Northwestern Wildcats vs. Purdue Boilermakers Game Preview

Well, sports are interesting.

What's happening with the New York Knicks vindicates my fandom. For my entire life, I've invested time I should've spent doing meaningful things watching the Knicks play basketball. And for my investment, I got relatively little. Since my adolescence, the Knicks have won a grand total of zero playoff games. There's no guarantee they will do that this year, or even make the playoffs. But some random guy has shown up and carried a team with its two superstars incapacitated to four consecutive victories in increasingly improbable ways. His unique backstory - the college he attended, his race, his undrafted status - make it more intriguing, but even if it wasn't, what's happening is beautiful and has filled me with nothing but pure bliss. I keep expecting it to stop, and each night, it doesn't.

We all have similar relationships with Northwestern. For all the passion and the hours of watching, we have no trophies, besides the imaginary one we give ourselves for remaining in an abusive relationship. But, well, I feel it. If Northwestern plays at the level I feel they've played thus far this year, they can make the NCAA basketball tournament. Maybe they will, maybe they won't. But someday, they will. I don't have faith in many things at all, but I have faith in this. Maybe that day will not be for a very long time. Maybe it will be next month. Whatever the case, I can promise you that when it happens, we'll feel indescribably great. If watching Jeremy Lin win four regular season basketball games can make me feel like this, I can promise you that your Northwestern fandom is worth it, even if you don't realize it on a day-to-day basis.

Hit the jump for actual things!

Since we last met: You might remember when Robbie Hummel tore Northwestern's ACL with a game-winning pull-up jumper with eight seconds left a two weeks ago. Well, things haven't been great in West Lafayette. (Or regular Lafayette for that matter, but that's besides the point.) The ones who make boilers had lost two straight before playing Northwestern and have lost their two games since. In fairness, those four losses were all to ranked teams, and two of them were by one possession. In anti-fairness, the other two were complete blowouts.

Have you rewatched Northwestern's last game agaist Purdue lately?: Funny you should ask! I literally just did that!

Cool story, bro. I mean, you're the one who asked.

True. Aren't you going to like, ask me if I had any insights or anything?

Nah, just chillin. Well, fine. I'll tell you anyway.

I'm listening: Okay.

Northwestern really, really should've won this game. NU shot well from the field, did a good job containing Robbie Hummel defensively, and exploited a tiny Purdue lineup with Hummel at center to a 33-19 rebounding advantage, seizing several second opportunities defensively. However, Purdue had a great gameplan for the Princeton Offense.

Purdue doesn't really have a good center, no offense to Travis Carroll, who played sparingly. Sometimes, this is a problem. However, Northwestern doesn't have a good center either: Davide Curletti posting up Robbie Hummel is not a good offensive possession. So Purdue went small, playing four guards with Hummel at center. They switched on nearly everything off ball, allowing four quick, small, roughly interchangeable players to constantly rotate and giving the Boilermakers the best chance to defend the perimeter and backdoor cuts simultaneously. It worked, as NU turned the ball over 16 times as Purdue got their hands into passing lanes.

So, as a result: NU must go small. We must. Purdue will, and if NU doesn't counter by also going small, I will punch my own face. NU - unsurprisingly - was most successful by putting out a small lineup, and went on a 10-0 run almost exactly at the same time Carmody pulled Davide Curletti in the second half. Like I said earlier, Curletti posting up Hummel is not a good possession. One one possession, he got matched up in the post against Purdue guard Ryne Smith, and promptly committed an offensive foul. NU should be smart and spread the floor and fight tiny fire with tiny fire. Hummel and Shurna will battle in the post, and it will determine the game. Bill Carmody inexplicably played Curletti for a large chunk of this game - including, for no particular reason, the last minute a half, when he subbed out Drew Crawford who only had two fouls and was NU's leading scorer and rebounder - and he was not helpful. I understand he needs a sixth man, so Curletti should play a bit, but merely to keep NU's starters from dying. It makes sense for NU to go small both offensively and defensively against any team, but especially against a Purdue squad that where the size weakness will not be exploited.

Secondly, NU must go with the 1-3-1. I say this because a) we've been playing well in it as of late, against Illinois and Iowa and b) Purdue looked awful against it, committing charges on their first two possessions and struggling to get good looks. Their most successful offensive possession against the 1-3-1 was when two NU players collided while trying to get a loose ball with no Purdue players around and the ball randomly trickled to a Boilermaker who had an open lane since four NU players had already leaked out on the fast break. (That's not true, they hit a few threes, but you get my gist.) Hummel ended up hitting the game-winner against the 1-3-1, but it was a really tough shot, and you'll take that. When NU ran a man-to-man, Purdue eagerly pounced on the major liability created by Dave Sobolewski guarding Lewis Jackson, who blew past him several times (as did Terone and Anthony Johnson). When NU ran 1-3-1, Purdue dribbled without purpose, got themselves into bad situations, and took shots they should not have.That said, if NU does go man, the small Purdue lineup allows Sobo to guard someone besides Jackson, whih is a necessity, because that was a disaster. Put Hearn on Jackson.

Can NU win? Definitely. I saw Northwestern just barely lose to Purdue at home, in the same way Northwestern just barely lost to Illinois. And then NU went on the road to beat Illinois, the same way I hope the same thing will happen against Purdue tomorrow. NU played well enough to win last time. The Cats a win against Purdue or Indiana to go dancing, and, well, let's do it.

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