Rants, ravings, and somewhat sensical opinions following the wild, wacky, and wide-wide world of Purdue sports.
I just want to clarify, I am not a psychologist.
There is every opportunity in the world for me to self diagnose my “complex” when it relates to Purdue sports. I, not being a mental health expert, don’t know the proper terms for it. Let’s just say that I am not “right” when it comes to my fandom. I am “quirky” to say the least.
My actions are not harmful, nor hurtful. My dog and wife are happy that we are at this point of the season. I get too invested into this stuff, at least in the moment. 1/2 hour after the game, I am back to normal. Back to being the Ben that ya’ll don’t really know. A somewhat normal, gregarious, relatively personable, Christian, family man, who enjoys a good whiskey, a good beer, and a laugh with anyone around me.
This game took me 1/2 hour to return to normalcy. My wife, the non-sportsfan (Yeah, we’re an odd couple), poked me in the shoulder. Looked me in the eye. She said with a wry smile on her face, and tongue firmly in cheek “You ok, there, big guy?”
Like that a season’s weight was lifted. We both cracked up, laughing nearly to the point of tears. What better way to break the tense silence, following a season ending, heartbreak loss. In the moment, an incredibly inappropriate thing to say to a lifelong diehard fan, who has waited his near 4 decades of fandom for an opportunity such as this…
It was perfect.
We Purdue fans are back to our status quo. Back to our base line. Back to being the best program in the history of basketball to never win a national title. Back to being the program that hasn’t seen a final four in forty-something years, since before I was born. We’re back to being a punchline to certain fan bases. It may not be the most comfortable scenario, but dammit, it’s our scenario. Home sweet home I guess… ugh.
Alright, fine. Another year of waiting to make that next step. Another year of aging in the charred oaken barrel for the fine bourbon which is Boilermaker Basketball. One day, we will serve ourselves a heavy pour. Four fingers of finely, aged, basketball success. Our year of the Lord 2022 is not that year.
So Here We Are:
To say that this season was a disappointment, is an understatement. This team had the talent, the experience, and the coaching to be a historic squad. A presumed NBA lottery pick. Three senior players, and a surging 7’4″ sophomore. Multiple All-Americans. Tons of production returning.
Yeah, yeah, Purdue went undefeated in the non conference. They won the Cheez-It trophy in November. They reached the #1 ranking for the first time in their history. They promptly lost on a last second, defended, miracle step through halfcourt buzzer beating shot, against an overmatched opponent.
That is how the season went. Purdue were favorites in every game this season, except one. A Martin Luther King Day showdown against Illinois was the only game all year that they weren’t favored. They won that game, albeit in double overtime.
All in all, this team was a walking contradiction. They finished the season 29-8. That is an incredible record. Of their 8 losses, 7 were squeakers. Of those 7, 4 were last second losses. Whether it be the aforementioned half court shot. Whether it be a rival player who had never before, nor never since played a game like he did against any opponent hitting a dagger 3 with seconds remaining… Whether it be the a team missing TWO shots so badly in the final moments that they banked in, to beat the Boilermakers… Whether it be another buzzer beater… Another fluke this, and a improbable shot that.
What made you think that this season was going to end in any other way than the way it did?
Finally, a strike of good luck happened in the Big Dance. For the first time in my life the tournament opened up BEFORE Purdue was eliminated. Things were paved for the Boilers to walk through, to waltz their happy rears into the Elite 8, if not the final four. Even though the Boilers were a 3 seed, they were the best team remaining in the regional. Fools gold.
Again, what about this season made you think that it was going to end in any other way than it did?
Purdue never learned to close it out, whether it be luck or not.
Now Let’s Not be Over Emotional:
Purdue won 29 games this season. That is a gaudy total of games, and one of the best seasons in Purdue’s history. This is including a slew of fluky last second wins, which bruised the loss total. We saw a magical season from Jaden Ivey, Zach Edey, Trevion Williams, Eric Hunter Jr., and Sasha Stefanovic.
While the Boilermakers didn’t reach any of the goals they had for this season, they did reach the allusive #1 ranking. While a fleeting accomplishment, it is still another positive for this program.
Purdue was a double-bye, yet again, in the Big Ten Tournament. They made it to the championship game, unfortunately falling short. This season’s performance showed Purdue staying in the top 10 of the AP voting in every single week. This is an incredible feat in itself.
The Boilermakers achieved a 3 seed in the tournament. They made it to the Sweet 16, technically playing to seed.
All in all, Purdue had a really good season, it is important to keep this perspective in mind.
Perspective is Important, Folks:
Purdue fandom is toxic as hell on social media, and is, for the most part, devoid of any sense of perspective.
FIRE MATT PAINTER, has been squawked repeatedly in the past few days, from the perspectiveless NPC’s out there in the ether. Yeah, straw men, but they’re out there. The fifth all time winningest basketball coach in Big Ten History… the coach who has brought Purdue to the Sweet 16 in 4 of the last 5 seasons. The regular Top 4 finishing, consistently winning, highly respected nationally, incredible talent developer, and currently highly recruiting coach, who runs an extremely clean, non-cheating, respected program.
