|Solid guard play|
It's tourney week and your Boilers are in their sixth consecutive NCAA tournament after their sixth consecutive 20-win season. They've also won 13 first round games in a row, with their last first round loss coming in 1993 to Rhode Island. They're playing St. Mary's in the first round.
This year's iteration of the Boilers, as a 10-seed, are one of those situations where I can honestly give you both a scenario to make you optimistic as well as a scenario that should make you go into a cold sweat. So what to do first?
Why You Should Be Excited
The Boilers are a ten-seed, sure. But I look at the 7, 8, 9 and 10 seeds as teams that the committee wasn't quite sure what to do with. There's almost always a serious sleeper in those seeds each year that feels slighted by the perceived underseeding. They're often a bunch of similarly matched teams so hey, let's have 'em play each other. I think the 8/9 and 7/10 games are as close to the play-in games (err, I'm sorry...First Round games) as you can get in the tourney. Or, further into the tourney. Shut up, NCAA, none of us really believe the Tues-Weds games are "first round games."
So I think the 7/10 game is similar to the 8/9 game with one big difference -- you won't have to face a 1-seed until the regional finals (Elite 8). This is huge, for a number of reasons. For one, the 1-seed could get bounced by then. The down side of course is that they may also be in their groove by then but hey, if your team advances all the way to the end of the second weekend, you've got to expect some tough games ahead. The 8/9 winner has to play the 1 right away, which is only good in the sense that maybe you catch them tired or looking past you, etc., and if you do beat them as the 8/9, you now have the 1's path to the Final Four. Not insignificant.
But back to being the 10. If you do advance, you play the 2 next. Twos are sometimes suspect, but the 2 Purdue would face is Kansas. The only things I would say that are in Purdue's favor here are that A) Bill Self's Kansas teams either go to the Final Four or poop themselves early in the tourney and B) Kansas has been challenged seriously by Mizzou this year. Mizzou is a senior-laden team that can get hot shooting. Sound familiar?
And after that, well, if the Boilers were to advance out of the first weekend, this suddenly becomes the best chance to advance to a Final Four since the 2000 team had to only beat an 8-seed in the regional finals to get there. You'd be looking at potentially playing teams like SDSU, Georgetown, Michigan, Temple, UNC, etc. Do any of those truly frighten you? And again, keep in mind that your boys are only taking on UNC if it's a Final Four trip on the line -- I'd take that deal right now, wouldn't you?
And what if...what if a 15 beat a 2 and Detroit moved on?
Why You Should Be Scurrred
Well, we're Purdue fans, right? We know what can happen when we're expecting/hoping for good things. Also, they are a double digit seed, which is never advantageous. You're going to need to topple higher seeds the whole time, unless some serious upsets occur.
There's also the ever-present possibility that the cold-shooting, non-hustling, zero-rebounding iteration of Purdue will show up. I am confident this isn't going to happen in light of the way this team seemed to really begin to figure things out late in the season, but you never know. Parts of this version of the Boilermakers were visible for a while in Bloomington and it was too much to overcome.
So do the Boilers advance? I think it's fair to expect this experienced Boilermakers team from the best conference in the land to defeat the winner of the 11th-best conference in the land. St. Mary's seems cocky (especially for a bunch of basketball-playing nuns) and that is good, in my opinion.
Boilerdowd and I were at St. Mary's most recent tournament game, in which they were slapped around by Baylor in Houston in 2010. That's the kind of dedication we have to scouting for you. What can we tell you from that? Not much.
This Gaels team is good, to be sure. Only five losses on the season tell you that, but they did lose to Denver and Loyola Marymount, while also being handled well by Baylor, Gonzaga and Murray State.
But those three are all tourney teams, you might hear a Gael fan tell you (if you can find one). And to that I say this....so is Purdue.