Purdue squeaked at number 24 in the Associated Press’s Top 25 poll this week. West Virginia scraped a spot at the bottom of the “also gets votes” list.
However, that could change dramatically – for one or both rosters – after he competed in the Phil Knight Legacy tournament that opened in Portland, Oregon on Wednesday. The winner of Thursday’s quarterfinals between Purdue (3-0) and WVU (4-0) is likely to face No. 2 Gonzaga in Friday’s semifinals.
And in the other group of this eight-team tournament? Oh, just some schools named Duke, Florida, Xavier, and Oregon State.
“It’s a who’s who of college basketball,” said Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins. “You look at the names there. I think everyone knows the names and who coaches them.
For Huggins, too, some national standing is at stake. With his next win, 69-year-old Huggins takes sole third place in the all-time Division I winners list. His 920 wins currently share third place with Jim Calhoun. Only Mike Krzyzewski (1,202) and Jim Boeheim (1,001) earned more.
The Mountaineers won their first four games by averaging 23.7 points. Erik Stevenson (14.0 ppg) leads a balanced offense shooting 50.9 percent from the field. The Mountaineers keep opponents at 37.1 percent shooting, but the latter number doesn’t mean much to Huggins.
“We have to be more careful,” Huggins said. “We really didn’t protect very well. There are still a few things we would like to add to the arsenal. This is a good opportunity to see how the things we’re trying to do, explore a bit, how they work against quality people.”
Purdue has not played since November 15, when the Boilermakers defeated Marquette 75-70 at the Gavitt Tipoff Games. Officially, that brought Purdue’s record to 3-0, but head coach Matt Painter kept his group 2-1 in mind.
“I kind of look at Marquette as a loss,” Painter said. “I told them that in the film (session). I know it sounds crazy but when they take two more shots it makes you feel very different in the dressing room after the game.
“So I’m still looking at some of the things that we struggled with. I thought we still had some possessions out there where the boys were shooting to take shots. You have to get your shots in rhythm. The guys would take a shot, then they’d take a bad one because they made one.”
Painter would like his perimeter boys to find the 7-foot-4 Zach Edey in the mail more often. Edey averages 20.7 points and 13.7 rebounds per game, but he got much of his performance from his nation-best 6.0 offensive boards per game.
“We’re really struggling in that area,” Painter said, referring to the feeding of the Post. “You have to deliver the ball better when it’s open. That happens about 8-10 times every game (where they miss).”
– Field level media