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Getting ready to tip at the tournament

Purdue had a grand send-off from its downtown Spokane hotel Friday morning.

At about 9:30 a.m. Pacific time, Purdue's band started playing the school's fight song as players and coaches exited the hotel lobby and boarded a bus to Spokane Arena.

Some fans and alumni also were there to send the team off.

Let's see if that spirited morning carries over into an early game.

No. 4 seed Purdue's game against No. 13 Siena is the first of the day in Spokane at 11:30 a.m. local time.

It'll be interesting to see if it takes any time for either teams to get warmed up, as well as knock off any jitters. The latter may not be an issue, considering both of these teams have tournament experience.

The Boilermakers (27-5) are making their fourth consecutive NCAA appearance and have two seniors, two juniors and a sophomore as starters. Purdue has won 11 consecutive first-round games at the tournament.

Siena (27-6) has three seniors and two juniors in the starting lineup, and the Saints have made three consecutive NCAA trips. They beat Vanderbilt and Ohio State in the first round the last two seasons.

"I think that the experience of being in the tournament and winning two first-round games really helps out a lot," Siena senior Alex Franklin said. "With us being experienced players, we know what to expect. We know what the atmosphere is going to be like. We know what it takes to win a first-round game."

Some things I'll be watching today:

  • From talking to players and coaches Thursday, it sounds like Siena has several players who can break defenders down and get to the basket. That's been a weakness of Purdue's at points this season. So that will be critical in the game. The Boilermakers must do a decent job of keeping Siena guards in front of them. E'Twaun Moore's defensive assignment, likely against Franklin, may be the biggest match-up of the game. I know defending point guard Ronald Moore is key, especially on ball screens, as is keeping Ryan Rossiter off the boards. But Moore has developed into a pretty good defender, and he needs to stay steady at that end. Even if he isn't making shots of his own, which has led to him slacking on defense in the past.
  • The way Siena handles Purdue's pressure defense. Usually, it's something teams from smaller conferences have a tough time handling. If the Boilermakers can be solid without fouling -- that's you, Kelsey Barlow -- then they will be in good shape.
  • JaJuan Johnson and Moore must score. I'm all about having a third guy contribute -- Keaton Grant or Chris Kramer driving to the basket -- but Johnson and Moore must perform as first-team all-conference performers. Just from talking to Johnson on Thursday, I really feel like he's ready to come out strong and aggressive. I'd like to see him not settle for perimeter jumpers. Though he can make them, he hasn't been as consistent lately from the perimeter. Might as well make Rossiter defend in the post, especially because I think Johnson will have a couple inches on him.

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