Preview: Purdue vs. Indiana - the Last Stand

Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

If Indiana wants any chance to make it to the NCAA Tournament, they'll have to get through their in-state rival first.

By the Numbers:

Purdue Team Indiana
14-10 (4-7) Record 14-10 (4-7)
NR Ranking NR
107 RPI 78
98 BPI 59
106 KenPom 60
94 Sagarin 59

February 15, 2014

4:00 PM EST - ESPN

Skinny:

Purdue. Indiana. Boilermakers. Hoosiers. Big basketball rivalry...between two mediocre (at best) teams unlikely to make it to the tournament as of now. What?

2005 was the last year both Indiana and Purdue missed the NCAA Tournament and that is in jeopardy of happening once again this year, especially if Indiana gets knocked off in West Lafayette. As for Purdue, a struggling backcourt and inability to shoot the ball from outside (and from the free throw line) has more or less made their postseason odds destined for the NIT. Indiana might have a chance to get to the big dance if they can get hot and pretty much win out (or come close), but they'll need to start a hot streak here. Purdue is more or less in the same boat, likely needing to come close to winning out as well to get back into the bubble picture.

So what we have is a huge rivalry between two struggling in-state programs that are all but eliminated if they lose and most likely done already anyway. But if either team wants to continue to have at least a possibility of a tournament appearance, a win here is a must.

Projected Starting Lineup:

Purdue Pos. Indiana
Ronnie Johnson G Yogi Ferrell
Terone Johnson G Stanford Robinson
Sterling Carter G/F Will Sheehey
Errick Peck F Troy Williams
A.J. Hammons C/F Noah Vonleh

Players to Watch:

A.J. Hammons: Hammons has quickly picked up the slack and transitioned into Purdue's best player this season to the point where this Purdue team could be deadly if they had the same level of play from the backcourt. Hammons has been quite the force offensively and his defense has been pretty impressive as long as he's not forced out on the pick and roll or gassed. Last year's game between these two teams here saw Hammons put up 30 points and if he can come anywhere within the vicinity of replicating that then it'll be a good day for the seven footer. Hammons biggest issue this season has been foul trouble, so if he gets into trouble early it could be a long day. But if Purdue wants to have a chance here it'll start with Hammons.

Terone Johnson: Terone has been struggling as of late, but when he's on the offense is considerably more effective. Purdue has squandered the emergence of a consistent A.J. Hammons thanks to poor play from the guards and having Terone piece everything together would go a long way here. He's the senior leader of the team, the season is on the brink and this is a home game versus the team's biggest and most hated rival. This is the time for Terone to break out and make a name for himself, so look for the guard to try to get things rolling early today.

Noah Vonleh: Vonleh is easily Indiana's best big man and best rebounder. However, he is also the team's second leading scorer and has scored double digits in two of his last three games. He should be a major factor in this game battling Hammons down low and considering the suspension of Mosquera-Perea, he is going to have an even bigger role on Saturday. This is Vonleh's first appearance in this rivalry as a true freshman and could be his last considering his NBA potential.

Yogi Ferrell: Ferrell is not only Indiana's most productive player right now, but he is making a serious run at 1st team All-Big Ten. He has scored double digits in every game this season except one and has averaged 19 points in the last three games. A major part of this has been his incredible outside shooting (42.8% from 3). If he is left open for even a second, odds are that Ferrell is going to putting up a 3 for the Hoosiers. He is also Indiana's best pure passer so look for the offense to run through Ferrell.

Staff Comments:

Purdue Perspective: The Boilermakers finally got Hammons to piece things together and have responded by having a backcourt that has been absolutely atrocious. Now the Boilermakers are destined for the NIT because they simply can't hang with teams offensively thanks to some absolutely atrocious guard play. There has been some signs of life, with Stephens looking like a capable three point shooter being one of them, but the same problems have plagued the team the entire season. Regardless of how often Painter tries to teach his players to avoid these mistakes, Purdue still struggles with shot selection, forcing shots and out of control drives by their point guards. Oh, and atrocious free throw shooting.

Painter has built up enough good will here that he'll be back next season regardless of the end result, but if Purdue misses the tournament it'll help him out considerably if he can pick up a win tonight. I know a lot of Purdue fans want the team back in the big dance, but if they can't make it I'm sure knocking off the Hoosiers and putting the final nail in Indiana's tourney odds would be a close second. Indiana's level of desperation is growing and they're certainly beatable (Northwestern, Penn State), so look for Purdue to build some morale and try to end their current losing streak to the Hoosiers.

Indiana Perspective by Thomas Beindit (@tbeindit): The Hoosiers will certainly enter this game much differently than they anticipated this offseason. Indiana fans were hoping to be well placed in the NCAA Tournament at this point, but they are no longer even on the bubble. The reality of Saturday's game is that it offers Indiana an attempt to salvage a mediocre season and perhaps give it at least another good note. Along with this, if Indiana is going to attempt to make a late run for the big dance (yes, the odds are already pretty long), they cannot lose this game. By now, most assume the Hoosiers will not make the NCAA Tournament, but perhaps at least some hope can be kept alive with a win. Of course, for the team, this is about keeping the winning streak against Purdue going and putting a bright note on what is becoming a disappointing season in Bloomington.

Prediction:

This game is more or less up in the air as to what will happen. Purdue has showed signs of life, hanging to some extent with Ohio State and Michigan, as well as beating Illinois and Minnesota. However, there's also been games like the Washington State one or the ending of the most recent Ohio State game. Will we see the good Purdue? Will we see the bad Purdue? We could even see the "good Purdue for 30 minutes, bad Purdue for 10 minutes" that likes to rear it's ugly head time and time again. Purdue needs to piece together a solid 40 minutes and they really haven't done that since they knocked off Illinois on the road. Fittingly enough they're facing rival Indiana, a team that has suffered from a similar fate. While Indiana looked like a tournament team when they knocked off Michigan, this team has also lost home games to Penn State and Northwestern. Oh, and Hanner Mosquera-Perea will miss the game thanks to an OWI, though the sophomore has only been sparingly used off the bench.

This game could get ugly in a variety of ways, with the possibility of it being a lopsided affair for either team or a slow, ugly slugfest that is extremely challenged offensively. Like seriously, could you imagine this game if both teams run the zone defensively?

I think everything is in place for Purdue to finally beat Indiana and to finish derailing the Hoosiers season, especially since Purdue tends to play best when few people have faith in the team. At the same time, Purdue has struggled to play a consistent 40 minutes pretty much the entire season and Indiana has shown signs of potential that they've struggled to capitalize on. The game could hinge on Hammons as Purdue will need their big to have a strong day. If Noah Vonleh and the Hoosiers can draw some cheap fouls early then they can get Hammons out of the game and there'll be no one to step Indiana inside. If Hammons has to ride the bench there's no reason to think Indiana will lose here, especially with Purdue's issues elsewhere on the roster.

When all is said and done Purdue will need Hammons to have a good day and finally see some guard play that is competent. The Hoosiers likely have the upper hand as their roster is more balanced and their team has been more capable of playing a solid 40, but they've struggled at times with scoring and turnovers have been a major issue (costing them their game earlier in the week). Regardless, I think Purdue will continue to struggle shooting the ball and Indiana will have just enough success shooting from outside to take care of business. It'll be an ugly slugfest but Purdue's offensive issues will keep them from picking up a crucial win here.

Purdue 55 Indiana 63

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