Monday, January 4, 2010
Get it? Boilers? Boiler Room? Freddy Krueger? Actually this bit would have worked out a lot better if I knew how to use the picture software on my computer. I was going to paste in a Purdue jersey over Freddy's shirt so it was like he was Chris Kramer, but my computer kept telling me "Error: Source and Destination File Name is the Same" which is total BS because the one file is called "purduejersey" and the other is called "freddykrueger" so how can those be the same? I once kind of knew how to use computers. Now I'm like an 80-year old asking how to use "The Google." Let's just get to something else I'm bad at - basketball analysis.
I've decided to try to add a little bit of structure to my game previews, and as such I'm going to start using a stupid gimmick that I like to call "5 Questions."
1. How are the Gophers going to deal with the next KG? Purdue has a ton of weapons - specifically three - but I am more worried about JaJuan Johnson than either E'Twaun Moore or Robbie Hummel. Not that Moore and Hummel are going to be easily stopped, but Johnson's skill set is prefect to take advantage of Iverson and/or Sampson. He's got the range to pull them out to the perimeter and the ability to go around them from there, or on the block he has a nice turnaround and good moves and footwork to get himself open shots. Not to mention he is an oustanding offensive rebounder, and the Gophers aren't great at preventing them.
The one weakness I see is that Johnson does have a tendency to bring the ball down when he gets it inside rather than keeping the ball high. If the guards and other assorted wing-types can get down there and double before he can get into a move and/or grab the ball when it's down low they can keep him down. Of course, that could lead to open three-pointers, but we'll have to take that chance.
2. What is Hoffarber's role going to be? It's an interesting situation with the Hoff, who has basically become the Gophers top offensive weapon lately, but he can be taken advantage of on the defensive side of the ball by certain teams - and Purdue is probably one of them. He doesn't fare badly against less athletic teams and can actually be a "force" on the boards in those situations, but I don't know how he fits in against Purdue. When Ryne Smith is in the game he should be able to handle him, but every other wing on the Boilers would go right around him.
Still, they are going to need him in the game for his offense, and especially in this game because Purdue's one defensive weakness is defending the three-pointer. They allow opponents to shoot 38.8% from three, 305th in the country. Whether they play a lot of zone or find other ways to help him out, he's going to need to be in the game. And if he can go off like he has lately, that gives the Gophers a good chance to steal one.
3. Any chance that with the Boilers coming off the huge win over West Virginia and then traveling to Madison this weekend that they are overlooking this game? Well, if you want to make that up and use it for bulletin board material go ahead, but I don't think so. No matter how lofty the team's goals - and the Boilers have got to believe they are final four bound - here in the Big Ten I don't think anybdoy overlooks anybody else, particularly not a Tubby Smith coached opponent. I don't think the Gophers are quite looked at as highly as they should be and eventually will be, but I also don't think they are going to be ignored by Painter and Co. Just for kicks, I checked out Purdue in what you could call "trap" games between two biggies the last several years and I can't find even one single instance of them sleeping on a team they should have beaten in between two big games. So there goes that sliver of hope.
4. Which Lawrence Westbrook will show up? It is clear that Westbrook is the go-to scorer on this team. Yes, Hoffarber has been the biggest weapon, but his inability to create his own shot makes me too much of a liability to be "the man." Devoe can create his own shot, but he isn't quite their yet either, so that leaves it to L-Dub to be the alpha dog on this team, and when it works it's a thing of beauty; both Wisconsin games last year, this year's Penn State game were examples of what he can do when he's on. But, as any Gopher fan can tell you, he has been incredible inconsistent throughout his career, and this year has been no exception. In games against top 50 teams as defined at kenpom.com, Westbrook is playing significantly worse than his overall season averages. Points per game: 9 vs. 14. Field Goal Percentage: 41% vs. 52%. Assists per game: 0 vs. 2. Turnovers per game: 3 vs. 1.7. Steals: 0.3 vs. 1.5.
If the Gophers are to do anything in conference play this year Westbrook is going to start bringing his A game against the tough opponents with more regularity. Purdue, Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State are all in the top 50 and Northwestern and Illinois are just outside of it. I predicted that Westbrook would have a "special" senior season and he got it off to a good start with that Penn State game. If he can keep it going with a huge game against the Boilers that would go a long way towards a possible upset.
5. Can the Gophers beat Purdue in West Lafayette? Short answer: no. Long answer: probably not. Any time you play defense as well as the Gophers, and make no mistake this is one of the best defensive teams in the country, you always have a chance to win anywhere. Although with Purdue being nearly as good on that end (they are 7th to the Gophers 5th in defensive efficieny) and with the Boilers having little trouble with Wake Forest, another top 15 defensive team, earlier this year it doesn't seem really likely.
Still, with a defense that is that good and a team that showed they can win tough road games (@ Madison last year), I don't expect this to be an embarrassment.
Purdue 60, Minnesota 54.