The regular-season ends today in the Big Ten, and the final game is Purdue at Indiana. Winner gets the No. 5 seed, loser gets No. 6 (and from a purely selfish standpoint, I’d rather IU get No. 5 because that would mean an afternoon game on Thursday in the Big Ten Tournament; otherwise, they’re in the late game.) Anyway, here is my preview for today’s game, for the Post-Tribune.
And here’s the preview I wrote for the Tribune-Star that didn’t get published. I figure, I took the time to write it, might as well put it out there somewhere:
By Andy Proffet
Before the Big Ten expansion to 12 teams, finishing fifth in the conference would have meant a first-round bye in next week’s conference tournament.
Now, regardless of who wins today’s matchup in Bloomington between No. 18 Indiana and rival Purdue, both teams will be playing on the tournament’s opening day on Thursday.
Still, there’s bragging rights. Both teams are 10-7 in the conference; the winner will be the No. 5 seed and the loser will be No. 6.
More importantly, an Indiana win gives the Hoosiers (23-7) a sweep of the Boilermakers. A win by Purdue (20-7), on the other hand, would spoil Senior Day for Indiana’s “First Five.”
Verdell Jones III, Tom Pritchard, Matt Roth, Daniel Moore and Kory Barnett will be honored after the game as is tradition in the seniors’ final home game. Given Indiana’s turnaround from the three losing seasons the seniors endured prior to this season, a home loss to Purdue would undo much of the season’s accomplishments.
“It’s a big game for (the seniors),” sophomore Victor Oladipo said. “They’ve been through a lot. They’ve been here from the beginning of the hard times, and it would be great to send them out on a good note.”
“They epitomize what happens when you really stick with it, when you work hard, when you’re dedicated, when you don’t expect things to be handed to you,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said of the seniors.
“These guys have continued to respond to everything that’s been thrown at them and everything that they’ve been asked to do, and they just continue to improve on it.”
Indiana’s 78-61 win at Purdue on Feb. 4 was the first conference road win for the Hoosiers — besides wins at Penn State — in the Tom Crean era. And Indiana hasn’t swept Purdue since the 2005-06 season.
Purdue followed that defeat with a loss at Ohio State, but has won five of six since. The Boilermakers have now won at least 20 games in six straight seasons.
Win No. 21 could be hard to come by, given Indiana’s 17-1 record at Assembly Hall this season, including wins over three Top-5 teams. At the same time, Purdue is 5-3 on the road in Big Ten play this season, one of the better road records in the conference.
“It’s going to be a really competitive game,” Indiana freshman Cody Zeller said. “I think both teams have improved since the last time we’ve played.”
Helping lead the way for Purdue has been senior Robbie Hummel. He averaged 21.4 ppg in February, the highest-scoring month of his career.
“I think Robbie Hummel’s numbers speak for themselves in what he’s done in the last three or four weeks,” Crean said. “The points, the rebounds, getting to the line (and) his defense is excellent.
“To me, (Purdue’s) movement without the ball and the way the ball moves is what really stands out about how they’re playing, and they are defending at a high level.”