Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Can Indiana Upset Purdue? Why Not?
Logic suggests Indiana will lose tonight against No. 8 Purdue.
And if it was a math or numbers test, it would be right. The Boilers (22-5) would smash the Hoosiers (12-15).
But it is not a math test. It’s a college basketball game rich in rivalry passion, a program steeped in championship history. This is an emotional contest, a huge opportunity, and attitude is everything.
So Indiana has a chance. Forget the Northwestern debacle and all the other gut-wrenching defeats. This is about spoiling Purdue’s Big Ten title prospects. The Boilers already trail Ohio State by a game and a half. One more loss would almost certainly ensure the Buckeyes, and not Purdue, will will the Big Ten.
IU would love to do that.
The Hoosiers will absolutely play better than they did against Northwestern. The Wildcats hypnotized them with a numbing series of passes and cuts. Purdue has a different system. It is predicated on full-court pressure defense, and relentless motion offense led by All-America candidates JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore. Moore is coming off a career-high 38 points in an upset victory over Ohio State last week. Johnson is probably the Big Ten’s best player (yes, better than Buckeye freshman sensation Jared Sullinger).
All this ensures Indiana will be amped and jacked.
Crean gave IU an early Sunday morning practice and all indications are it got the Hoosiers’ attention. But we won’t know for sure until tonight.
Here’s a main point. Crean didn’t to it to brutalize and punish his players. He did it to get them to understand that anything less that fully focused defense and effort is unacceptable.
“It’s how you utilize (that practice)," Crean said, "and it was a matter of coming in here and really making sure that we understand what we have to get better at and how it’s measured daily in the sense you have to practice, but the intangibles are the biggest difference. It’s the emotion you play with. It’s the ability to play through mistakes. It’s the ability to help each other through a mistake. It’s the ability to understand time and score and possession by possession and we just need to get that.”
Crean has been fooled before by the Hoosiers, who almost always practice well, but don’t always play well, particularly with defense.
“They’re workin on that preparation and they continue to work on it," Crean said. "I hope they all understand that this is a tremendous opportunity for them. The challenge speaks for itself, but the opportunity is what they’re going to create or not create. That’s what I’m looking forward to seeing.”
Fans are jacked. Students started camping outside of Assembly Hall Tuesday afternoon. The Stripe Out promotion asks fans to wear either white or red shirts depending on where they sit in Assembly Hall.
For Indiana to upset Purdue it has to, as Crean puts it, string stops together. The Boilers need to go minutes without scoring. It needs a big shooting game from Jordan Hulls. It needs Christian Watford to play like he did at Michigan State a couple of weeks ago. It needs to secure the ball against Purdue’s attacking defense. It needs, well, a total team effort.
“Let’s face it, we are going to have to make some shots,” Crean said. “We are going against one of the best defensive teams in the country. We have to make shots and they don’t make it easy to get those.”
Coaches will tell you it’s important to treat every game the same. Players offer the same line. That no game is more important than any other.
Here’s the key: They lie.
Rivalry games mean more. They just do. Yes, you want to beat everybody you play, and upsetting a No. 1 Ohio State would be huge.
Still, nothing is better than sticking it to a rival.
“You see more emotion in (rivalry) games, but not as much in practice,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “Guys really want to win.”
Or, as Crean put it:
“When you have a lot of emotion, and I don’t mean emotional, I mean when you have a lot of emotion and when you have that spirit of toughness and grinding things out, it can make up for a lot of things.”
Can that make up for a season of disappointment? No, but it could help jump start the Hoosiers to a strong finish. Logic tells you that, as well.