As the Big Ten beat the ACC for the third straight time in the annual challenge, we learned the league could be stronger than we actually thought. Or at least top to bottom the depth/talent of the league is better than we expected.
Or the ACC is just really down; as the Midwest beat the Atlantic Coast by it’s most comfortable margin ever. I did not see that coming at all; mostly because this is the year the league loses a star-studded senior class that led the league since the time they were sophomores. The Purdue Boilermakers are the perfect microcosm of that statement.
They leaned very heavily on seniors E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson who are now both with the Boston Celtics in the NBA.
Robbie Hummel is in the same class, but as you know he’s a little bit injury prone, so he was granted a medical hardship season. He’s the alpha dog now as the Boilers are a running a spread motion system that benefits his abilities. It’s similar to the type of offense Matt Painter ran the year before Johnson and Moore arrived on campus.
In the first 8 games they’ve relied on their speed via Lewis Jackson and Kelsey Barlow, getting Robbie as many touches as possible, and the shooting of Ryne Smith. Possibly D.J. Byrd and Travis Carroll, who haven’t had many touches this far. All these elements will have to be clicking in order to keep opposing defenses spread all season long.
The Boilers lone loss this year was to a top 15 Alabama Crimson Tide team, and it was only by single digits. Although that was respectable, their close calls against Iona and especially High Point are tremendous causes for concern. The mistakes made in those two near misses versus Low-Majors could come back to bite them, and bite them hard in Big Ten season.
Painter related a story at conference media day that outlines their path to success.
“There’s a kid at Butler from Alabama, (Ronald) Nored had a great line at the Final Four. He started on the first Final Four team and on the second one he didn’t start, and they said ‘are you upset about not starting on this final four team?’ And he said, ‘I didn’t come her to start I came to Butler to win.’ For a 2o year old kid to say that, maybe Brad gave him that line, but he was smart enough to repeat it,”
Painter said. He’ll face the Bulldogs, their rival just down the road on December 17th. But that won’t teach us much about who they are, their next opponent, Xavier on Saturday will.
Painter related how Nored’s example applies to them:
“That’s what you have to have- a selfless type guy, and if you have enough of those guys, and a couple leaders like Jackson, Smith, Hummel to rally behind, you can have a great season. Coach Keady always tells a story, in 1984 they picked ’em ninth in the league, and Russell Cross went to the pros and we won the league, but you have to make sure your guys understand how you’re going to get to that point.”
The Xavier Musketeers are undefeated, with a nice win over Vanderbilt- it’ll be a good test for the Boilers.
Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, an official Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports
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