Thursday, February 4, 2010

Hoping for the Perfect Storm

Indiana is looking to rebound from a loss at the buzzer to Illinois and end a two-game losing streak with a win over Purdue tonight. The Boilers are ranked No. 7 in the ESPN poll and No. 8 in the AP poll and want to extend a four-game winning streak.

There's no question, on paper Purdue has a better team that IU this year. The Boilers are farther down the rebuilding road than the Hoosiers at this point. I'm hoping IU can pull a little magic from the home crowd and steal a win.

It could happen. The Hoosiers looked great on the road against Illinois. It may have been the best 40-minute performance of the season. If they can play another game at that level IU has a chance.

The Boilers also play at Michigan State on Tuesday, which will probably be one of the games of the year in the Big Ten. A sub-.500 Indiana team should not present as much of a challenge. Could Purdue possibly be looking beyond this rivalry game?

Purdue also has lost two of four road games in the Big Ten, at Wisconsin and Northwestern. Their road wins in conference so far came against Illinois and Iowa, but were not blow-outs. This team may dominate at home, but is vulnerable on the road.

Indiana also has a couple statistical advantages heading into the game, both defensive categories. The Hoosiers average more than 36 rebounds per game, while the Boilers average more than 34. Indiana also averages more steals per game, 7.9, than Purdue, 7.6.

The Hoosiers will not have much margin for error. They can't get into foul trouble early in the game or have any long scoring droughts. And they have to keep the effort level up the entire game, a trait that has defined them this season.

I'm looking for a great game with a loud and emotional crowd in Bloomington. If IU starts fast, Purdue won't let it get out of control, and if the Hoosiers stall early, they will get back into it late in the first half or early in the second half.

The Hoosiers will win it by three for the team's biggest win under Tom Crean. This one would be bigger than the win over Pitt in New York.

Tip-off is at 7 p.m. on ESPN.