Leading up to the selection of this year's NCAA tournament, we heard that the last ten games of the season wasn't as important as the entire body of work. But, as a Purdue fan, you couldn't help but wonder how important the last two games would be in the minds and hearts of those who decided our Boilers fate.
I've tried to think about what happened in Iowa City and then Indianapolis...I've looked at it passionately and in a completely-biased manner and tried to separate myself and view as an outsider might. The latter led me to ask one main question:
-Does a team that plays dominant defense simply forget how to play that part of the game?
The answer of course is no. And I believe the committee thought the same way. As a result, JJ, Smooge and Co. take one more step forward and land Purdue at a 3 seed just two hours North of West La La in Chicago. In my mind, it couldn't be much better the way Purdue finished.
I've heard it said that instead of being overwhelmed by the scope of the entire tournament, it's best to break it down to a few smaller weekend tourneys. So here's Purdue's first tournament this coming weekend in Chicago:
This mini-tourney looks pretty winnable to me. Obviously, Georgetown jumps off the page right away as the team in the way of getting out of the weekend, but before the second round, Purdue will play a team that I have never seen play a game. If you're like me, you want to get a little educated before Friday...so here goes.
Knows nothing about Purdue
St. Peter's College comes to the big dance by way of the MAAC, like Purdue's first round opponent in last year's tourne, Sienna (they miss Coach Fran, by the way). They've been to the NCAA tournament twice ('91 v. Texas, '95 v. UMAss) but have never won a game in the tourney. They finished in the upper middle of the conference, but obviously won the conference tourney (they upset Iona in the Championship). As little as I know about them, their coach, Jon Dunne, might know about the same about Purdue.
"Hopefully the staff has started watching film already, because we know nothing about Purdue"
That sounds like a good start for Purdue. Dunne's team thought they'd be a 15 seed and that they'd be playing UConn, UNC or another team that they had actually watched on TV...but instead, they end up playing some small school that no one knows about from Indiana (where is that anyway??).
St. Peter's Wesley Jenkins
They started off the season 0-3 as their leading scorer, Wesley Jenkins, couldn't play due to injury for nearly two months of this season. They don't have a win versus an RPI top-50 team and their best win of the season was their final game of the MAAC tourney as they beat the 70th-ranked Iona Gaels.
Their starting line-up has a pair of 6'7" forwards, one of them, Ryan Bacon, leads the team with 7.5 reb/gm. Their PG, Nick Leon, leads them in assists (3.1/gm). The guy who might create the most problems for Purdue is the 6'2" Wesley Jenkins who is a four years starter. Along with Jenkins, the Peacocks start two other Seniors and a pair of Sophomores. Their rotation is typically 8-deep and their Seniors play more than anybody.
They consider themselves a "scrappy" team that isn't fun to watch...something we Purdue fans can appreciate since Matty's squad has looked like that from time-to-time. They're a stout defensive team as they allow only 59.9 pts/gm (12th)...but at the same time, they struggle offensively scoring only 61.4 (315th).
We'll give our opinion on the match-up as the week progresses...you can draw your own conclusions for now.
Purdue ended the season with a CCR of 9.7.
Purdue is 11-5 versus the 9 teams they played during the season that made the tourney. And judging by MSU's seeding (10), they needed the throttling they gave to Purdue on Friday to get into the dance. The highest-seeded tourney opponent Purdue played is of course the number one overall aOSU Buckeyes. The lowest seeded is the 14th seeded Sycamores from ISU.
The most-surprising snub of this year's bracket to me is St. Mary's. They had wins over St. John's and Gonzaga, and were ranked for big chunks of the season. But a low RPI (45) and a ton of teams in that range probably forced them out.
From the Purdue family, Kevin Stallings Vandy squad got a 5 seed, Lavin's St. John's Red Storm landed at 6, Weber's Illini got a 9 seed. Cuonzo Martin's Missouri State team will be hosting Murray State in the NIT.
My favorite matchup of the entire first round is Kentucky v. Princeton. I love it when the tourney committee gets creative in their matchups. Go Tigers.