Beyond the Arc: Gameday Purdue

THE CONTENTS: No. 4 Duke (7-0) plays its first true road game and its first game against a ranked opponent this season tonight at 9 p.m. at Mackey Arena against No. 9 Purdue (5-1). You can see the game on ESPN with Dan Shulman and Dick Vitale and hear it on 620 AM.

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THE EXPOSITION: The Blue Devils are coming off a smooth 95-72 win over Duquesne Friday at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

The Boilermakers suffered their first loss of the season in their last game against No. 6 Oklahoma in overtime in the finals of the NIT Season Tip-Off. Purdue’s best win this season came in the NIT semis against Boston College.

Duke is 1-4 all-time versus the Boilermakers.

THE PROTAGONISTS: It’s a night of firsts for the Blue Devils: first road game, first ranked team, first real test of the season. How will Duke, a veteran team for the first time in three seasons, rise to the challenge?

The Blue Devils had their best offensive performance of the season Friday against Duquesne, shooting the ball well from downtown for the first time this year. They’ll probably need to keep that up tonight.

THE ANTAGONISTS: You probably didn’t watch Purdue have a breakout campaign last season, when the Boilermakers finished second in the Big Ten (I think), earned a six-seed in the NCAA Tournament, and gave Xavier a tight game in the Tourney’s second round.

You’ll know this team well, though, by the end of the night. E’Twaun Moore is Purdue’s best talent, as he’s the kind of versatile wing player that gives the Blue Devils fits (Rhode Island’s Delroy James an example from earlier this season). It will be interesting to see who Duke puts on Moore, although my guess is a mix of Henderson and Scheyer.

Singler will have his hands full with Robbie Hummel, a sophomore whose game resembles Singler’s closely. He makes up for a lack of overwhelming athleticism with a refined skill set and good range on his jumper.

Chris Kramer is the heart of the Boilermakers and the kind of player who, if he went to Duke, would be the most hated player in the country. He’s (sigh) Hansbrough-ish in his effort, and don’t be surprised to hear Dickie V praise him countless times during the game.

Overall, though, Purdue isn’t an explosive offensive team; they are in the Big Ten, after all. They’re a team whose runs come not because they’re scoring each time down, but because you’re not.

THE CONFLICT: This was supposed to be the Blue Devils’ second big game of the season, following an earlier showdown with UCLA. Michigan got in the way of that one, so now it comes down to this: Is Duke ready? Are the Blue Devils prepared for what’s sure to be a rocking environment (probably Purdue’s biggest home game in a dozen years, since the Boilermakers were a No. 1 seed in 1996 under Gene Keady) against a team that is nearly its equal in talent?

THE BIGGEST SUBPLOT: Purdue has one of those weird courts where the bench is below the floor. By my count, only the Boilers, Minnesota, and Vanderbilt have this court in Division I-A. So, how does Mike Krzyzewski, a coach who likes to split his time between sitting and standing, handle it? Does he consistently climb up and down? Does he stay seated? Does he stay on the floor and crouch more, thereby endangering his back? Keep your eyes out.

WHERE IS PURDUE?: West Lafayette, Indiana, which is about a 75-minute cab ride outside of Indianapolis (as I now know first-hand). It’s kind of in the north-west-central part of the state, if you can understand that.

DECEMBER IN INDIANA…HOW’S THAT TREATIN' YOU?: It’s cold and there’s some snow on the ground, but none in the air. The wind chill right now is in the teens, but that won’t last too long. It should dip to 12 or so by the end of the night.

TIM'S FAVORITE PLAYER IN PURDUE HISTORY IS...: This might be the toughest one yet, but I'll give it to the last true star to grace West Lafayette: 1995 top overall pick Glenn "Big Dog" Robinson (who gets the nod over Brian Cardinal).

PURDUE MAY PROVE TROUBLE IF…: Oh, there’s no question Purdue will prove trouble. This is a legitimate Big Ten title contender who’s better suited to match Duke’s athleticism than Wisconsin was last season. It’s all a matter of how much trouble.

THE DENOUEMENT: Don’t expect to feel comfortable until the final buzzer. The teams will trade leads of six to eight for much of the night, but down the stretch, the Blue Devils go to Singler and Henderson for the big baskets and free throws. Like against Oklahoma, Purdue shows it belongs…in a losing effort. DUKE 75-71.


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