As its five-game winning streak came to an end in College Park on Tuesday, Indiana basketball now shifts its attention to the arch rival and No. 1 ranked Purdue Boilermakers coming to town. The game will tip off at 4 p.m. at Assembly Hall and will be broadcast on ESPN as a part of what should be an exciting college basketball slate on Saturday.
It should be a fun atmosphere in Bloomington on Saturday afternoon, as the Hoosiers welcome the highest ranked opponent they have faced all season in what should be an exciting game. Here’s a closer look at Matt Painter’s top-ranked Purdue squad.
Taking a look at the Boilermakers
Zach Edey has been the talk of college basketball this year, as he is very well near the top of the Big Ten Player of the Year and the National Player of the Year races. The 7-foot-4 junior from Toronto is averaging 22 points and 13 rebounds per game, both ranking top five in the country. Edey knows how to use his size very well, so it will be a tremendous challenge for Trayce Jackson-Davis and the IU frontcourt to shut him down.
However, what makes Purdue so dangerous is that so much attention is directed at Edey, that teams often forget about their elite freshman backcourt. Braden Smith and Fletcher Loyer have done a great job filling in for Jaden Ivey, who departed last year for the NBA draft. The two guards have very contrasting playstyles. While Loyer is more of a threat from beyond the arc, Smith is much more of a facilitator of the offense and orchestrates everything Purdue does so well on that end of the floor.
Mason Gillis and Caleb Furst have also really stepped up their games this year for the Boilermakers. Gillis is a dangerous threat from 3-point range, as he just broke the record for most 3-pointers in a single game with nine 3s. Furst is very active on the offensive glass, and the IU frontcourt will need to limit his rebounds if they want to win Saturday afternoon. Gillis and Furst are guys who could really be the difference in what should be a tough, physical game.
Keys for IU
The IU backcourt is going to need to play a heck of a game on both ends of the floor on Saturday. Not only are they going to need to make shots in order to take some pressure off Jackson-Davis, but they’re going to need to stop Smith and Loyer, who are playing as good as any backcourt in the country. Rob Phinisee was IU’s hero last year against Purdue, and I think we could see another guard off the bench make a huge impact in this game.
In games like this, you need your best player to take control of the game in front of the home crowd. And Jackson-Davis has an opportunity to make another statement on this monster run he has been on. Yes, it will be challenging to guard Edey knowing how undersized he will be. However, we’ve seen Jackson-Davis have some monster games against talented big men in the past, so it will sure be fun to see two of the best players in the country go at it on Saturday.
And finally, defense has been the key for Indiana all year. It’s been the Hoosiers’ calling card, what they hang their hat on, and really why this team has won five out of the last six games. This will be this defense’s toughest test yet, but with the confidence this team has right now, this team is more than capable of putting on another defensive clinic, especially with the home crowd behind them.