Rants, ravings, and somewhat sensical opinions following the wild, wacky, and wide-wide world of Purdue sports
I sat in the United Center, courtside, enjoying the electric crowd for the Big Ten Tournament Championship game. It is not unheard of for me to cover a game courtside, but something seemed so different about yesterday’s contest.
Purdue has only captured the Big Ten Tournament one time, back in the Baby Boiler days. Since then, The Purdue Boilermakers have made the championship game a few times, but haven’t broken through. There has been plenty of disappointment in BTT weekend, historically.
It was already a good weekend, for me. On Saturday I had an opportunity to see my brother in law, Shane, who flew in from across the country to see the tournament. Met up with him in-between my media obligations. Always great to see family.
On Sunday, I saw one of my best friends, Brad and his daughter courtside prior to the game. I saw a handful of other friends from my childhood, saw some of our readers, and shook hands with other long time media folk that I haven’t seen in years or just had a chance to meet.
So as the final half second ticked off the clock on Sunday, it was cathartic. Immediately prior to that play, Penn State had the ball with a few seconds left. During the timeout, before that play, I calmly packed up my computer. I put it away. I pocketed my cell phone and sat on the edge of my seat. Win or lose, something epic was about to happen. Either Purdue was going to win another championship, or Penn State was going to pull a miracle. One or the other.
I didn’t wish to be distracted by this very article that I was writing. I wanted that moment. I wanted to live it. I wanted to feel it. This final few seconds isn’t about being a journalist. It is not about being a fan. This isn’t about paying attention to technology. This is about being here. Living it.
Purdue fans, we need to be present in the moment.
I am very grateful for what I do. Ever grateful, in fact. It is moments like Sunday that vividly remind me of that.
I got to see a player who only scored 2 points all game, a freshman, a leader… I got to see this young man win a championship game with defense. The Purdue Way. Braden Smith’s tenacity, pursuing a broken play, caused Penn State guard Camren Wynter to travel. Anticlimactic? Maybe. Fitting? Absolutely, for this Boilermaker squad.
That moment was very real. Very visceral. The moment gave Purdue another championship on the season.
I couldn’t be more proud of this Season 125 team.
Purdue 70, Rutgers 65: A back and fourth affair, with momentum flipping throughout. With every flip, there’s a flop, and eventually Rutgers flopped. They flopped again. Then… they flopped one time too many, as the Boilermakers held on. Mason Gillis led in scoring, tallying 20 points. Zach Edey added 16 and 11.
Rutgers Photo Gallery: https://snapsbyme.smugmug.com/Purdue-Mens-Basketball/22-23/BTT-Rutgers-Quarterfinals-
Purdue 80, Ohio State 66: Purdue started slowly, then methodically imposed their will on a beaten up Buckeye squad. Ohio State couldn’t hang with Zach Edey, as he went for 32 points and hauling in 14 rebounds. Brandon Newman added 15 points, and Braden Smith scored 14.
Purdue 67, Penn State 65: A comfortable Purdue lead melted away in the final moments, giving Penn State the chance to take the lead on their final possession. PSU, however, traveled instead of scored, giving Purdue the Big Ten Tournament Championship. Edey went for 30 and 13, David Jenkins Jr. and Mason Gillis both scored in double figures.
PSU Photo Gallery by Mark Elsner: https://snapsbyme.smugmug.com/Purdue-Mens-Basketball/22-23/BTT-PennStateChampionship/
Break It Down:
Well here we are. The Purdue Boilermakers are the 2023 Undisputed Big Ten Champions, and a 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. This is something that no Boiler fans would have conjured in their wildest dreams in November of the year 2022. Don’t say you predicted it, I wont believe you.
Does this team have some warts? Sure. They struggle with the press and they sometimes go cold with streaky shooting. Every other team does the same.
Does this team have scars? Absolutely. They’re battle tested. They’ve won some gutty games, showing their toughness and grit. Every other team has battle scars.
Does this team have weapons? Yes they do. Zach Edey will be National Player of the Year. Purdue has 9 players that could easily score in double figures on any given night. Do other teams have weapons? Sure. Other teams do not have Zach Edey. Other teams do not go 9 deep.
What Went Well:
- Hello, Newman: While his recent boost in productivity on the offensive end has been a much needed benefit, Brandon Newman’s defensive presence has been palpable. His incredible defensive performances the past few weeks have provided Purdue with another lockdown defender.
- David Jenkins Jr.: The clutch gene is strong with this young man. A dagger shot against Ohio State, as well as a boost from beyond the arc, DJJ is peaking at the right time for the Boilermakers.
- 25: Turnovers over the three games in the Big Ten Tournament. That is 8.3 turnovers per game, well above elite status. This is including the press that Purdue struggled so mightily against.
Opportunities for Improvement:
- About that Press…: While the turnover gross numbers aren’t particularly high, when they come in bunches is where Purdue suffers. Towards the end of the Rutgers and Penn State games one or two turnovers in a row can mean the difference in a game.
- 21.4%: From three against Penn State. That is not… good. Boilermakers are continuing to squeak out victories when shooting poorly, but winning relatively comfortably when shooting well. Sooner or later, this shooting percentage will bite the Boilermakers.
- Purdue Panic Attack: This is not about the players. This is about the fans. For a team that is Big Ten Regular Season Champions, Big Ten Tournament Champions, and a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament… in a rebuilding year… when none of this is expected… You all are a miserable bunch. I read your tweets. Painter mocks you for your tweets. Plenty of other media folk mock you. The general malaise is incredible to me. The sky is not falling. The world is not ending. The vitriol being spewed by Purdue fans is incredible. It is ok to be disappointed in an outcome. It is ok to have blood pressure spikes when the Boilermakers are struggling to close the game out… but some things that people tweet, you’re making a fool out of yourselves. Relax. Ease your mind and have a banana or two.
Big Man on Campus:
With two 30 point games, and being named the Tournament’s MVP, Zach Edey continues to be the Big Man on Campus. While being both literally and figuratively the biggest man on campus, it took a herculean effort from Edey to carry Purdue to the championship.
A Look Ahead:
Purdue is the #1 seed in the East Region, taking on the winner of 16 seeds Texas Southern and Howard. If Purdue wins, they will then play the winner of Memphis vs FAU in the round of 32. Game one is Friday at approximately 6:50 ET Friday on TNT. Luckily, Columbus Ohio is not a far drive, so I better see plenty of Old Gold and Black in the stands! I’ll be in attendance. If you see me, come by and say hi! Would love to see you.
If Purdue wins their first two games, then they will travel to New York City’s famed Madison Square Garden, for the Sweet 16 and Elite 8. Nothing is guaranteed though. Have to win the first game.
It is do or die, folks. Now or never. Can Purdue make history? Their march towards madness starts on Friday. Time to BOILER UP!
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