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Monday, December 22, 2008

Mastodon Power!


When I was at Purdue a fellow TV production friend of mine did a mockumentary of the original Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. I still have the footage to this day somewhere in my forgotten projects file, but in it, I played the Blue Ranger. For those who didn’t follow the mid-90’s program, it was essentially a knock off of cheap Japanese Godzilla movies. One of the “Dinozords”, the one controlled by the black ranger was a giant robotic mastodon (for reasons unknown, since it wasn’t a dinosaur). The quality of show was only slightly better than our little mockumentary, by which I mean not very good.

I mention that because we face the IPFW Mastodons tonight, and they would likely need a giant robotic mastodon in the paint in order to come away with a win. They are a relative newcomer to Division I, and as a result they are taking as many paycheck games as they can. That is what tonight really is: a paycheck game for our sister school in Ft. Wayne to take its beating and go home.

Record: 4-7, 0-2 Summit League
2007-08 Postseason: Lost 58-42 to Oral Roberts in semifinals of Summit League Tournament
2007-08 final record: 13-18
Blog Representation: Dane Fife: The Official blog

IPFW is probably best known for Dane Fife as the youngest Division I coach in the country. Fife actually married a girl from my hometown, but I remember him more for being the IU guard that caused us pain and suffering during the early part of this decade. He took the job at IPFW just three years after his playing days ended, so with some sustained success he could set himself up for quite a career. Before we can worry about him breaking Bobby Knight’s wins record, however, he needs to turn a transitional program into a consistent winner.

The Mastodons are about what you can expect for a team playing just its 8th year in the top division of college basketball. They lived a vagabond existence around the country as an independent before finally finding a conference home last season in the Summit League. The 13-18 mark in 2008 with 9-9 conference record was by far the team’s best season since moving up. Still, the Summit League won’t be confused for the Big Ten any time soon. It is a one-bid league in which IUPUI, one of the stronger low-majors last year, finished 26-7 yet still did not get invited to any postseason tournament. IPFW’s three wins outside of the Summit League came against either non-Division I teams or against another transitional member.

This year is a little bit better. The ‘Dons swept a home and home with Eastern Illinois and grabbed a convincing 63-46 win at Valparaiso. They actually hosted Michigan State early in the year and fell by only 11 to one of the Big Ten favorites. Purdue will be their fourth game against a ranked team as they have losses to Xavier, Marquette, and the Spartans. Their most recent game was a 75-48 loss to 7-2 Nebraska on Saturday. In that loss, IPFW actually led 34-29 at the half before falling apart in the second half. Jeremy Mixon led them with 15 points, but they were outscored 46-14 in the second half. Losses to Southern Utah and Missouri-Kansas City already have them down 0-2 in league play.

The ‘Dons have a strong Indiana flavor on their roster. Seven players hale fromt eh state of Indiana. Two players in Muncie Central’s John Peckinpaugh and Benn Botts were quality high school players that went toe-to-toe with Greg Oden’s Lawrence North teams in consecutive state championship games. Botts is one of IPFW’s leading scorers at 11.2 points per game as a sophomore. Peckinpaugh plays each night, but is barely averaging more than a point per game.

Much of the offense revolves around 6’7” forward David Carson. Carson leads the team with 14.7 points per game and is the second leading rebounder at 5.4 per contest. Carson is a fifth year senior that has steadily improved each year in the program. He is a decent 3-pointer shooter, so he does not exclusively limit himself to the post. I think of him as a poor man’s Carl Landry.

As mentioned, Botts is next on the team in scoring and is the only other player averaging in double figures. Botts is more of an outside threat as he lit up Michigan State for 22 points. He is an excellent free throw shooter when he gets to the line, hitting 92% of his attempts. If he heats up from long range we could have some trouble, especially if Carson can keep the pressure off of him by scoring inside.

Deilvez Yearby is another strong post player averaging 7.6 points per game and 6.7 rebounds. Yearby and Carson will have to have unbelievable nights while the perimeter players knock down shot after shot for the Mastodons to have a chance. Yearby had a season high of 13 against Valpo, and 10 in the Michigan State game. Guards nick Daniels and Zach Placemeier round out the starting lineup as their numbers are similar to Yearby’s.

After the starting five, however, the numbers in both production and minutes drops off dramatically. IPFW has very little size with reserve Trey McCorkle being the only player at 6’10” or above. He plays, but only about 12 and a half minutes per night. He did have a season high in a loss to Ball State. This lack of size often leads to poor efforts ont eh glass. IPFW only gets about 32 rebounds per night, and many of those are not of the offensive variety. This is essentially a one and done team. With the success we had at keeping Davidson to one shot per possession early on Saturday we should be able to continue that trend.

The ‘Dons are also not a strong offensive team. They shoot just 41% from the field and that is without playing a really strong defensive team like our own. Their 62 points per game average will be hard to come by against out defense unless they simply shoot the lights out.

This will likely be a game that is very similar to the Arkansas-Pine Bluff game. The ‘Dons are probably better than the Golden Lions, but they have already lost to Ball State. That likely puts them as our second weakest opponent with the possible exception of Eastern Michigan. Statistically there is nothing that stands out and makes me quake with fear at facing them. Considering we just played a nearly flawless game against one of the better teams in the country it will likely take us completely falling apart in order not to win. IPFW simply does not have the talent to beat us unless we beat ourselves.

One positive that the ‘Dons have is defense. Coach Fife was a defensive player of the year at Indiana. He has carried that philosophy over to his team. Good teams like Xavier and Michigan State did not score a ton of points like you would expect over a low major opponent. That defense could keep them in the game for a little while, but I don’t think it will be enough for a win.

The most I am looking for tonight is to see if Keaton Grant continues to improve and to see if E’Twaun can get out of his funk. Other than that, I expect the bench mafia to get plenty of minutes at the end of what will most likely be a blowout. If this game is closer than 20 points at the end we should be very concerned. Purdue 80, IPFW 55

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