Rants, ravings, and somewhat sensical opinions following the wild, wacky, and wide-wide world of Purdue sports
Perspective is a strange thing.
I was blessed to have the opportunity to cover the game on Sunday. I ran into some of our readers and saw some fellow journalists that I’ve known over the years. Thank you all for the hellos and the kind words!
I also ran into one of my best friends, Russ, who just so happened to have season tickets one section over from press row. He dropped by press row right before the game, and we took a picture. He said to me something that I really agreed with. He said, “The mood is so much different now that we’ve won the Big Ten.” Like the pressure of the last few games is gone, and Purdue is playing with house money.
They are. They always have been. They didn’t need to feel pressure, but it was there.
The entire 2022-2023 basketball season, this team has been playing with house money. Nobody expected the Boilermakers to be here.
Purdue is notorious for all the “the sky is falling” fans who will bail at the slightest hint of frustration. They have been very vocal the past few weeks. Matt Painter even alluded to those fans in the Senior Day/ BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIP CORORNATION SPEECH, which he gave after the game. People need to calm down.
Purdue lost Jaden Ivey. Purdue lost Trevion Williams. Purdue lost Sasha Stefanovic. Purdue lost Eric Hunter Jr. Those are two All-Americans and two productive upperclassmen guards. Purdue replaced them with freshmen ball handlers, underclassmen forwards, and Zach Edey. Nobody expected this season to turn out anything like it did.
As the confetti fell on this team, Sunday, I leaned back in my chair. I nodded. I soaked it in. What a wild ride this has been.
My buddy talked to me after the game as he was heading back to the concourse. I was one of the few media folk still sitting in press row. He joked, “Why can’t it ever be easy?” I laughed and agreed, adding “A win is a win!” Winning is never easy.
House money. Rebuilding year. Big Ten Champions.
#5 Purdue 63, Wisconsin 61: A tight game throughout, the Wisconsin Badgers trapped this contest into a time machine and transported it back to the 1920s, where the jumpshot was just being invented. Zach Edey had 17 points, and 19 rebounds. Fletcher Loyer had 13, and held off the almighty random bench players of the Badgers in Madison for a tight, stressful victory.
Illinois 71, #5 Purdue 76: Recent newcomer to the starting rotation Brandon Newman had a field-day, flexing his muscle in the first half. A 20+ point lead in the first half dwindled down to a 5 point victory, as the Fighting Illini took the fighting part literally. Again, the officiating crew allowed Edey to be used as a jungle gym, and coupled with suddenly hot Illini shooting, caused a tense second half. Newman led the way with 19 points, Edey added 17, and Braden Smith had 15.
Break It Down:
The “sky is falling” group of Purdue fans will tell you that Purdue should have won these games much easier. That the eye test isn’t there. Can’t break the press here. Can’t shoot the ball there. Find your perspective.
Purdue won 2 games, against conference foes, to end a grind of a regular season. The Boilers solidified an outright Big Ten championship, winning the league by 3 games.
“…But Purdue has lost a bunch of games down the stretch!” Yep. I can’t argue that. I will argue the meaning of what “bunch” means, though.
Purdue has won their last two. They’ve won three out of their last four. Four of their last seven. Six of their last ten. Eleven out of their last fifteen. Fifteen of their last twenty. Twenty six of their last thirty one.
In a rebuilding year.
Although, this week, the games haven’t been particularly pretty, the results have been. Keep winning. If Purdue wins every game the rest of this season in an ugly fashion… a win is still beautiful. My cardiovascular health may not be up for that stressor, but a win is a win.
Are there areas of growth that are needed? Absolutely.
At this point, keep rolling with the house money. Enjoy the ride folks! This season has been fun, and its not over yet.
What Went Well:
- Brandon Newman, Valparaiso Viking: Brandon Newman’s insertion into the starting lineup has given the Boilermakers a breath of fresh air. His hustle on defense, and his threat shooting is exactly what this team needs. (Editor’s Note: Ben is also a Valparaiso Viking. So is Robbie Hummel. Two of those three are good athletes.)
- 3: Boilermakers win the Big Ten by 3 games, which is complete dominance, in a rebuilding year.
- Mackey Arena: Is an absolute furnace for opponents. Yeah, I realize that Purdue has lost two at home this year, but my goodness, the atmosphere on Sunday was incredible. Well done, Purdue folks!
Opportunities for Improvement:
- 21.1%: From three against Wisconsin will get you beaten more often than not. Boilers squeaked away with one there.
- 30>29: Purdue was out rebounded by the Illini. The Boilermakers are the best rebounding team in the nation. Even though Illinois has exceptionally tall, athletic players, Purdue needs to have further discipline blocking out.
- 0%: Three point shooting from Purdue in the second half against Illinois. 0-6. When officials are allowing Edey to get feverishly beaten around the head, neck, and shoulders, someone needs to be able to knock down a shot.
Big Man on Campus:
Brandon Newman led the way in scoring against Illinois, but this isn’t about points. Brandon Newman is everything that we love about Boilermaker basketball. His effort. His grit. His stick-to-itiveness. His defense. His hustle.
Brandon Newman making the most out of his chance is everything. This is huge coming down the stretch.
Thank You, Purdue:
I want to speak for all of ISC Purdue and give our sincerest thank you to the Purdue Athletic Department. They have given us the opportunity to cover these events for the past few years, which allows us to pump out the Purdue content that you readers enjoy. Every athletics employee that we have worked with has been nothing but the best, excited to be there, and graciously helpful.
Whether it be football or basketball, home, away, or neutral; the Purdue Athletic Department has been a class act working with us at ISC. Mike Bobinski runs a tight ship, and we can’t thank Purdue enough for these opportunities.
25th Big Ten Championship Photo Gallery by Mark Elsner
A Look Ahead:
The (as of this writing) #5 Purdue Boilermakers are continuing to push towards a No. 1 Seed in the NCAA Tournament. Some “bracketologists” have Purdue as a 1. Others have Purdue as a 2. Either way, Purdue did what they needed to do this week… won twice.
The teams that are logically in the running for a 1 seed are: Houston, Alabama, Kansas, UCLA, and Purdue. Alabama and Kansas both lost this week, leading to an even more confusion for the top 4 seeds. Purdue -should- move up in the rankings? Who knows, anymore? It doesn’t really matter. The No. 1 seed in the NCAA couldn’t care less about what order the AP decides to rank them in.
As for the Boilermakers on the hardwood, the Big Ten Tournament is finally among us. What we know is, Purdue is the 1 seed for the conference tournament. They will Play the winner of the Rutgers vs Michigan (8/9) game. That is not the most fortuitous of first matchups, but Purdue has no choice. This game will take place on Friday in the first slot (12PM ET).
If the Boilermakers win on Friday, they will feed into the crowded winner of the Friday 1:30 game (The winner of the Ohio State, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan State battle royale). All teams which Purdue has beaten already this season. I will be there on Saturday (and Sunday if necessary) to bring you the best birds eye view that I can.
Can the Boilermakers add more hardware to this already decorated season? This weekend is another opportunity. Enjoy the ride folks!
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