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The Boilermaker Breakdown

Jeff Smith

The Purdue Men’s basketball team took care of business on the road against Evan Turner University and then came home to West Lafayette and earned a hard fought victory over an upstart Illinois club. The latest ESPN/USA Today rankings have moved the Boilers up a slot to #3, behind only one loss squads Kansas and Kentucky. The upcoming week sees the Boilers travel to the Land of Lakes to clash with the Golden Gophers and then back at Mackey on Sunday in a potential Big Ten Championship deciding tilt against Tom Izzo and the Michigan State Spartans.
Purdue supporters have to feel confident heading into the last four games of the Big Ten regular season schedule and beyond. While getting all of the contributions from the usual places, (Hummel, Moore, and Johnson) there have been some wonderful signs from other places; hopefully precursors of things to come. Keaton Grant, heavily used since his freshman year, took some time to get used to coming off the bench and finding his rhythm. His performances this past week, 13 and 15 points respectively, are an encouraging sign that he is finally settling into his reserve role.
The other development, and of greater importance on Purdue’s quest to “Drive I-65”, is the aggressiveness of Chris Kramer. For the last 3 ½ years he has poured his heart and soul into Purdue Basketball and won the hearts of West Lafayette with his Brian Cardinal type toughness. Despite all that he has done in terms of toughness, hustle, and defense, I have usually been less than pleased with his performance on the other end of the court. It has often felt like Purdue is playing 4 on 5 on the offensive end when Kramer is in the game. He has passed up more open shots in his four years at Purdue than any player in recent memory. On one hand, it is extremely refreshing to see a kid who doesn’t hoist 20 attempts a game when given the opportunity, but on the other hand, if you don’t at least present yourself as a threat you are doing a huge disservice to your teammates. In the last 3 games Kramer has taken at least 4 shots in each, enough to make opposing defenses account for him, and loosen the clamps on the Boiler’s more established scorers. It perhaps even feels like he’s taken more shot than he really has due to his newfound aggressiveness. He has been attacking the basket with regularity. It’s a breath of fresh air that bodes well for the Boilers chances in the NCAA Tournament.
While Purdue has a couple of more hurdles to clear in securing a number one seed, they still have a wonderful opportunity to get to Lucas Oil Stadium despite what they do in the next couple of weeks. They have certainly proven that they can win 6 games in a row, and without a freak like Hasheem Thabeet to get in their way, and the recent improved play of Chris Kramer and Keaton Grant, I recommend that all of West Lafayette get ready to “Drive I-65.”

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