The Naysayer: IU Will Struggle at Purdue

After some early losses, the Boilers have surged.

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Mike Botkin is a lifelong Boilermakers fan. He’ll be offering the dissenting opinion on the IU hoopla all season.

Ever since the final buzzer of IU’s recent win over Michigan State, the eyes of the Hoosier nation have been locked on Saturday’s game against No. 1 Michigan. Fans seem to think that the game at Purdue on Wednesday will be an easy feast, and I can see why that might be—after all, Purdue is barely above .500. IU has lost just twice and now is finding ways to win with minimal point production from Cody Zeller. If that doesn’t make Purdue appetizing enough, Victor Oladipo has decided to supplant Zeller as a Player of the Year candidate by playing excellent basketball of late. Adding to the banquet, IU’s shooting woes have disappeared as Jordan Hulls and Will Sheehey have once again found their range.

And if that’s not enough, Tom Crean’s wife’s brothers are coaching in the Super Bowl. Everything is going great for the Indiana basketball program and everyone associated with it right now. Purdue, although a rival, doesn’t seem to worry the Hoosiers at all this year.

But the game is in West Lafayette and the Boilers, who remain in the middle of the Big Ten pack, have put together a pretty impressive month. Since some early-season meltdown losses to solid opponents, the youthful Boilers have won seven of 10 games since Dec. 18. And more importantly, they’re learning how to win close games. Most of Purdue’s wins have been decided by 10 points or less. In the midst of those wins, the inside-out game between Ronnie Johnson and A.J. Hammons has been developing nicely.

With their delusions of grandeur, IU fans probably haven’t even been taking note of that. Purdue is at the same developmental stage Indiana was mired in a couple of years ago, growing with a very young team. So sit back and enjoy the feast that Wednesday’s game promises to offer. But remember this: The Boilers viciously defend their home turf and have absolutely nothing to lose. Don’t be surprised if IU heads south after the game with another loss. Keep the Tums handy.

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