BoilerTMill for SB Nation's Purdue blog, Hammer and Rails is here to fill us in on our opponent for the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The Hokies hit the hardwood to face a tough Boilermaker team that's coming off a neutral court loss to another team from the Commonwealth. Here are my answers to his questions.
How has the loss of Robbie Hummel affected Purdue's play so far this year?
It has only been a major issue in the Richmond game, and even then the entire team shot poorly in the first half. The rest of our games have been blowouts in our favor against subpar competition, so it is hard to judge. I think we mostly miss his rebounding ability. Also, we will probably miss his solid free throw shooting in at least one game. We lack that closer that can go to the line and finish games.
A terrible first half killed us, but it wasn't as bad as last year's Minnesota game in the Big Ten Tournament. People want to draw parallels to that game, but it was much worse then. The Golden Gophers were on fire and we could do nothing right. Against Richmond, we just didn't shoot well. The Spiders also hit every big shot they needed to finish a potential comeback before it starters. We had the lead down to five in the second half, but they answered with a quick five points and we couldn't make any more headway.
Purdue's been known for hard-nosed, tough, physical basketball and the Hokies like to ugly-up games. Just how unwatchable is this game going to be?
It depends on if Purdue finds the offensive rhythm it had in the first four games. A lot of people don't want to admit this, but we were leading the nation in assists per game through four games, one (against Oakland) against an NCAA team from a year ago. Purdue will do a lot better when a consistent third and fourth option is there. John Hart has been there ate times so far. D.J. Byrd, Kelsey Barlow, and Terone Johnson can be that as well. TJ is a true freshman that we expect good things from. He is a lot like E'Twaun Moore. Both led their high school teams to Indiana State Championships as seniors, and he comes from the same high school as Eric Gordon. If he can put it together, watch out.
You guys have one of the stingiest defenses in the nation. Is there anything the Boilers are susceptible to on defense that the Hokies could take advantage of?
The fact we don't have Chris Kramer anymore. I think we are missing him more than Hummel. Not only was he a lockdown defender, his leadership absolutely would have willed us to a victory over Richmond. That game against the Spiders was the first time we truly missed him. Until we get someone to do even half of what he did on defense, we're vulnerable.
By contrast, your offense has struggled at times early this season. Are there any tendencies Purdue has on O that will worry you if you start seeing them early against Virginia Tech?
I think it comes down to shooting. We shot very well and shared the ball very efficiently during the early games. We need that to come back and all this talk of "not surviving without Hummel" will go away.