Ignore the tiny gym.
Ignore the lack of significant TV coverage.
Ignore the crappy production value of the telecasts.
Ignore the horribly-cheesy local TV commercials aimed at would-be tourists from the Mainland.
Ignore the sometimes-hot, sometimes-meh sideline reporter who's trying her damndest to be Erin Andrews.
Ignore the guy presenting the Championship trophy and reading the notecard on the back of the trophy.
Ignore that same guy's 13 year old daughter on the court for the presentation for no apparent reason.
And finally, ignore what is surely the worst-looking Championship trophy to ever be crafted.
The basketball is what really counts...and Purdue earned three more victories in St. Thomas in the last five days. The games stairstepped nicely, and so did Purdue's intensity...and this week, we Purdue fans get to smile a bit, even if most of America doesn't know why.
Let's make no mistake, Tennessee is a talented team...and Bruce Pearl has had a lot of success as a college basketball coach. Sure, I still don't respect the SEC too much, but I'm not discounting Purdue's opponent. The Vols are comprised of a handful of former five-star recruits, another handful of 4-star recruits and a few role players for good measure. This team had averaged 92 pts/game over their first four and seemed deserving of their top-10 ranking heading into the game versus our Boilers.
But coming in, I thought their lack of discipline and poor decision-making would end up giving the Boilers the win. In the end, it did, as Chism, UT's 10th-year starter took an ill-advised 20 footer when all the Vols needed was a two-pointer to win. Hummel rotated, attempted to get a hand in his face and the shot was rebounded by Barlow as the clock hit 0:00...And the good guys won, 72-73.
So how'd they do it? It wasn't really how I thought it would happen- Purdue shot the three ball very-poorly...yet again, with Hummel leading the chorus of bricks by shooting 1 of 6. I'll give credit where it's due- Tennessee had a lot to do with that as their players are long and contest a ton of shots.
On top of poor three-point shooting, Purdue shot their free throws poorly as well only making 73%...and once-again, the typically ice-water veined Hummel missed an important one down the stretch. The emerging Freshman Kelsey Barlow did a ton correctly on Monday night...but shooting standing 15-footers wasn't one of those things. He and Hummel could have put the game away from the line, but didn't.
Both of Purdue's big men who played fouled out...and three other Purdue players had 3 fouls with a lot of basketball yet to be played.
It was a sloppy, and kind-of-ugly, but hard-fought game. According to Clisby, the two teams began jawing at eachother at the hotel in the morning...and nearly came to blows a few times in the game. Even Painter and Pearl were yelling at eachother in the closing minutes of the game. And while I love to see fire from players and coaches, I really would have liked to have seen Purdue keep their collective heads cooler.
Bruce Pearl is a buffoon...a loud-mouthed, profusely-sweating jack who has become a caricature of himself. But, before this tournament, I had no idea his Dad is Telly Savalas...thanks to FCS for focusing in on Pearl's Dad over, and over, and over.
It seems to me, the worst thing you can do when confronted with a group of malcontents is let them know they're affecting you. Purdue didn't rise above their garbage and instead became part of it...so the game was closer than it should have been, in my opinion. No matter, the better team won and stayed unbeaten.
If one play sums up Purdue's effort, it's this one:
It wasn't at all pretty, but it was effective...and it was gritty. This uber-intense game, in spite of the small-time venue, had the feel of one with bigger stakes. I think both teams wanted to make a statement to the nation that they were for real...and honestly, both wanted that kick-ass trophy.
I know a few people who have visited the board in the last week or so dismissed the importance and relevance of this tourney...but remember, the 2008 champ was none-other than the UConn Huskies.
Hopefully Purdue's victory this evening was a foreshadowing of a big-time victory leading to a final four...What we know it was is the first of many reached goals for Matty's club in '09/'10.
Smooge rightfully-received the tourney's MVP award. Sure, according to much of the media, Moore is forgotten, but not to his teammates. Many of them called 'Twaun the best player on the team coming into the season, and he showed why, especially versus UT. In particular, in the last five minutes, he assessed a mismatch as Chism switched onto him on defense...Smooge crossed over and pulled up just outside of the paint with a big-time shot that he drained. He ended with 22 points and shot 50%. Moore averaged 18 points/gm for the tournament.
I liked a lot of what we saw the last three games...from Ryne Smith asserting himself, to Kelsey Barlow's increased role...this was a good trip for our Boilers. But, our Boilers will get much, much better as they begin to work toward their second, and slightly-more important Championship of the '09/'10 season.
Ignore the tiny gym.