Editor's Early Preview (12/15):
Purdue looked overmatched in a home loss to Duke, and another on-campus defeat will be a serious blow for a team many thought were on the steady march to greatness. There's not much to say about Davidson that you don't already know.. basically Stephen Curry is the man. But a lot of their wins so far have been less than impressive (barey escaping over NC State at home, 5 points over UTC, a down to the wire neutral court win over WVU who was missing their starting backcourt).. but Curry finds a way to get it done. Still, I like Purdue here.
Preview & Prediction: By Evan Dorey
-- Evan Dorey's game previews & rankings are based on Elo Ratings. Elo Ratings are fairly simple, all teams are assigned an initial number of points, which is the same for all teams, eliminating preseason bias. Then, as the season progresses, when a team wins it gains points, and when it loses it drops points. The amount of points that are gained or lost depend on the level of the opponent (beating a cupcake gets you little, beating #1 will be a big increase), the scoring margin of the game (which is capped), and the game’s location. To take a look at Evan's College Basketball Elo Ratings, visit his website or blog where he discusses the rankings along with other statistical observations about big games and interesting teams.
-- A robust schedule for the last Saturday before Christmas features 111 games, and more than a dozen with some significant implications on the national scene, either with top 25 teams or with other interesting matchups. My preview focuses on one of the most interesting of these, as #23 Davidson (8-1, 1-0) faces #30 Purdue (8-2) in the John Wooden Tradition from Indianapolis.
The Davidson Wildcats are playing in their third neutral site event of the season, having picked up their only loss to Oklahoma in the NIT Tip-off, and recently beating West Virginia in the Jimmy V Classic. The West Virginia win, along with a narrow win over NC State, are the only real highlights on Davidson’s resume, and a road win here would be critical for the team’s at-large chances. Purdue also played in the NIT Tip-off, and also lost to Oklahoma, though their loss came in overtime at Madison Square Garden. The Boilermakers also suffered a tough loss at home to Duke in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. Beyond these two games, Purdue have mostly played a pretty weak schedule, and this Davidson game is their last chance for a good non-conference win.
It shouldn’t really come as a surprise that Davidson are a perimeter-oriented tam, exhibiting excellent ball control and taking a good number of their shots from three. Despite Stephen Curry’s strong shooting, the Wildcats as a whole are merely decent, as the supporting cast are mostly good but not great from either inside or outside the arc. They are strong on the offensive boards, which is a key ingredient in their success. Purdue will be one of the better defensive teams that Davidson faces all season, though, and they could really cause a lot of havoc in forcing turnovers and in defending the inside, where they are excellent. However, the Boilermakers don’t defend the glass that well, and Davidson will need to be able to pull down a decent amount of its misses to survive Purdue’s other defensive strengths.
Purdue hasn’t had Davidson’s level of offensive efficiency, but it has been good at avoiding turnovers and successful at scoring inside. The Boilermakers’ three-point shooting is well off their percentages from last season, which is a major factor in their somewhat slow start. Davidson hasn’t defended the outside particularly well, so Purdue may be able to boost those numbers in this game. Davidson has defended best inside, but have had a lot of trouble with sending opponents to the line, an area where Purdue is quite respectable and can easily make the Wildcats pay.
There’s not a whole lot I can say about Stephen Curry that hasn’t been said elsewhere. The impressive thing about him is not his percentages, but the pure volume of his performances, as he leads the nation in both points and field goal attempts. He isn’t just a pure shooter, though, as he also sits among the national elite in assists and steals per game, and maintains a decent A/TO ratio. Most of the other players that play such a large role in their teams exhibit some offensive weakness, but Curry is remarkably consistent. However, the focus on Curry should not obscure his teammates, who are a generally effective group themselves. Most of the other guards don’t provide a whole lot, with Bryant Barr most notable for his strong three-point shooting. Max Paulhus-Gosselin needs to shoot less, but commits very few turnovers and is a decent rebounder, while coach’s son Brendan McKilliop is essential a three-only shooter, though not a great one. Inside, Andrew Lovedale and Stephen Rossiter are responsible for the Wildcats’ rebounding, and generally do a good job scoring as well, with Lovedale in particular getting less pub than he deserves, recording at least double-digits in points in all but one Davidson game.
