Feb. 3, 2011
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - First thing first, our thanks to all the people who made it possible to return safely to West Lafayette from Madison on Wednesday afternoon dealing with an expansive blizzard that blanketed several states. We are very fortunate at Purdue to travel first-class in every way, and on a trip like we recently experienced, it was very much noticed.
Elliot Bloom handles team travel and did a tremendous job handling the details. Most Division I programs don't have a travel budget like we do, and because we fly charter, it was much easier to negotiate the landscape. I do recall the days of bus trips, and even have experienced a few of those to Madison when flying conditions weren't favorable. It's not enjoyable, trust me.
Purdue has lost five games, all away from home. Four of those losses are true road tests at Minnesota, West Virginia, Ohio State and Wisconsin. As of this writing, those four teams have combined for a mark of 45-2 at home for a winning percentage of nearly 96 percent. The two wins were Virginia at Minnesota and St. John's at West Virginia; neither of those teams were ranked.
In losing three of those games, Purdue has had a lead in the second half and has had a chance to win or tie inside a minute left in each game, with two games decided on the last possession.
Last year things were different, as Purdue won close games at Minnesota, Indiana, Penn State, Iowa and Ohio State.
Obviously, to win conference championships you have to win on the road, and to be honest, you normally have to limit home losses to usually only one on the season.
Purdue has eight games remaining. Four of those games are on the road. I don't think Ohio State will lose four times, so for a title, I think we have to run the table.
Having said that, I uttered the same thing a year ago when Michigan State was 9-0 and the Boilermakers were 6-3.
Prior to the current four-game road losing streak, Purdue had won nine straight on the road. So, things can change.
The keys to winning games on the road against most competitive teams are limit your turnovers, rebound on the offensive glass and keep fouls to a minimum. Truthfully, that's asking a lot, but I'm convinced if we could've gotten one defensive stop after taking the lead at Wisconsin 59-58 with 1:11 left in the game, we would have gotten the victory. I know that's a bold statement. So far on the season we are 1-3 in games that have been decided late, and we need to get better to have any chance at the championship.
Are we playing for second place right now? Until Ohio State shows a willingness to let others back in the race, I'm afraid so, but you still keep on fighting until you're officially eliminated and then you play for the highest seed you can get in the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.
Indiana is next, and if you didn't notice, the Hoosiers are playing well. As of this writing, they have back-to-back wins over ranked opponents.
There's a lot of basketball left, and a lot to play for. The fact is how you play in February normally sets the table for how you enter tournament time in March. Let's see if we can get it going.