Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Minnesota/Purdue - Let's Get This Over With


The Gophers are a very gaudy 16-2 on the season thus far, and there's no doubt all fans should be very happy with the way things are going. Tubby has made the program relevant already in just two years, and has pulled in a top 25 recruiting class in both of the past two seasons. Beyond that, his game coaching ability reminds me every game how much I hate Dan Monson and Ron Gardenhire, as he seems to be able to come up with an answer to almost everything. The teams' two losses were due to facing a more athletic team in Michigan State, tough to coach against that, and against a team with a disciplined, frustrating defense in Northwestern. What do you get if you combine those two teams? Purdue. Great.

Starting with the defense, Purdue is one of the best defensive teams in the country, ranking fifth in the country, not conference, in overall defensive efficiency (Northwestern is 42nd). They also first in the nation in adjusted field goal percentage, mainly due to their complete and total lockdown on 2 points shots, where they allow opponents to shoot just 38%, ranking second in the country behind just Vanderbilt. They aren't exactly weak guarding the three either, allowing opponents to hit just 32% of their threes. They also block their opponents shot 14% of the time (20th) and turn the opponent over 24% of the time (35th). In other words, pack a lunch.

As far as being more athletic I suppose that's at least a little debatable this year, which is a huge improvement from Monson's days, but no matter what kind of homer glasses you're wearing, the Boilers have the better players, starting with Big Ten POY candidate Robbie Hummel.

Hummel doesn't quite look the part of an elite athlete, but he plays like one. He's an excellent all-around player, and can hurt you in a whole bunch of different ways. He leads the Boilers and the Big Ten in rebounding at 7.9 per game, and also ranks second on the team in scoring at 13.8 per game, and chips in with 2.4 assists and a steal, while shooting 41% from three. He might not quite get the respect he deserves because of his Northwesternian looks and not eye popping numbers, but he will be a major factor Thursday night, even if you don't notice him. He can dominate game without it being obvious, as he doesn't need to take a lot of shots (season high of just 14, Steve Curry's season high is 33). He's very important to the Boilers; in there two Big Ten losses he was hurt, against Penn State he didn't play and against Illinois he only scored seven points. I have no idea how the Gophers will handle him.

I'm not exactly sure how they'll handle Purdue's leading scorer, E'Twaun Moore at 13.9 per game, either. Westbrook can probably handle him since he's shown he can handle bigger guards and Moore stands at 6-4. Although the best plan might be to just let him have the ball and go nuts. This season he can't shoot (41% from the floor, 34% from three) or take care of the ball (1-1 Assist/TO ratio) and put up a 1-12 against Wisconsin and a 2-8 with 7 turnovers against Northwestern. The Gophers don't force turnovers this season quite to the pace they did last year, but they are still in the top 41 teams in the country in doing so. If they can get after Moore, it will go a long way towards helping them to a win.

A major concern going into this game is the Gophers' rebounding woes, and it's amplified in a game against a team like this, who rank second in the Big Ten in rebounding per game. It's not just due to Hummel, either, as they also have misspelled name guy JaJuan Johnson, an athletic jumping bean 6-10 type who more than doubled his scoring from last year (from 5.4 to 12.5 per game) and blocked shots (1.0 to 2.3) and increased his rebounding from 3.1 to 5.7 per game, all while shooting 55% this year (up from 42% last year). I know that's a lot of numbers to throw out at you math challenged retards, but let's just say he was good and has gotten a lot better. I'm actually pretty excited to see how Ralph Sampson handles him, I think they match up fairly well, with Johnson having a bit of an advantage athletically and with his experience. I am not looking forward to how Johnson matches up with Iverson, because he will destroy him and probably steal his girlfriend.

Finally, because I'm getting bored and drunk (on Cranberry & Vodkas - with Lime), I'll talk about the three non-E'Twaun guards; Lewis Jackson, Chris Kramer, and Keaton Grant.

I'll start with Kramer, since you probably know who he is since he's been around for twelve years. I thought I saw where he got hurt this year, but unfortunately it wasn't serious because it would appear he's back. Kramer is basically the new version of Brian Cardinal, but a shorter, slightly less annoying version. You know the type, he gets props for his tough defense and hustle when really all it is is hustle and lack of ability - like Dusty Rychart. Expect him to be irritating.

