What is Dispatches from Blogfrica? Pretty simple: I ask questions of a blogger for an opposing team; he answers. A truly revolutionary idea, no? Next up: Travis from Hammer and Rails, SB Nation's excellent blog for all things about Our Most Hated Rival.
1) This season has been more of a struggle than I expected for the Boilermakers. 3-3 in the Big Ten isn't that bad this year, but 7-6 in non-conference play? Losses to Bucknell, Oregon State, and Eastern Michigan? Wha happened? What did you expect from Purdue this year?
A couple of things. Against Bucknell Terone Johnson did not play and he is Purdue’s leading scorer. It was the first collegiate game for five freshmen and Purdue still had a three to tie in the closing seconds that D.J. Byrd missed. Bucknell is a legitimate good team with an NCAA prospect center. They are favored to win the Patriot league and could possibly steal an at large bid if they don’t.
Against Villanova Purdue got completely hosed on a bogus call against Byrd up four in the final seconds. Against Xavier Purdue was 0 of 17 from three and lost by three. Against Oregon State Purdue struggled, but the Beavers still had one of their best players (Angus Brandt tore his ACL and was averaging 11.3 points and 8.5 rebounds). Against Eastern Michigan we simply played like absolute dogshit.
A lot of it comes from being an extremely young team. In five of the six non-conference losses Purdue was either leading or within a possession in the final two minutes of the game. They have shown a lot of growth that all five of those games are probably wins if they’re played today.
2) How are things going in your first year, A.H. (After Hummel)? I'm pretty sure the last time Purdue fielded a team without Hummel there was a Bush in office. The first Bush. Is it weird to not have Hummel in black and gold? Or did you kind of get used to his absence after all those terrible knee injuries?
It is strange to see because he was there for so long, but his departure seemed to leave an emptiness we all feel. I know I have said it multiple times that Purdue at least has one Final Four if he doesn’t get hurt the first time. He was a special player and we all miss having him around. His leadership is probably what is most missed this year.
3) Along those same lines, educate your most hated rival: who's good on this Purdue team? Who should Iowa fans be nervous about?
Purdue is extremely young with three freshmen starting. Ronnie Johnson is Terone Johnson’s little brother and was pretty much a half step behind Kevin Ferrell here in Indiana when it came to recruiting. He was also a high school teammate of your own Patrick Ingram. He’s going to be a fantastic point guard for this team for years to come.
A.J. Hammons is coming off probably his worst game so far, but he has been a true dominant center at times. When Purdue can open up the post for him the Boilers are at their best.
Rapheal Davis is the latest freshman to come on. He started slowly, but he had 21 in the second half against Notre Dame and has been in double figures in three of his last four games. He has become the corner three-point threat in our motion offense and someone that can knock down a triple other than Byrd.
4) Why did it fall on BHGP to break the news of DJ Byrd's former rap career? What is Purdue trying to hide?
We already knew he was a musician, as he played Dirk Hunter during our Midnight Madness. He's going to be he next* great country rapper.
(ED. NOTE: This implies that there was a first great country rapper, which is clearly a lie. SUCK IT, COWBOY TROY.)
5) Is Matt Painter going to grow a mustache to fill the void left by the departure of Danny Hope? The universe demands balance and if Darrell Hazell isn't going to rock a majestic lip-warmer, then it falls on Painter.
Now THAT would be funny. Painter either needs to do that or shave part of his head so he can develop a bitchin' combover, especially since Gene Keady finally gave it up.
6) OK, prediction time -- who ya got?
I like Purdue in a close one. The Boilers need this one at home if they are going to play somewhere in the postseason. I realize the NCAAs are likely a pipe dream at this point, but an NIT berth would still be important for this young team.
Thanks for being a good sport, Comrade Travis. You can check out Travis and the rest of the loathsome H&R crew at Hammer and Rails. You can also follow him on Twitter at @HammerAndRails. The Iowa-Purdue game is in West Lafayette on Sunday, January 27 at 1:30 pm CT, with television coverage from BTN.