’s crew can replace Evan Turner with a snap of the fingers, but it’s worth noting the Buckeyes lost no other player of great significance and snatched two McDonalds All-Americans. Tubby Smith is feeling optimistic about his Minnesota squad with the distractions of last season in the past, and while this Purdue core has experienced success at Wisconsin in the past, they fell to the Badgers a season ago. The Golden Gophers and Badgers are the final two tests in a brutal four-game stretch before rival Indiana makes the short trip to Mackey.
Easiest Big Ten Stretch: The start of the Big Ten season sets up well for Matt Painter to establish some momentum heading into West Virginia and the brunt of the Big Ten slate. An opener at rebuilding Michigan, a home date with Northwestern, a visit to Happy Valley to face Penn State and Iowa at home is exactly what the doctor ordered for a 4-0 start in league play. The only potential postseason team in that stretch is Northwestern. John Shurna emerged in Kevin Coble’s place as a complete forward and there’s experience at the point with Michael Thompson. While the Wildcats may make some noise this winter and into the spring, a win at Mackey is asking for an awful lot.
Best Individual Matchup: Jon Leuer and JaJuan Johnson will bang bodies twice this season in February, two of the best big men in a loaded conference doing battle. Both players can utilize their 6’10 frames to score and rebound inside while also forcing the defense to respect their mid-range jumpers. Leuer in particular is difficult to defend in pick-and-pop situations because of his soft shooting touch, yet another Badger forward that has multiple facets to his game. Johnson can counter Leuer with superior athleticism and shot-blocking ability on the defensive end.
Most Challenging Road Test: A victory in Madison, Columbus or Champaign is no cakewalk, but the late February rematch in East Lansing is sure to be heated and could have massive Big Ten title implications. Last year it was E’Twaun Moore stealing the show in the second half and thwarting a late Spartan run for an enormous road victory. With Michigan State returning a large portion of their talent from a Final Four run, this could be one of the few games all year that the Boilermakers are underdogs. How swingman Durrell Summers handles Moore will be a storyline, but watch out for Delvon Roe vs. JaJuan Johnson. If Roe can finally play an entire season at 100% health (big if), he may be one of the most improved players in the nation next season and prove to be quite the challenge for the lanky Purdue big man.
Most Anticipated Home Date: After Robbie Hummel’s first half three-point shooting brigade cooled, it was a scuffling Ohio State team behind Evan Turner’s 23 second half points that emerged with a season-altering win in Mackey Arena over #6 Purdue. Other than their defeat at the hands of Michigan State the game after Hummel’s injury, the loss to the Buckeyes was the only other home defeat for Purdue a season ago. They’ll be looking for revenge and surely won’t be underestimating Ohio State when the Buckeyes visit in mid-February. Thad Matta still has plenty of weapons at his disposal from the outside shooting of Jon Diebler to the interior play of Jared Sullinger and the pure talent of William Buford. This could be one of the best games of the entire Big Ten season.
Upset Watch: I’m not going to make many friends in West Lafayette after throwing his out there…but watch out for the February 23 game at rival Indiana for a potential upset of the year in the conference. Remember, a top ten Purdue team escaped with a three-point win at Assembly Hall last year against an Indiana squad that was 9-12 at the time. It’s reasonable to conclude the Hoosiers will improve with their key cogs- Maurice Creek (if healthy), Verdell Jones, Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls- all returning and playing on pure adrenaline in front of their screaming crowd. Crazy things happen in rivalry games and Indiana may have nothing to lose.