Lewis Jackson is the main triggerman for the offense, he's started the last 11 games for the Boilers and leads the team in assists with 3.3 per game, and the freshman tied a career high with 6 assists in the Boilers last game against Iowa, not an easy team to get assists against. I'd say more, but in the two Purdue games I've watched this year I don't remember him. I'm assuming Al Nolen can make him cry.

Finally, Keaton Grant who is kind of depressing. Last season, he was a huge part of the Boilers success averaging 11.2 points and leading the team with 66 three pointers made. Then he had knee surgery in the off-season, and has struggled to find his old form. His scoring is down to 8.0, and he's only beat his average from last season twice this year, and more importantly is only shooting 34% from the field this season. In the games I've seen him play this year, he seemed to be a step slower but could still get to the rim; the real problem was he couldn't finish - unlike me with your sister. He did play maybe his best game of the season in their last game against Iowa, with 12 points thanks to four three-pointers, so maybe he's turning it around. And, seeing as how the Gophers are next up, I'm going to assume he's hit his stride.

Overall, we have a team with a shut-down defense and some really good offensive players starting to become the team everyone thought they were going to be after some early season struggles going against a very young team that has had some real success, but may have overachieved and is starting to deal with some serious questions. I know how this ended up in Hoosiers, but there's no Jimmy Chitwood here, no matter how Norman Dale Tubby might be. Purdue 71, Minnesota 60.

10 comments:

Dawg said...

If you've watched the gophers this year they have relied much more on zone defenses rather then man to man. Tubby will start in the man to man to get a feel for their offense and then will switch to a combination of different zone defenses to confuse the opponent. Its works like a charm and will continue to work.

I'm also not sure why you continue to praise Westbrook's defense. Do you watch the games or just assume that based on his brick house physique that he is able to guard somebody? He is an offensive minded guard that is extremely lazy on the defensive end.

You don't really have to pay to close attention to who will be guarding who because you can bet that the gophs will clog the middle and attempt to guard the perimeter. That perimeter is where teams will beat the Gophs.

Purdue's 2 road Big 10 games were PSU and NU. They lost to PSU and squeaked the one out against NU. This team is more overrated then Snake's pro set formation on Madden.

Gophers 69 Purdue 59

snacks said...

Gophers 64, Purdue 59

WWWWWW said...

Westbrook is an excellent defender when he puts in the effort. He completely shut down Manny Harris in Ann Arbor last season.

And, since I know you'll immediately go and pull up the boxscore to that game and think you've proven me wrong, here is what I wrote after that game:

He was all over the Wolverines leading scorer Manny Harris the entire game, harrassing him into bad shots and turnovers all night. But wait, WWWWWWW, sure Harris had 5 turnovers, but he scored 19 points, how good a job could L-Dub have done? Well, Harris scored 2 of his points against Westbrook. That's right, 2. He hit a three against McKenzie and had five against Nolen. He hit a three on the break, two fast break dunks and two free throws after a foul on the break. That's 17. He had two against Westbrook, and those were both free throws. He was something like 0-5 against Westbrook with 2 points and four turnovers. Just a tremendous job by L-Dub.

So there. And there's no way the Gophers win this game.

Snake said...

If Purdue is as overrated as my pro set O in Madden the Gophers are in big trouble. Last time I checked dawger is 1 for life against Duece and the pro set. Purdue 71 Gophers 65. Prediction is based entirely on the curse of the dawg.

Dawg said...

I am like 5-1 in predictions with the gophers this year. The only game I've wrongly predicted is the MSU game.

Snake, because you beat St. Mary's of the Blind (me) in Madden doesn't mean that the pro set isn't overrated.

If Westbrook is a good defender then why was Hoffarber chasing Moore on Sunday? Not that he did any better but Westbrook never gets the tough assignment.

WWWWWW said...

Moore is a tough assignment?

Dawg said...

He was on Sunday.

If Westbrook was the legendary lock down defender you claim I'm suprised Tubby chose to let Hoff try and guard him on the perimeter rather then your guy.

In other news, Hoff is no longer my guy. The Maddog curse has messed him up bad this year so I'm releasing him as one of my guys. Don't be suprised if he hits 6 from downtown on Thursday.

WWWWWW said...

A spot-up three point shooter is never a tough assignment unless he's like a JJ Redick where he's the first option for his team and they run him through a million picks and screens.

That is not Moore. He's an afterthought who stands around the three point line and takes 75% of his FG attempts from there.

He's also the only guy on Northwestern Hoffarber can guard, and I assume Tubby wanted him in there to try to be a zone buster.

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