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Purdue Faces Huge Test in Vanderbilt

December 19, 2015: Purdue Boilermakers center A.J. Hammons (20) blocks out Butler University forward Tyler Wideman (4) during the Crossroads Classic NCAA basketball game between the Purdue Boilermakers and Butler Bulldogs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, IN. (Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire)
Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire

Though Purdue lost its first game on Saturday, there won’t be much time to sit back and recover following the loss. With a game against Vanderbilt coming up on Tuesday night, it’s going to take a big effort from the Boilermakers to avoid a two game skid.

Saturday’s loss to Butler was an unfortunate one for Purdue. After starting the season at 11-0, hopes for the team were reaching new heights. The Boilermakers were ranked in the top 10 in both national polls and were ranked as a top five team according to several analytical sites, including KenPom.

Of course, that was then and this is now.

On Saturday, many of the flaws that fans were worried about before the season came out. The guard play was bad, the offense was inconsistent, and an alarming 18 turnovers doomed any chance at a comeback effort. The team hardly looked like the one that had stormed to 11-0 to start the year.

It was Purdue’s toughest test of the season and the Boilermakers were unable to live up to the hype. Of course, Butler is certainly a good team. After all, the Bulldogs are ranked in the top 25 and already had wins over Cincinnati, Temple, and Tennessee, so it wasn’t as if Purdue dropped a game to a bottom-tier opponent.

Nonetheless, the Boilermakers are tasked with moving on from the loss, and unfortunately, they’ll get no break as they’re set to face a very good Vanderbilt team at home in a showdown of top 25 teams.

Though the Commodores get mixed attention nationally, this is actually a pretty good Vanderbilt team. Vanderbilt is easily one of the best teams in this year’s SEC and should be in great position to make this year’s NCAA Tournament.

Overall, Vanderbilt has a 7-3 record and is ranked No. 17 according to KenPom.  The three losses may seem a bit alarming, but when one realizes that those losses came to Baylor, Dayton, and Kansas with just one coming at home, things look a lot better.

Though Vanderbilt may not have any big wins yet, it still has played really well.

On the court, Vanderbilt uses a balanced attack to get the job done. The team’s offense is ranked No. 23 in efficiency and its defense is No. 17 in efficiency. On top of this, Vanderbilt can play well inside and outside. The team ranked No. 15 in team three-point percentage, No. 96 in defensive rebounding rate, and No. 27 in defensive block rate.

Vanderbilt even has star power too.

Bobby McDuffie/Icon Sportswire

Bobby McDuffie/Icon Sportswire

To start, Riley LaChance has been excellent this year with a 117.9 offensive rating, 9.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game. Along with LaChance, the Commodores have been getting consistent production from Wade Baldwin and Damian Jones. In fact, Baldwin is averaging 14.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 3.2 assist per game, while Jones is averaging 13.2 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 1.9 assists himself.

On paper, Tuesday’s matchup  doesn’t seem to lean one way or the other.

So far, Purdue has relied on great defense, rebounding, and its two big men in Isaac Haas and AJ Hammons to carry the team. Well, Vanderbilt not only has a seven footer in Jones, but the Commodores also have a seven footer in Josh Henderson on the bench as well.

In short, even in Purdue’s area of strength, the Boilermakers will have a challenge.

Purdue will have home court advantage and should still have a frontcourt advantage, even if Vanderbilt has some size. After all, Haas and Hammons are an excellent two-part attack, and that doesn’t even include Caleb Swanigan.

Still, neither team is a clear favorite in this one.

It was a tough loss for Purdue on Saturday, but thanks to the team’s tough scheduling, there won’t be any reprieve before facing a very good Vanderbilt team.

If the game unfolds anything close to how it looks on paper, Tuesday will be a battle, and fans will get a front row seat to see just how good this Purdue team really is.

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