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) Good grief, you really laid the wood to Northwestern on Sunday. Was that just a "let out the frustrations" game after the beatdowns you guys had endured the past few games? What went right for Purdue in that game that wasn't working in past games?
Northwestern was probably the first game where anything was working, and much of that came from Purdue finally playing with some heart and effort. It absolutely was not there since we got Death by Indiana at Mackey Arena. Purdue was playing lazy defense, taking bad shots, and turning the ball over. The only reason we beat Penn State was that Penn State missed a lot of open shots.
Against Northwestern both D.J. Byrd and Terone Johnson finally got on track in the same game. When that happens, Purdue at least has a chance because they are the only two players that can spread the floor and open things up for Hammons. Offensively, the Northwestern game might have been our best in Big Ten play. Was it because we turned a corner or because Northwestern is broken right now? We’ll see.
2) Do you expect round two between Iowa and Purdue to play out much differently than round one? It looks like Terone Johnson has been on a nice run lately, which makes me nervous because he had a very good game against Iowa the first time around (17 points, 12 rebounds).
I think it will be close if Purdue continues to play with some effort. The Boilers know they can beat Iowa since they’ve done it once. Iowa has to feel a little snakebitten in close games too. I think if Purdue keeps it close they have a chance. It also depends on how Iowa comes out after blowing that big lead at Nebraska. If there is a bit of a mental block there from it Purdue has an edge.
3) What's the excitement level like around hoops there right now? Are you just playing out the string and waiting for the end or are you guys still excited about the games and pondering an out-of-left-field NIT bid or anything?
We’re still hoping for an NIT or CBI bid mostly because this team is so young. On paper everyone but D.J. Byrd and Dru Anthrop comes back, and Anthrop has been little used for most of his career. We’d love to see a few more games where the young guys like Rapheal Davis and Hammons can gel together before next season. Sandi Marcius is another player coming along quite nicely of late and it will be interesting to see if he finally put it all together. I don’t think we can discount the experience that a SBI or NIT bid would bring if Purdue can string together a few wins there.
4) A.J. Hammons has been a little quiet lately. Is he hitting the ol' freshman wall or is it something else? How has he progressed during his freshman year?
He is still very much an up and down player that often goes back and forth in terms of effort. For a long time he was not challenging shooters (the game at Northwestern was the worst example, as Alex Olah ripped 15-footers all day). Offensively we sometimes don’t go to him enough, but he’s also not setting screens well. Coach Painter is trying to reach him by giving Marcius more minutes and even pushing Travis Carroll some.
Hammons is still capable of a huge game now and then, but he needs more consistency.
5) Did you know there are train tracks not too far from Carver-Hawkeye Arena? Will Matt Painter and his staff be making any sort of sacrifices or offerings to the old gods of the locomotive there in hopes of improving their odds of getting a win tomorrow night?
Not sure if there will be any voodoo, but have you noticed that Purdue has struggled mightily since it broke that Gene Keady lost the combover and no longer dyes his hair? I think we have the key.
6) OK, prediction time -- who ya got?
This is a really tough one to call. Purdue hasn’t been consistent all year, but Iowa is fragile mentally in close games. Purdue won the first game, but didn’t look that great in doing so. I think we get a close one, with Purdue pulling it off by a point or two because that seems to be Iowa’s M.O. this year.
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 Iowa City on Wednesday, February 27 at 7:30 pm CT, with television coverage from BTN.