Georgetown just got done doing what Georgetown do: Bowing out of the tournament early. The end result is NC State is heading to St. Louis to play the winner of Purdue v. Kansas.
Now let me tell you what I think about this evening's match-up (Look away if you have a weak stomach):
This game is about match-ups...and here's what we know. Purdue's two victories versus ranked opponents came against UM and St. Mary's. Both teams used guard play as the strength that led them to a ton of wins. Our Boilers have few problems when playing guard-happy teams. They have good defensive and offensive players in the backcourt who can play against anybody...in the frontcourt, the story changes.
Here are some teams that controlled Purdue from wire to wire in one or more contests this season: Alabama, MSU, aOSU and IU. What do they all have in common? Good big men...athletic, long, strong players who Purdue simply has no answer.
So here comes Kansas.
They have not one, but two skilled big guys in their starting line-up. One is a player of the year candidate, the other gobbles up space and averages nearly 10 points, 7 boards and 3 blocks. So who guards Robinson and Withey? I have no idea.
My guess is that we'll see Hummel, Byrd, Carroll, Marcius and Lawson all try to juggle Kansas' large pair. And I also think this group effort will yield a pretty big struggle as none of them are great match-ups for Robins and Withey. Byrd's not big enough, Hummel's not quick enough, Carroll's not strong-enough, Marcius isn't skilled enough and Lawson has a hard time finding position in the post. If we could combine all of them, we might have a pair of formidable post players; sadly I don't think we have the technology to do that just yet.
So, methinks it'll take some hot shooting- something we haven't seen in a few games, to just keep it close. Byrd, Smith and Hummel are all due for a good game offensively...especially Smith and Hummel. But there are no guarantees...One thing that Purdue can control though is being smart on offense. They can make the extra pass (I'm talking to you, Robbie), not take hasty threes out of the flow of the offense (I'm talking to you, DJ) and let the game come to you (I'm talking to you, Ryne).
It can happen...Purdue can go to the sweet 16; we've seen the underdog come through time and again during this tournament. But there's a reason those games are exciting- they're rare and unexpected, even at this time of year.
Kansas is a a team that hauls in 4 and 5-star athletes with regularity and sends them off to the league just as quickly. On this year's Jayhawk starting line-up, there are probably three future NBA players. They've been ranked between 3 and 7 for the last 12 weeks or so. The RPI likes them as much as humans- they landed at 6 at the end of the season. And while rankings don't really matter, their #2 seeding puts them in exactly the place they should be this Spring; among the elite of the nation.
Our Boilers on the other hand struggled for much of the season to figure out who they were and how to play together. This 4 month game of grab ass reaped a 10 seed. Sure, our Boilers played their best ball in the last month, there's no question about that, but no one called Purdue elite in '11-'12. All this means is that Purdue has nothing to lose and everything to gain.
|Purdue's Captains might be holding all the cards|
Some (myself included) might argue that Purdue is already playing with the house's money...and is already ahead. Winning one game in the tourney (let alone two) is really a gift...and as a fan, I'm pretty pleased with my alma mater's basketball team already. I'm positive that Matty isn't as pleased as I am...and his three Seniors are probably more motivated than they've been in the last four years to defy the odds; something they've already done a few times.
That said, Ryne, LewJack, Robbie and co. are sitting in the perfect place to sneak up on some people- hopefully they do just that to Kansas. Tip-off is in just under 5 hours, at 8:40.