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The Only Questions: Q&A with Purdue

Spartan fans get up! Purdue is knocking on our door

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Rutgers Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for.

February 10th, 2018 at the Breslin Center.

No. 4 Michigan State vs. No. 3 Purdue.

It doesn’t get much better than this college basketball fans. For Spartan Nation it’s time this team rises up and shows everyone what they are capable of. Saturday afternoon is going to have a playoff atmosphere surrounding it. This is a Elite Eight / Final Four matchup. If this doesn’t have you on the edge of your seat then I don’t know what to tell you but this is it.

Spartans!!! What is your profession? Well you guys get the idea. To really dig deep into Saturday’s game we’ve brought in Travis Miller from Hammer and Rails to give us all the inside information Michigan State fans need.

Get ready, it’s gonna be a good one.

Last year the Boilermakers finished the season 27-8 (14-4 B1G) to win the Big Ten Championship. They then received a bid to the NCAA Tournament as a No. 4 seed in the Midwest Region. Purdue advanced to the Sweet 16 but would ultimately lose to the Kansas Jayhawks (a No. 1 seed who also beat the Spartans in the Round of 32). What were the expectations heading into the 2017-18 season?

Honestly, I think they were still pretty high because we had four very experienced and talented seniors. I felt we could contend for the Big Ten again and make another run in March. The early season schedule was full of challenges for them too. I didn’t expect to win 19 in a row and look so good, however. The offense has been more potent and balanced than we can imagine. Purdue has been very strong defensively, too. You could make an argument that things could be even better right now, considering in two of Purdue’s three losses (Tennessee and Ohio State) we technically held the lead with less than 5 seconds left, but lost.

Expectations have definitely risen. We’re in Final Four or Bust mode because honestly, if it doesn’t happen this year I wonder what it will take.

Isaac Haas and Vincent Edwards declared for the NBA Draft following the 2016-17 season but did not sign with agents. On May 16th Haas announced he would be returning to Purdue for his senior year. Edwards did the same a few days later. How essential have the two of them been when we look at the success Purdue has had?

They have been critical. You saw what happened Wednesday night when Vince was off. He struggled for most of the game and Purdue lost. When he has been on he makes everything go for Purdue. As for Haas, teams are starting to exploit him defensively and we’re taking the good with the bad. The good is that he cannot be guarded one-on-one by most teams. If you sell out to stop the perimeter he is an almost automatic 20 points. The bad is that defensively, he is very slow. If teams go small against us they can exploit him if they get him out on the perimeter. Most of the time it is going to work out very well for us. When teams have to go small like Ohio State did, it is trouble defensively.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan State at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The Boilermakers lost to Ohio State last night 64-63. During the final seconds of regulation Keita Bates-Diop scored the game winning putback with 2.8 left on the clock. What were you thinking at this point? And how did you feel about the play Purdue tried to execute in their final attempt to win it?

Honestly, we let one slip away. We led by 14 at home with about 10 minutes to go and lost. We led for over 34 of 40 minutes and lost. It took a lot for it to happen. Purdue was ice cold, hitting just two field goals in the last 10 minutes. The Buckeyes had two guys (Andrew Wesson and Musa Jallow) combined on six three when they had made a combined 17 coming in. Wesson’s third one was a banked in junk three that you hit only when it is your night.

As for the last play, there is only so much you can do with less than 3 seconds to go the length of the court. I guess we could have tried to get it to P.J. Thompson because he has a penchant for hitting half court shots in his career, but anything we did was going to be a low percentage look. I was surprised we got as good of a look as we did. I just wish someone could have been slashing down the lane for Haas to pass to.

It stings because we needed this one. I felt that we would get a split this week, but I wanted the Ohio State one more because it would be a full two game lead with five to play in the conference. It would have given us a cushion because I have felt winning in East Lansing would be a tall order. Not only did we finally get tagged with a loss, Ohio State avoided one. Winning the Big Ten often means not losing at home and this was our last major home test. Now we need help to win the league outright and we have to turn around and play our toughest road game.

Despite the loss, do you feel Purdue will still win the Big Ten regular season championship? Why or Why not?

I think so, but I think a 3-way tie between Purdue, Michigan State, and Ohio State is much more likely. We’re not losing at home again (Penn State and Minnesota) and the road games at Wisconsin and Illinois don’t look that daunting. That’s 16-2, and usually enough for at least a piece of the title. All we would need is an Ohio State loss and I think they drop one at Michigan or Penn State to get both Purdue and Michigan State back in it. I think Saturday’s game just decides if we can still win it outright or if we’re going to have to share it.

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Purdue Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Vincent Edwards and Isaac Haas vs. Nick Ward and Jaren Jackson Jr. The Spartans average 8.0 blocks per game (1st in the nation). Purdue rejects 5.4 on their end. What are you expecting to see from these guys come Saturday afternoon?

It should be fun. Vince was very off offensively against Ohio State, going 3 of 12 from the floor. We can’t afford him to have that poor of an outing again. I honestly think Purdue might do a little better defensively because Michigan State is more likely to play Haas straight up on both ends. Ward is not going to pull him away from the basket as much like a Mo Wagner at Michigan has done.

It doesn’t mean much if we don’t get good Vince though. If he has another off night we’re in for a long game.

How big is this game with Michigan State? With the recent loss to Ohio State is there added pressure to win?

I think so. If Purdue can win in East Lansing it holds on to its No. 1 seed, its Big Ten lead, and chances to win the Big Ten. With a loss I still think we go 16-2 and get a share of the conference, but there will still be some questions. If we go 0-2 against the two best teams we have played in the last 3 months it is not going to look good for our seeding. We’re going to question if we can win a game like this, which is going to be an Elite 8 like game. Much of the respect we have gained will go away because when we finally played elite teams again we couldn’t get it done.

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Rutgers Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Give me your three keys to victory.

First, we need good Vince Edwards. He makes everything go. We need his rebounding as well as his scoring. Second, the offense needs to get everybody back on track. Only four players ended up scoring at all against Ohio State, and one of them (Dakota Mathias) had just six points. We scored only 10 points and hit just two field goals in the final two minutes. When Purdue’s offense is on it can be lethal, but defenses have come out higher of late to disrupt it. We’ve had four straight games where we have struggled a bit offensively. We have to find a way to get back into our flow. Third, we need to get our bench more involved. Our bench was scoreless against Ohio State and only had one combined field goal attempt. We need a “Ryan Cline comes in and hit 4 threes” type of game. We’re due for that.

Prediction time: Final score? Who wins? Why?

I think Michigan State gets this one about 73-70. I have felt this was going to be a loss for a while, but I think Purdue keeps it close. I think Wednesday will be a bit of a wake-up call, but will it be enough to win a really hard road game? We’ll see.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan State at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Thanks to Travis for taking the time to answer all the questions we had!

Go Green!