Chatting with the Enemy: Purdue

Pete from the Purdue Basketball Blog agreed to answer some questions about Purdue’s season and their upcoming match-up with Michigan. You can find my answers to his questions here.

From my point of view, one of Purdue’s biggest problems has been their lack of quality point guard play. Has this been a problem? What is the latest on Lewis Jackson and what is Purdue doing to make up for their lack of a true point guard?

6’5 freshman Kelsey Barlow recently replaced senior Keaton Grant at point and had a solid game (12 pts, an assist and 2 TO’s). Barlow should do an adequate job while Lewjack recovers. To be completely honest he reminds me a lot of Manny Harris as his size creates mismatches against other PG’s. He’s not quite pulling the triple doubles like Harris yet though, haha. Unfortunately, TO’s are the risk when starting a freshmen at PG.

Grant can still help out at point. Despite losing the starting spot, he’s still an all-around good player capable of doing a lot of thing good (but nothing great). He’s more of a shooting guard that takes the ball up. Behind them is former walk-on Mark Wohlford. He can provide 6-8 minutes of efficient basketball.  Between the three of them, the point guard position is average. Obviously we are anxious for Lewjack to return, but it’s not our #1 concern among our other issues the team is facing.

Lewjack is still in recovery mode and there’s been speculation that he might be available in early February. But obviously nobody knows this early how long it will take…  People have tossed around the word red-shirt, but if he is made available the day before the NCAA tournament, I’d put money on him playing.

What will it take for Purdue to catch 6-0 Michigan State and get back in the conference title race after dropping 3 games last week?

Oh man, it’ll definitely be an uphill battle. I can say with confidence that two things NEED to happen if Purdue wants compete with MSU for the BTT. First, Johnson needs more involved offensively and on the boards. He averaged only 6 pts and under 6 rebs during Purdue’s 3 game losing streak. Secondly, someone needs to step up on the bench. (Newly benched) Keaton Grant, Ryne Smith, D.J. Byrd, and Patrick Bade haven’t been shooting very well and this puts a lot of pressure on the starters.

Redshirt freshman John Hart, who usually only sees mop-up time, put on a show in Champaign. He scored 14 pts, which is 8 more points than he has had all season. A lot fans are hoping he could help bridge that gap and earn his way into the rotation.

Kramer will obviously draw the Harris match-up, while Johnson will match up with Sims. Both Kramer and Johnson are tremendous defenders, how do you see these battles playing out?

I think both of those matchups will be a lot of fun to watch. With Kramer seeing limited minutes due to a sore ankle, I’d have to give the edge to Harris. Kramer’s lateral foot- speed has been hindered and I think Harris will be able to exploit it.

And as far as the Sims/Johnson battle, I’d have to give the edge to whoever can stay out of foul trouble. Johnson’s biggest defensive asset, shot blocking, also happens to be his biggest liability. When he gets in foul trouble he’ll either plays less aggressive or get benched. If Simms got JJ into foul trouble, he’d have a significant advantage. Conversely, if JJ manages to stay out of foul trouble early, he can be explosive on both offense and defense. Officially, I am going to call it a wash.

If you were game planning versus Purdue, what are two weaknesses that you would try to exploit?

Just two? That could be tough…. The first ‘weakness’ is Purdue’s ability to stop dribble penetration. Quicker guards like Turner and McCamey had no difficulty driving the lane and making Purdue pay. The second weakness is Purdue’s lack of depth. When the starters are benched due to foul trouble, the bench hasn’t given little to no production on offense.

Last year Purdue and Michigan split their two match-ups. The first involved the Kramer/Harris elbow incident and the second saw Harris and Sims explode in one of Michigan’s best performances of the year. We only get to play each other once this year, what’s your prediction for Saturday’s result?

This is a big game for Purdue and they are at a crossroad (sorry for the lame cliché). While a Purdue victory guarantees no future success, a loss at home would be emotionally devastating. Considering UM is coming off a tough loss against UW, and Purdue has some confidence to build off of, I give the edge to the Boilermakers. It’ll certainly be a good game, but I think Purdue wins the marathon. 68-62.

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