Purdue has played a tough non-conference schedule, but doesn’t have the marquee victory to back it up.
That can change today in the Crossroads Classic, when the No. 15 Boilers (8-2) face No. 21 Notre Dame (9-1) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
“This can show you can can go into neutral site, play a ranked team and get a win,” center Isaac Haas said. “It will improve your resume for the NCAA Tournament. It’s a matter of having that focus and getting a win.”
Beyond that, the Boilers are 0-5 in this event.
Add the matchup with No. 9 Indiana (8-1) and No. 18 Butler (9-1) and you have as good an event as you’ll see in the regular season.
Purdue’s losses have come to Louisville and Villanova. Louisville is now No. 11. Villanova is No. 1. Its best win has come against Auburn in the finals of the Cancun Challenge.
“This is for bragging rights,” Purdue junior forward Vince Edwards said. “Everybody in the state will be there.
“As a freshman, I didn’t know what it was like, not being from Indiana. Some guys grew up together. We’re looking at it as adding to the resume, but we can’t let that get us crazy. We have to play. We want to add it on the resume, but a good one. We can’t let us overwhelm us as a team.”
For the record, Edwards is from Ohio and rates as one of the Big Ten’s best players, although for the last three games he’s thrived in a sixth-man role.
One of Edwards’s goals was taking over for Rapheal Davis, a former Big Ten defensive player of the year from South Side, as a perimeter stopper. That remains a work in progress.
“I’m not where I want to be. I haven’t done what I set out to do. But we still have a long season ahead. I still have big shoes to fill. I need to get back to being an all around guy. I have to get back to doing it.”
Notre Dame has one of the top offensive teams in the nation, which means Purdue has to be locked in on defense from the opening tip. The Irish are led by forwards Steve Vasturia, V.J. Beachem and Bonzie Colson.
“We have to be disciplined,” Edwards said. “They make you pay if you’re not disciplined.”
The 6-5 Colson is a double-double guy who can play either center or power forward, which could create matchup problems for the Boilers, especially is 7-2 Isaac Haas has to guard him.
“They can go small and put Beachem at the 4 (power forward) and Colson at the 5 (center),” Edwards said.
“Colson is really the key. He’s an undersized post, but putting a big guy on him can be tough as a mismatch. He can be tough for them, or tough for anybody playing him.”
Added Haas: “He’s a really good player. He’s an undersized post who can score. It will be a big challenge.”
Notre Dame leads the nation in fewest turnovers (7.8), assist-to-turnover ratio and in free throw shooting. Its only loss came to Villanova after leading for most of the game.
“They don’t turn the ball over and shoot well,” Edwards said. “It’s obvious why they’ve won a lot of games.
“They’re really smart. They fly to the ball on defense. They try to jump passing lanes.
“(Against Villanova) they were getting what they wanted in the first half. Villanova adjusted and they didn’t get that in the second half. We have to be alert of that. We can’t give them easy ones.”