Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Love what you do, do what you love.

Maybe you feel like me right now...maybe not.  I'm torn.

Even in the closing seasons of Keady's time as head coach and Painter's first year, I loved the NCAA tournament...looked forward to it.  But this year, I'm looking past the tourney and am stoked for Spring football.  It's easy to love the potential of Coach Hazell's Boilermakers...it's tough right now for me to love basketball.

I'm not just talking about Purdue basketball...but that's the lynchpin that holds the whole thing together for me.

When Purdue's playing well, I have a voracious appetite for college basketball.  It's fun to watch ACC, SEC, Pac12 and other conferences because in a way, I feel like I'm scouting for March. Who will Purdue be paired with in the tournament, what do match-ups look like...who's peaking? Who's floundering?

Right now, it's not that way.  The immediate future for Purdue is filled with growing pains.  Purdue gets beaten up by cerebral teams (Northwestern) and they get lambasted by thoroughbreds.  If you find this season fun, you're a sadist.

I had lunch with one of my oldest friends yesterday and we talked a bit about basketball...he's of course a fellow Boiler.  We were both brainwashed by our parents to be Purdue fans...in fact, our Dads went to Purdue together before graduating in 1970 (they actually went to grade school and high school together too).  And years later, we attended Purdue at the same time.  We got to see very good basketball while we sat in the student section...And although we didn't say it yesterday, I think we both would love to see a team like the Glenn Robinson-led squad in the current B1G.  Instead, while the league is flourishing and the good ole days seem to have returned for the best basketball conference, Purdue is a mere shell of itself this season, and it's easy to see why.

The things that have defined Purdue for most of my life are nowhere to be found. No tough defense, no fundamentals, no fight.  Youth does not equal not trying...youth does not equal shooting freethrows poorly...youth does not equal players not liking each other very much.

And there it is...there it all is.  It seems to me that this Purdue team's problems are simple...but extremely difficult to solve.

Let me be clear- I don't have ANY insider information, but this is my theory. This is just based on what I've observed from the cheap seats and at home.  Body language of the leaders varies between apathetic and flat-out pissed off.  These guys know what it's like to play on a team that has chemistry.  They know what it's like to have fun playing this game. They know what it's like to be a part of something greater than just a bunch of individuals with the same shirts on...and they know that this team isn't really a team at all, at this point.

And while I'll continue to go to games and cheer for good things to happen, the hours after many of the remaining games might have me asking, "Why do I keep doing this to myself?"  The players aren't enjoying themselves...how can the fans?

If you feel motivated, you're welcome to offer me perspective.

The other day on the Knucklehead Board, a fan said this season reminded him of the 1989 team.  There's a bit of an interesting parallel with that team- It was in the wake of the Stephens, Lewis, Mitchell teams...Those three led Purdue to two-straight Big Ten titles and were highly ranked in both their Junior and Senior seasons.  Sure, Hummel's redshirt year kinda blows the comparison up, but I can see the point.

That '89 team finished sub-.500 for the year.  That's only one of three times that's happened in the past 35 years...and I think we're watching the fourth.  But, that '89 team had some of the same problems.  They had a few guys who later played in the NBA on that roster...but they also had some guys who thought they were above the system and above the team.

Based on some of Painter's comments and substitution patterns, it seems there are a few of those guys on the roster right now as well.

By the way, in 1990, Matt Painter was a Freshman on the team...that team had a Senior (Sheffler) who helped lead the team to part of a Big Ten title and 22 wins.

Every team is different...personalities, talent, coaching...all very fluid.  But what we know is this Purdue team needs to change the way it does things.  And while changes this season probably won't lead to a difference in March, they will set a precedent for next season.

Purdue has another chance to do things differently tonight at Illinois.  The Illini are suddenly hot as they've beaten IU and Minnesota in consecutive games.  This Illinois team seems to rise to the occasion of ranked foes, and tends to let down their guard versus sub-par teams.  That said, I have a feeling they'll be ready and are hungry to stop the 8-game losing streak versus Purdue.  I don't believe any player on Illinois' roster has ever beaten Purdue. I'm sure those guys want to change that.

Tip-off is at 9:00 eastern on BTN.

15 comments:

CalTravelGuy said...

Every good program deserves a pass and every good coach can surely have ONE pass as well. This season is going to end with Purdue having 14 or 15 wins. That is unacceptable by every standard and metric you can think of. There are signs that Purdue's basketball program is falling behind. Certainly no longer a Top 25 caliber program, Purdue is at best, an afterthought to college basketball fans. So Purdue and Coach Painter get to use their "pass" this season. I have no desire to pile on at this point. My message is simple... FIX IT. Fix it fast.

BoilerWhat said...

I totally agree with the beginning of your write up. Thinking about March is a buzz kill right now. I usually take at least one afternoon off for the tournament. I have no intention of doing so this year.

The lack of chemistry tells me someone eligible for next year won't be returning.

L2F said...

This team really needs a strong, likble personality ala Kramer and Lew Jack. Guys like that have a way of bringing everyone together.

L2F said...

This team really needs a strong, likble personality ala Kramer and Lew Jack. Guys like that have a way of bringing everyone together.

Boilergal said...

I'm with you... ready to move on from this season. Even as recently as 2-3 weeks ago, I was enjoying parts of the season. I was enjoying watching some of the guys grow, there was a period where the team really looked to put forth effort that resembled most other Purdue teams. At this point, though, I am ready for the offseason and I hope those returning players are ready to work on their games in the offseason. As far as this year's March Madness, I am sure I will watch, but I am really just ready for it to be over. Knowing how Purdue always works, though, I am sure these guys will find a way to reel me back in to caring more before the season is over. Perhaps it is with a win tonight or Saturday (ha, I know), but Purdue usually over the course of a game or the course of a season has a way of reeling me back in just to kick me in the stomach one last time.

Kodiak33 said...

I've got tickets to the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 in Indy...I'm looking forward to being hammered for the weekend since either (probably) IU, Michigan, or MSU will be the #1 seed.

zlionsfan said...

My first senior year was 1988-89. I think it's a really good comparison based on how I felt then and how I feel now ... the only difference being that the 1987-88 team would have been a better match for two years ago.

Coming into the season, we'd gone from the high of a #1 seed to the intense disappointment of an unexpected loss. (Of course it spared the Boilers the chance of another loss to Cheatin' Larry Brown ...) Like this year, non-conference play was sketchy. (Kansas State? Why? Why? Why?) Early in conference play, it became clear that we'd missed the Big Three more than we realized; as the season progressed, it went from "probably won't make the tournament" to "no way we'll make the tournament" (no Big Ten tournament at the time, remember) to "the NIT sucks anyway."

Like this year, the Big Ten was loaded: although only half the conference made the NCAA tournament, four of them reached the Sweet 16, and of course Michigan beat Illinois in the Final Four on its way to their lone championship. So the rebuilding year probably looked worse than it really was because of the quality of the in-conference opposition.

Keady didn't really put things together again for five years after that. Yeah, the 1989-90 squad won 22 games, but the next three years were blah by Purdue standards. If the wolves had been at the door after I graduated (the 1990-91 team went 17-12), they would have broken it down the following year ... and then who knows? Maybe there's no Robinson. Maybe there's no regional final.

Keady's teams won 20 or more games six of the next seven years after that down period, and won at least one NCAA game every year. (In fact, the 1992-93 team is the last to lose a first-round game.)

Virtually every major-conference school goes through times like this. They suck, sure. But there aren't a lot of alternatives. Even if you land a genius coach, there's no guarantee he'll be able to avoid these years ... and I think the consensus here is that we'd rather have coaches who work to build teams the right way (we hope; you have to go by what you hear and what you see), rather than do what some other schools are doing to patch holes like the ones that Johnson, Moore and Hummel left.

It's a school you love, but things aren't going well right now. There's nothing wrong with stepping away for a bit, focusing on other things, and looking forward to November. (Or September. Or spring football. Or whatever other Purdue sports you follow.)

And one other thing: in 1989-90, I had really good tickets. A lot of students bailed after the 16-loss season; I would guess some other fans did as well. If you're in for the long haul, take advantage of the opportunity. (As much as the ticket office will let you; I think we've already covered our concerns about the new ticket policies.)

Brotherman85 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brotherman85 said...

"It's not who you play but when you play them." - Gene Keady

U-P Boiler said...

This is one season. One terribly confusing confusing season.

It seldom happens. If it happens again next year, I'll be VERY concerned. But right now I'm just disappointed.

I have heard rumors about bad chemistry, some personal challenges off the court. Hopefully if there are some bad apples on the team they'll be gone next year, and some personal lives will be in better order on the bench.

Again, if we see a repeat next year, then I think there's cause for a lot of concern. But I think this team deserves a pass for this disappointing season.

Ryan said...

I don't like the term "pass" here...if you give young guys that they're not accountable, it's not a good thing. I think it's better to say it's unacceptable and must be changed, as Cal said.

zlionsfan said...

I think we're all pretty much on the same page, but just saying things differently; please correct me if I'm wrong.

The distinction I draw is between Painter and individual players. Painter (and by extension, Burke) should get a pass for a bad season, as they'll happen from time to time. Following this season with no improvement, or with continued problems among players (particularly new players), would be cause for concern.

Individual players need to buy into the system or be released to a program that will accommodate them better (as we saw last year with Barlow). They shouldn't get a pass for attitude, lack of effort, etc. (Simple performance issues are different: I don't think anyone's talking about booting a kid for not being skilled, but you would expect someone who is not playing up to his potential to be working on his problem areas.)

conk said...

My overall basketball fandom is down right now....burned out on the petty foul calls, excessive timeouts, and thugs beating their chest when they hit a layup. I'm only looking forward to March Madness cause we'll be partying the whole first weekend. I will be thoroughly intoxicated and learning the fight song to whoever IU, aO$U, and UK are playing.

Right now, I'm more interested in our quarterback battle. BTFU

WinamacBoiler said...

I'm not sure what's more impressive (read: masochistic); that you continue to write about this team, or that people like us continue to read about it.

Wow - that was painful to watch...

boilerdowd said...

I'll take that as a compliment, Winamac...painful stuff indeed.