Matt Painter Hits His Ceiling; Boilers Bludgeoned in Round of 16, 98-66

Matt Painter Hits His Ceiling; Boilers Bludgeoned in Round of 16, 98-66

(Photo credit: Trevor Mahlmann)

I can speak for many of us when I say I didn’t want this to end. And not just because, like, of course you don’t want your team’s tourney run to end…but also because it’s just been fun. These guys are so likable and so easy to pull for. They came into the season with expectations and I’d say they may have even exceeded some of those. Winning the conference outright, Caleb Swanigan being Big Ten POY…those are nice memories and as we’ve talked about here at BS, this team has something to be remembered by – a conference title. And now they also have a Sweet 16 appearance. However, the dream season with another couple days of Caleb Swanigan human interest stories will not happen, as Matt Painter’s Purdue teams cannot advance past the Sweet 16.

Now, to be fair, Painter’s Sweet 16 teams have lost to eventual Final Four teams each time. (UConn in 2009, Duke in 2010 and damn, if Kansas doesn’t move on, I’ll be shocked.) But the fact remains, this is beginning to feel more and more like Matt Painter’s ceiling. He’s got a pretty loaded team out there, with a couple guys (at least) who will play in the NBA. It’s almost alarming how much you can predict how Painter’s teams will come out in these games. Typically, they will appear very well-prepared and there will be a solid gameplan. They’ll have studied the weaknesses of their opponent and will relentlessly attempt to exploit those openings early on. Teams short on talent or with mediocre coaching will not be able to recover and Purdue will cruise to victory. Kansas is not one of those teams.

Kansas is in the other bucket…teams that will recover, make adjustments and begin to take advantage of what Purdue gives them. Purdue, on the other hand, won’t be able to adjust very much and once they get rattled, they appear to stay rattled. It takes steady hands like PJ and Caleb in the Iowa State game to get the guys back under control. But when it’s a wave of talent coming at them the way Kansas is capable of bringing it, it can get ugly in a hurry. 51-26 in the second half.

Or put another way, Purdue led 33-25 after a three by Vincent Edwards with 6:50 to go in the first half.

It was 73-33 Kansas after that. Mercy.

In fact, Kansas did not lead until there was 4:38 to go in the first half. To go that long trailing and win by 32 is….amazing.

Purdue came out of the gate looking confident and certainly not wide-eyed and unprepared. They shot very well from the start and while Biggie seemed to be a little off, it appeared Purdue was going to attempt to play Kansas’ game from the perimeter. This, predictably, could not last. Isaac Haas did come into the game and was able to get some easy buckets by using his considerable size advantage, but once Purdue went a bit cold from outside and Kansas began feeling themselves, the rout was kind of already on. As Michael said to us in the BS Voxer chat, the lead was only seven because the half ended.

Purdue attempted to come out strong to start the second half and in just over a one minute span, they hit three treys (two from Biggie and one from PJ) to cut the Kansas lead to 53-51 with 16:31 to go. It would never be that close again.

The Good, Bad and Ugly

Clearly, Purdue’s final 26 minutes was mostly ugly. Also, the fact that Biggie didn’t have a FG attempt for the final fifteen minutes of the first half. I realize the threes were mostly dropping and Haas was having some success, but it seems criminal to not be using your POY.

There was some bad in this game, too. Ryan Cline was abused on defense, though he did go 3/4 from the floor and 2/3 from three land. Dakota was lost again on the offensive end, only hitting one shot and finishing with three points. When your team is heralded as having great outside shooting and two of your trigger men aren’t firing very often, it sort of takes that advantage away. Carsen also had one of his worst games at Purdue, going an unsightly 1/10 from the floor and 0/5 from three. He only turned the ball over twice (Caleb had 6and Purdue had 16) but just wasn’t his usual bolt of energy.

Purdue only went to the line 12 times in this game and the only starter who attempted a free throw was Caleb Swanigan, who was 3/5 from the stripe.

On the good side of the ledger, LaSalle “PJ” Thompson was 5/9 from the floor for 12 points, while also grabbing three rebounds and nabbing three steals. I love PJ. Isaac came off the bench (probably for the last time at Purdue) and also went 5/9 from the floor for 11 points. He only had one rebound, though, which contributed to Purdue getting outworked on the boards by a smaller team, 36-29.

And, of course, Biggie had a good game while not up to his usual standards of excellence. He had 18 points on 6/11 shooting, including 3/4 from deep. He did not have another double-double, but he did have seven rebounds, four assists and a steal.

Bye Bye, Biggie?

Was this it for Caleb Swanigan in a Purdue uniform? Many think so, but I would imagine it will be driven by what he learns about his draft potential. Just as Aneesh used to tell us he expected AJ to leave because he was old for a college student, Biggie is just 19 years old. Might he be best served by coming back for one more year and leading a Purdue team that would be in the top 5 to start the season and likely all year? Selfishly, of course, we would advocate for this. For Biggie, though, we’ll always be fan and will do our best to be understanding if this was indeed the end. If it was, we already miss him. He was terrific.

What’s Next?

It’s very easy to say that losing to a spectacularly talented and explosive Kansas team in the round of 16 after a conference title-winning season is an acceptable, fun season. However, a thrashing like this of course hurts and, like it or not, does not help put to rest the questions about how far Matt Painter can take this program. Maybe this is it…maybe this really is the ceiling.

Next year’s team is going to be really good and really, really fun. I’m already excited about it, but if this was the end for Biggie, it’s hard to imagine Purdue advancing further without that man-child.

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2017 WNCAA Viewing Guide: Regional Semifinals

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