Iowa (13-6) at Purdue (10-9)
Date: January 27, 2013
Time: 2:30 pm CT
Location: Mackey Arena, West Lafayette
Line: Purdue -2
Say hello to the Big Ten's sole underwhelming team in 2013, the Purdue Boilermakers. Painter's squad was projected as a mid-pack Big Ten team and NCAA tournament bubble occupant, but the conference results have been underwhelming (3-3, with wins against Penn State, Nebraska, and Illinois and double-digit losses to Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State) and the NCAA tournament hopes long since faded. Non-conference losses to Bucknell (who should make the NCAAs, but still, it's Bucknell), Oregon State, Xavier, and Eastern Michigan (lol wut) can do that to you.
Purdue's defense has actually been decent. The Boilermakers are 40th nationally in defensive efficiency, putting them slightly behind Iowa but well within the league's sweet spot. Purdue allows just 41.8 percent shooting on two-point baskets, and their 43.2 percent effective field goal rate allowed is in the national top 20. They don't force too many turnovers, but they block shots and force teams to the perimeter.
It's the Purdue offense that has sucked out loud this year. Painter's team is shooting just 45.6 percent on two-point shots, 31.6 percent from three, and a horrendous 62.7 percent at the free throw line. One in ten Purdue shots is blocked, an extremely high percentage that is due in no small part to their reliance on interior offense: The Boilermakers get 61.1 percent of their points inside the arc, one of the highest percentages in the country. They are a good rebounding team, especially on the offensive end, but that might correlate with the sheer volume of missed shots that are there to rebound.
The Boilermakers get 13.3 points per game from junior guard Terone Johnson, and another 10.5 from D.J. Byrd. No other Boiler averages double-digits. Byrd is Purdue's only serious deep threat, taking 6.5 three point shots per game and cashing them in at a 36 percent rate. Seven-foot freshman center A.J. Hammonds leads the team with 6.1 rebounds per game, while also adding 9.8 points per contest. Hammonds has also been a block machine in Big Ten play, rejecting a season-high five shots against Penn State and bettering that total by one against Nebraska the next night. Against teams with a serious post presence or good outside shooting, his defensive presence has been greatly reduced or completely nullified. Ohio State, Michigan State, and Illinois were all able to get him in foul trouble (though he did still manage 20 points against Sparty). Purdue rotates eight players steadily, with a couple of additional guys getting minutes when necessary. Every one of the eight players in their rotation averages three or more rebounds per game, so nullifying Purdue's rebounding ability is not a question of just boxing out one or two top rebounders.
On paper, this is a game between two relatively evenly-matched teams that could be decided by Purdue's home court advantage. But deeper in, this looks like an extremely favorable matchup for the Iowa team we saw against Wisconsin and Ohio State. If Iowa's big men -- especially Woodbury and Basabe -- can play effective help defense near the basket and force Purdue outside, the Boilermakers are a near certainty to struggle on offense. Expect Gessel to defend Byrd and try to prevent him getting open for kick-out passes. Offensively, Iowa is one of the nation's best teams at getting to the free throw line, and the key to Purdue's two-point defense -- their foul-prone seven-footer -- could be a prime target for Aaron White's flailing three-footers. If Hammonds is out, Purdue is forced to go small, and Iowa's interior offense could thrive. Iowa's weaknesses this year -- turnovers from the backcourt and poor outside shooting -- aren't areas where Purdue looks prime to exploit their advantages. Iowa could use a road win, and this is as good a place as any to get it.