Yeah, lets fire him. The guy who wins 20+ games every year and has Purdue in the second weekend of the tournament almost every year. Purdue will never make it to the promised land with Painter, blah blah blah yadda yadda, BS. Any program in the nation would be thrilled to have Matt Painter as their coach, but you keyboard warriors think you’re smart, considering the firing of a future basketball hall of famer, who has been in the Sweet 16 -MORE- times than the legendary coach who preceded him.
Spare me. You’re not clever or novel. You’re a social media shock-jock.
Is Coach Painter free from sin on the disappointment of this season? Absolutely not. The buck stops with coach. He could have done more to change things up when the road was getting rocky. He deserves criticism, the entire “GET RID OF HIM” perspective is ridiculous.
He is a torn ACL, a broken elbow, and a miracle last second shot away from having MULTIPLE final fours. Potentially national championships.
Yes, I know it is frustrating. I am just as frustrated. Be critical of Painter all you want, but he didn’t miss 10 three pointers in the second half. He didn’t turn the ball over. He didn’t lose his man on defense.
There have been people out there who have suggested that Matt Painter should’ve benched a future NBA player for a deep bench player. Painter should have not given the ball to “Player X” who had a distinct advantage, but forgot how to catch that day. If only he would’ve played zone then their legs would’ve been fresh enough to make more free-throws down the stretch. Also, that player who has hit hundreds of 3s over his career and has proven to be a great leader? Nope. Painter is dumb.
I’m awaiting the comment section to miss that the last few sentences are steeped in sarcasm. Because they lack perspective. Have at it, John Doe, in the facebook comments. I’m sure you read this far into the column anyways.
History is a Strange Thing:
Purdue fans have selective memory. I’ve seen people online saying that this is the “best Purdue team in history” which causes me to chuckle.
I will say this, from top to bottom, this could be the best 1-10 talent that Purdue has ever had, but talent does not make a good team.
Just in my conscious fandom, teams which are on par or better than this team, in my humble opinion (chronological order):
- The Three Amigos
- Big Dog Teams
- Three Pete Teams
- Baby Boilers
- Haas Elbow Team
- Carsen Edwards Team
- (Current) Jaden Ivey Team
Look at the time distribution here, folks. These “one of the best teams in my lifetime” scenarios are coming more frequently. Sweet 16s are coming more frequently. Opportunities for tournament success are coming at a higher rate than they have in the previous 3 decades. Four of those teams have happened in the past dozen years or so.
If you are blind to this, then you are an irrational fan. The program is moving forward, and success is becoming more commonplace. I completely understand the frustration. I want it to happen too… but you need to ease your mind. Have a banana or two. Take a deep breath. Take a step back. Breathe.
See the forest from the trees.
This Hurts, but the Future is Bright:
Lets presume, for the sake of argument, that Sasha, Trevion, and Eric Hunter Jr., all graduate as expected, and move on with their careers. As of the writing of this article, this is still a safe presumption. Let’s also presume that Jaden Ivey will move on to the NBA draft, as his incredible potential will lead him on to bigger and better things. This leaves Zach Edey making a decision, as well as transfer portal opportunities that can also affect the program.
Purdue has good talent who suddenly have opportunity on this roster. Brandon Newman had a rough sophomore campaign, but he was stuck behind Jaden Ivey as a volume playmaker. He will have an opportunity to shine. Mason Gillis has turned into a steady, strong presence, and wonderful leader. Ethan Morton, showed defensive prowess and opportunistic scoring. Caleb Furst continues to impress, providing a hustle player with a tendency to drill threes as a freshman.
Oh, and the redshirt players of Trey Kaufmann-Renn, and Brian Waddell are unknowns, but have been highly touted. Also, Purdue is pulling in a highly regarded recruiting class with multiple high-level guard and wing talents. The following recruiting class has dynamic guards, and an over 7′ player who has outside range and a sturdy frame.
Painter is continually bringing his teams into the second weekend, and is picking up recruits, the likes of which Purdue rarely sees. With this talent, Purdue will continue to knock on the door. Hopefully one day the knock will be answered.
Some Final Words:
I just wanted to give a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to every one involved in this basketball season.
From Chris Forman to Matt Painter, to everyone here at Indiana Sports Coverage, Thank You.
Thank you to the Seniors who helped make this team great. Trevion Williams, Eric Hunter Jr, Sasha Stefanovic, and Jared Wulbrun, Thank You. God speed going forward!
To Jaden Ivey, Thank You. Your hard work and athleticism will take you far.
To everyone remaining on the Purdue roster, Thank You. We will keep our eyes on your progress, and am looking forward to another run next year.
Finally, to the readers, especially those who have made it this far into the article, thank you. You’ve put up with my somewhat sensical, sort of entertaining, relatively grammatically correct drivel for yet another season.
This has been a 2021-2022 sports season to remember. I will take a bit of a respite, and I will see y’all in the the fall, as the Boilermakers open up their football season.
Until then, Boiler Up, Hammer Down!
Ever Grateful, Ever True.
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