Purdue and Northwestern have a lot on the line when they visit Welsh-Ryan Arena on Saturday. Both teams are clawing their way toward an NCAA ticket in March, but still have work to do.
Purdue is projected as a tourney team by Jerry Palm’s latest projections, but they have their work cut out for them with a dreadful schedule ahead. They could be sitting right on the bubble come Selection Sunday. Northwestern, on the other hand, is still seeking its first tourney appearance ever (still boggles my mind) and some think that a win against Purdue could put them in the dance:
Not only will the pressure be immense for both teams, but Purdue cannot afford to be beat with easy backdoor cuts that Northwestern uses in a Princeton-style offense. Purdue’s last game against Michigan exposed their inability to guard a simple pick-and-roll play by the Wolverines. That is worrisome because the Boilers will have their hands full with handling Northwestern’s misdirections. The Wildcats are 25th in the nation with 15.8 team assists per game.
To stay with Northwestern’s sneaky offense and to generate more points, Purdue plans to use a smaller lineup. Going small, Purdue will have Hummel as center, Barlow or DJ Byrd at the forward spot, and three guards (pick three): Lewis Jackson, Terone Johnson, Anthony Johnson, John Hart, and Kelsey Barlow. That’s not to say Travis Carroll or Jacob Lawson won’t play at all, but the previous game against Michigan showed that Purdue’s best offensive lineup is when they go small. Schematically, a smaller lineup makes sense to contain Northwestern’s Princeton-style offense.
In recent history, Northwestern has played Purdue tough. The Boilermakers have won 7 of their last 9 games against the Wildcats, but those two losses include a 2009 loss at home and a 2010 loss at Welsh-Ryan. Not to mention, this year’s Northwestern team handed it to Michigan State at home on January 14th. Expect a tight game in Evanston when the Boilers tip off against Northwestern.