Sophomore Robbie Hummel, the Preseason Big Ten Player of the Year, has been very good so far this season, and is coming off being named Big Ten Player of the Week. He’s a strong shooter who has both an inside and outside game, and does good work on the boards. One concern for the Boilermakers is Hummel’s free throw attempts, as he hasn’t been getting to the line quite as much as last season, a problem given that Hummel has shot over 90% so far. E’Twaun Moore, a senior guard who was a key part of the Boilermakers’ success last year, has been a little down this year, increasing his role in the offense, but not yet finding a consistent stroke from three and committing too many turnovers at times. He’s still a gifted inside scorer and an important part of any Purdue success. Two big men play a good role alongside Hummel inside, as 6-10 JaJuan Johnson is a very good scorer, but hasn’t been much of a rebounder given his size, while the guy who crashes the boards best is Namanja Calasan, who doesn’t play that much but has been very effective when he does, shooting over 50%. Chris Kramer has been a shooting disaster so far, but provides a strong defensive influence and is a decent ball-movement guard, while freshman Lewis Jackson has really shown some early flashes of impressive play, including a career-high 11 points last time out, while also leading the team in assists while coming off the bench.
I expect a fast-paced, very entertaining game from this one, and while I don’t doubt Stephen Curry’s ability to take this one over for Davidson, I think that Purdue’s defense will cause him just enough trouble for the Boilermakers to eke out a narrow victory.
Winner: Purdue Margin: 3-7
Preview & Prediction: By Blake Hofstad
In this primetime network TV matchup, #20 Davidson (8-1) takes on #18 Purdue (8-2). Who Davidson will look for to dump in most of their points is obvious, Player of the Year candidate Stephen Curry. He was always a great player, but his performance in the NCAA Tournament last year has vaulted him into the stratosphere of superstardom. He is the leading scorer in the country, and the leader of the well-disciplined Wildcats. Purdue doesn’t have a player on the roster who scores even half of what Curry does per game, and they score 10 points less per game than Davidson. That being said, the Boilers are fully capable of holding Davidson under the 86.1 ppg they usually score.
The key for the game for Davidson is to get their role players hot early. Curry is going to get his points, he is the only guy in the country who can “quietly” score 30, but if his teammates don’t contribute, Davidson won’t win. Andrew Lovedale and Will Archambault are two crucial players. In the Chattanooga game, a contest much closer than it should have been, Archambault was actually outscoring Curry for most of the game. Without his performance early on, Davidson would have lost. Lovedale averages a double double, but was largely ineffective against the one true post player he has faced so far this year in Blake Griffin. The thing about Davidson is that they have Curry, but just about anyone can pop the trey. Bryant Barr, Archambault and Brendan McKillop can all shoot with the best of them, and Barr is shooting a higher 3pt % than Curry.
Purdue is a very balanced team. Chris Kramer, the best defender in the Big Ten, is their 8th leading scorer. That’s a testament to the sheer depth of the Boilermakers. Robbie Hummel leads the team in points and rebounding, and is also the team’s undisputed leader. He sets the tone for Purdue’s scrappy style of play. Plus he can knock down the three. Hummel, along with JaJuan Johnson and Nemanja Calasan form a tough trio of forwards. E’Twaun Moore was a member of the fabulous freshmen who turned Purdue into a contender last year, and as a point guard he does a little bit of everything. Keaton Grant and Marcus Green are valuable role players. My favorite player to watch on this team is the 5-9 fireplug, Lewis Jackson. He will be the fastest player on the court this afternoon. The key for Purdue is to contain Curry. He takes about 25 shots a game, so he will get his points, but the Boilers can’t let him get hot.
The depth of Purdue wins out in the end. The home court advantage coupled with Davidson’s lackluster scoring defense means a win for Purdue. Very few teams can out-hustle Purdue, but Davidson is an extremely well coached team who might be able to do it. If they can get those loose balls, out-rebound the Boilermakers and play tough defense, they have a chance to steal one under Purdue’s nose.
Winner: Purdue Margin: 8-12 pints
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About Evan Dorey
Evan Dorey - Game Previews
A recent university graduate from Markham, Ontario, who loves analyzing the statistics of sports in general, and college basketball in particular.