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Dispatches from Blogfrica: Hammer & Rails Talks Iowa-Purdue

Our one and only showdown this year with Our Most Hated Rival looms at the end of a no good, very bad week for Iowa hoops.

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What is Dispatches from Blogfrica? Pretty simple: I ask questions of an blogger for an opposing team; he answers. A truly revolutionary idea, no? Today: Travis at Hammer & Rails, SB Nation's fine blog for all things Purdue.

1) It was pretty nice of y'all to agree to push back our game from Saturday to Sunday. After playing three games in six days, Iowa can probably use a breather. Even though you're Our Most Hated Rival, it's nice that you can still do us a solid like that. What impact do you think the schedule change will have on Purdue? Did you need an extra day to get over the gut-punch of losing on a buzzer beater to Big Dog's kid earlier in the week?

I am not sure. This season has been so frustrating I think it will take about six months to get over it. Purdue has now lost a pair of Big Ten overtime games and the losses to Butler, Washington State, and Penn State were really some pathetic efforts from this team. It is hard to say how this team will react, but it really hasn't put together a complete game except for the IU game. Now we're down to 8 scholarship guys with Sterling Carter (torn ACL, out for year), Jay Simpson (light-headedness, collapsed at Nebraska), and Errick Peck (questionable) dealing with some injuries.

It is so frustrating because Purdue has had moments where it has looked excellent, like most of the first half against Michigan. It has also had moments where it has looked like five guys that just met before a pickup game. It really is a matter of which team shows up.

2) What's the deal with AJ Hammons? He looks like he should be one of the most dominant players in the Big Ten, but he also only seems to live up to that promise in brief spurts. How frustrating to watch is he? What does he need to do to become a top player?

Hammons is the team in a nutshell. He can look like one of the most physically dominant players in the country or he can be a complete ghost who doesn't even take a shot attempt. He is still learning to play outside of foul trouble and he does best when he does not pick up a quick couple of fouls. It is terribly frustrating because you don't know which AJ you're going to get. When you get the good one you keep hoping that the light finally came on and that he'll stay, and then he'll disappear again.

3) Iowa's allowed opponents to put up career highs in each of their games during this three-game losing streak. Austin Hollins torched them for 27 points on Tuesday night and Will freaking Sheehey posted 30 points on Thursday night. Who's the most likely suspect to catch fire against Iowa's highly flammable defense?

Terone Johnson has taken a lot of hits from the fans of late, but had a huge game early against Michigan where he played pissed off. He has hit the 30-point mark in his career before and was a Second-Team All-Big Ten pick last year. If he gets on a roll he can have a really good night. Another player is Rapheal Davis. He has been a very hard worker and looks to emerge as a team leader next year. He hasn't had a big breakout game this season like he did a few times last year, so he is another candidate.

4) What's the feeling about Purdue hoops and Matt Painter right now? Would an NIT berth be an acceptable result for this year? Are the natives getting restless after a few years without an NCAA tourney berth?

Things are getting restless, but Painter has earned the right to return next season. I expected this team to be better, but it continues to be as frustrating as last year. It is not playing Purdue-style defense and doesn't have the leadership that a Robbie Hummel, Brian Cardinal, or Chris Kramer provided. People are getting restless and the seat will get really warm if Purdue does the same next year. The 2014 recruiting class is a third straight top 25 class and there are no scholarship seniors (little used walk-on Neal Beshears will be the lone senior). What you see in 2014-15 is basically what you see in 2015-16, so it needs to be a much better than this year.

5) OK, prediction time -- who ya got?

It really depends on which Purdue shows up. Good Purdue looked great against Indiana, had Michigan on the ropes, challenged a good Oklahoma State team, and blasted Boston College. Bad Purdue lost to Washington State, Butler, Northwestern, and Penn State and did not look good at all in doing so. Purdue is more than capable of winning, but if the incoherent team that struggles with effort appears Purdue could get run off the court.

Thanks for being a good sport, Travis, although I still hope your team loses by 50 tomorrow. You can check out Travis and the rest of the H&R crew at Hammer & Rails. You can also follow Travis and H&R on Twitter at @HammerAndRails. The Iowa-Purdue game is in Iowa City, IA on Sunday, March 2, and is scheduled to start at 1:00 pm CT, with television coverage from BTN.