|Say goodbye to a legend|
Tom Pritchard and some other IU players will play their last game in one of college basketball's most-noteworthy venues surrounded by fans in pajama pants that will pretend they loved the guy. But if you're reading this Tom, and I know you are, I've got a secret for you- IU fans have never really liked you or the rest of this class...and judging by your minutes, neither has your coach.
But that's not the point of Sunday's game for us- Purdue is looking to improve its seeding at this point...and they're playing with the house's money. A few weeks ago, The Forces of Good were left for dead by many. Based on what I saw on the court versus this same IU team, I found it tough to believe that this team could find an identity, on offense or defense, and in turn would not get to the real tournament.
But they did...in a big way. This team now understands that they too have a formula for success...something they really didn't have in the beginning of last month. Perhaps it's Barlow's departure and the trappings surrounding it that helped this team bond...but I think differently.
I think the very same IU game, in which the Forehead's squad embarrassed Hummel and co. on Keady Court, was the turning point. The next contest, at one of Purdue's houses of horrors, aOSU, Purdue looked like a different team. They played at a high level, played together and didn't back down...a few things they hadn't done much of prior to that. The shellacking at the hands of the Candy Stripers might have been this team's Wofford moment- a watershed of sorts in which the players began to understand that if they didn't change, and in a hurry, they'd send Smith, LewJack and Hummel away from Purdue with an NIT season. Why wouldn't the IU game act as a wake-up call?
IU out-toughed Purdue, out-played them and out-worked them...at Mackey. That's unacceptable. And while losses at home versus Wisconsin and Michigan and a near-loss versus High Point should have been enough to wake up this team, they weren't. Injuries, crappy attitudes and effort and poor chemistry wouldn't let that happen. But the light bulb has come one.
Does that mean I expect a win at Ass. Hall on Sunday? Not really...but I like the odds a lot more than I did a short time ago.
IU is a different team at home this year...and really in most other seasons as well. It's a loud building with ghosts of great teams hanging in the rafters. Officials love the energy in there...and games in which IU shoots 25 or more free throws than their visitor happen (actually, one of those happened in the last four weeks).
So, Purdue will be playing one of the nation's best offensive teams in a tough venue, and they should enter the building firmly believing they'll be on their own that day. But the good news is this Purdue team is filled with fighters and guys with chips on their shoulders...the good news is, they're now all fighting for one cause instead of against one another.
Tip-off is at 6:00 on Sunday on BTN. Gus Johnson will probably be doing the game...that'll be yet another person in the building against Purdue. But, there's no better feeling for a Purdue player than beating IU in Ass. Hall...this guy knows something about that: