Monday, March 11, 2013

Big Ten Tourney Time -- Bet You Didn't Think You'd Care

And so here we are. Tom Crean has acted like a jackass for the final time in the regular season, the standings are set and Purdue has finished better than any of us would have predicted a mere 2-3 weeks ago. At that time, it looked like the Boilers were circling the drain, heading towards one of those early Thursday conference tourney games where you're on the team bus heading home before most of the fans have even found their seats. Not a great situation from a program visibility perspective.

However, the Boilermakers -- in true Matt Painter fashion -- just kept swimming and never quit (like so many of us fans did) on the season. Their reward? Well, only a 15-16 finish, but a hard-earned 7-seed in the BTT and a hell of a final week, in which they upended Wisconsin in the Kohl, had a double-digit second half lead on #7 Michigan and walloped 20-win Minnesota on Senior Day.

After losing 5 of 6 in a two-and-a-half week span (all by double digits) from Jan 30-Feb 16 that included two hammerings from the Hoosiers and a truly listless performance at Northwestern on Feb 2, the season looked bleak to say the least. Amid the downward spiral, Matty lost his composure at Illinois and got tossed for the first time in his coaching career. The Boilers then lost by 28 on  Feb 16 at Ass Hall, stood at 12-14 and looked like they were ready for the season to be over.

Then a funny thing happened -- we're not privy to the details of what goes on at practice or behind closed doors, but the Boilermakers regrouped and appeared to refocus. To our eyes, it looked like Matt Painter finally had enough and told the young, talented guys who were getting lots of playing time that it would now work like this: those who work hard and listen to the coaching staff will get to play -- those who don't do those things will see their minutes reduced.

The Boilers then went out and destroyed Northwestern by 31 (a game that included Sandi starting over Hammons and Dru Anthrop logging a career-high 17 minutes),  kicking off a 3-2 finish to the Big Ten season that included a 13 point road win at Wisky and the fun Senior Day from Saturday.

What does it say about a team that can get bludgeoned by double-digits on a regular basis, but then when they do win, they win by double digits? You can't simply explain it all away with youth, I don't think. Young, bad teams get battered in this manner, but their wins are usually squeakers or final minute nail-biters. The Boilers -- for as lousy as a season as this has been at times -- have won games by 29, 26, 12 (at Clemson), 33, 10, 18, 27 (vs WVU), 31, 13 and 14. And I only left out five games, you'll note. So the Boilers won 2/3 of their victories by double-digits, including 50% of their conference wins. My rambling point? There is still a lot to be excited about here, in case you were wavering. When these Boilers win, it's because they shoot well, rebound well and play committed defense. Their FT shooting is still suspect and will likely be their downfall, in this year and beyond. But some of the fundamentals of being a good basketball team are in place -- and the thing that has been a thorn this year (youth and inexperience) will begin to pay dividends as early as next fall.

The BTT tournament bracket is out and it will take a win the Boilers should get (Neb) followed by one that would be a challenge (OSU) to get them into NIT talk. While stretching for the NIT is often something we might mock, a couple extra weeks of competitive basketball might be great for this group that seems to have finally figured a few things out.

If nothing else, this should be one more example of how Matt Painter never stops working, and doesn't allow his charges to stop working, either.

12 comments:

zlionsfan said...

It would be great to finish strong and secure an NIT bid ... not just for some extra competition for the guys who have earned it, but because it's cheaper.

You know what I didn't know? You pay to play in the CBI. Ticket guarantees ... just like bowl games. (No word as to whether or not that money is spent the way bowl officials spend theirs.)

J Money said...

Couldn't the Boiled Sports staff put together a team and enter the CBI?

zlionsfan said...

It depends on how well a five-guard offense would work. If I were the point, the answer would be "not well".

boilerbugle said...

So we're not allowed to talk about what happens if they win the Tournament?

Jessica M said...

If you told me three weeks ago I would be excited about Purdue's run in the Big Ten Tourney, I would have laughed in your face. Regardless, I like what I've seen from this Boiler team as of late.

And as always, Tom Crean is an asshat. What is the point of saying the things he said?

CalTravelGuy said...

Nebraska will beat Purdue and bring this hideous season to an end.

boilerbeck said...

The ironic thing about Tom Crean saying that stuff is that if Sampson and his asst. didn't "wreck the program", Crean would not be coaching IU right now. He should be thanking them for doing that.

conk said...

Any more rumors about transfers? Lawson hasn't been playing at all. I figure he's gone. Hopefully Hammons and Davis stay because this could be a really good team next year.

BoilerWhat said...

Conk - where's Davis going? Better not be going anywhere. This guy seems to the glue that will bring the 2012 and 2013 classes together. Great student. Great kid.

J Money said...

Bugle -- if they win the BTT, they will be a double-digit seed and I could even see them having to play in one of the play-in games.

zlionsfan said...

I'm not even sure they'd be seeded that high. 16 losses, an RPI no better than 100 even after those wins (one of which would be over Nebraska, hardly a boost) ... if you look at the profiles of the projected 12-seed play-ins now, I think all four are better than Purdue's.

I'm not sure that the non-16-seed play-in games are intended for tournament winners: it may just be convention, but so far (not that it's been that long) they've only involved at-large teams.

In 2009, a weak Mississippi State won the SEC tournament and got a #13 seed, then got whacked by Washington in the first round. They had a better record (23-12) but a weaker schedule ... still, I think they're similar to our hypothetical tournament champions. Even rolling through the #2-#3-#1 seeds on the way to the conference crown wouldn't get them above a 12.

Mark said...

I think we got the best possible seeding for the BTT.

We match up very well against Nebraska, and I think we match up against O$U better than the other 1st tier teams.

If IU gets knocked off, we seriously could find our way to the title game and/or the crown the way we've played these last few games...

Wow...who would've believed it 2-3 weeks ago!?!