Plenty of Hope

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I'm not real sure what the exact significance of the Notre Dame game is, but it appears to be important for a number of reasons. The two schools haven't met in a regular-season game in nearly 50 years, so that alone makes it historic in my viewpoint. The reasons the two programs haven't played each other have been discussed over the years, and none of them make much sense. If the two schools can meet every year in football or other sports, why not basketball?
Under the current format of the Crossroads Classic, the schools will face off every two years, and in my mind, that's great. Here's hoping it continues for many years.

Purdue will go into Saturday's game a decided underdog, as the Irish are a ranked team. This game isn't only a pride game, but also an indicator of what is going to come during the conference season on a weekly basis. The Boilermakers will soon be running a gauntlet of games against ranked opposition, so it's time to get a feel for it.

I'll be honest, I didn't think we'd be sitting here at 4-5 on the season, and I think I have a lot of company. It's just something we don't expect. It's been a strange season, though, because you can rarely have this kind of record and say a team could easily be 9-0. Is that a stretch? Maybe, but the facts suggest that Purdue has had a chance in each of its losses, so there is plenty of hope left in this season.

I have long maintained that after about 10 games in the non-conference season, the numbers a team puts up stay consistent the rest of the year. Perhaps you see a decrease of two or three percentage points in conference play. What does that mean for this year's Boilermakers? We most likely won't see a big improvement in the shooting numbers, with the exception of two players. Both D.J. Byrd and Ronnie Johnson will improve. Byrd will get his stroke back, and Johnson just needs to relax and let the game come to him.

Naturally, I'm concerned about turnovers and free throw shooting, but both are correctable. We all know you can't turn it over on the road like Purdue did at Eastern Michigan and expect to win, no matter how many rebounds you get.

This team needs to bond, work on its chemistry and progress toward improving its weaknesses. I just don't think it's time to panic yet. To me, that's why the Notre Dame game is so important. We will be playing on a big stage, the biggest of the season so far. It's time for Purdue to grow up and show some presence. One thing is for certain, Saturday's atmosphere will be the norm from here on out. I'm looking forward to it!

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