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Purdue Q&A with Hammer & Rails

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Huskers head to West Lafayette to take on one of the Big Ten's top teams. Today we find out what makes them tick.

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back folks to another opposing team Q&A. Today we have Travis Miller from the SB Nation site Hammer and Rails. Travis was kind enough to give us some insight on the #21 Purdue Boilermakers. Purdue brings a 17-4 record into the game and one heck of a defense.

Purdue had a fairly decent year last season. They ended the year tied for third place in the Big Ten and an at large big in the NCAA Tournament. What were the expectations going into this season?

The expectations were to hang on to our place in the league and maybe challenge for the league title. For the most part we have done that. This year has been a wild year all across college basketball. Purdue has dodged some bullets (last night at Minnesota) but gotten hit as well (at Illinois). I think it is going to regret not holding on to a 17 point halftime lead at home against Iowa quite a bit because that would be huge now in the Big Ten race and in the race for NCAA seeding.

The team started out the season fairly hot and going 11-0 before they lost to Butler. They have since only lost to Iowa twice and gave an upset to Illinois.  Overall, this has been a fairly decent season for the Boilermakers. How far can this team go?

I still think Purdue can get a top 4 finish and hopefully a 3-4 seed in the Tournament. From there, you’re favored to make it to the Sweet 16 and then we can see what happens. After starting 11-0 and reaching the top 10 there were dreams of a Final Four, but those have cooled. With no truly dominant team, however, it is about matchups and hopefully Purdue has some favorable ones the rest of the way.

Injuries have come into play this season for the team. What affect has that had on them and their ability against tougher opponents?

Purdue went 4-0 without Rapheal Davis in December, but I think his knee injury lingered some. Missing Caleb Swanigan at Minnesota last night proved to be larger than we expected. He is a rebounding machine that nearly averages a double-double every night. It turns out that is a good thing to have on the floor even if turnovers have been an issue at times.

Who should we keep an eye on Saturday that we might not know about?

P.J. Thompson has come on as a very steady point guard that doesn’t turn the ball over and can even shoot a little. We have been pleasantly surprised with his development as an all-around player.

Also, Vince Edwards is turning into a very special player and just dropped 24 on Minnesota. He has perhaps the highest ceiling in terms of being an all-around force on the court.

Strengths and weaknesses: What does this team do well and what do they need to work on? What can Nebraska possibly take advantage of?

Our strength is rebounding and post play. Few teams if any in america are better than us. Of course, it helps to have 7-foot centers you can rotate in and out while pairing them with a MCDonald’s All-American power forward and a solid forward like Edwards.

Purdue’s biggest weakness has been turning the ball over and it has cost them dearly in all four losses. At times Purdue can be careless getting the ball inside, and if you attempt to trap ball handlers it often goes disastrously for us.

Okay, prediction time! What will happen on Saturday and what will the final score be?

Nebraska impressed me by going into East Lansing and winning. They are going to be a tough out anywhere. That said, Purdue would be undefeated at home if not for a disaster of a second half against Iowa. I think the Boilers hold serve at home.

Thanks again to Travis for answering our questions and giving us a better understanding if this years Boilermaker team. Follow him on Twitter for game day updates.