Alright...T-Minus 5 hours until tip-off. After days of anticipating this afternoon like a fourth grader looking forward to the roller skating party (I grew up in the 80s), it's almost here. I love the tournament when Purdue's in it, I love it when they're left out. But, all is right in my universe when my Boilers make a run and are in the spotlight. So, how long will they be around this time, here's what we think:
The Boilermakers win it. The Boilermakers win it. Oh my God, The Boilermakers win it! I can't believe it!
What's the score? No idea. I just can't see them losing to Baylor. Yes, the Bears have made a nice come back from the shock of having one player murder another. They've got a good group of recruits in place. I just don't think they're as good as Purdue. Purdue is fully rested and they recognize the importance of getting off to a good start. If that means slowing it down and waiting until you get a good look, then so be it. I think in the end it will be the Boilermaker defense that gets the job done.
Baylor is coming off a loss to a Colorado team that went just 3-13 in the Big 12 and finished the season with 20 losses. Will they rebound? I don't think so. I think they're just happy to be in the dance at this point.
Purdue on the other hand has the valuable experience of being in a tight race right down to the finish. They understand what that pressure is like better than Baylor. Sure, they didn't win the race, but the experience is certainly valuable in itself.
I'm nervous about this game, too. But I'm always nervous about games like this. I've been nervous ever since '96 and the near-loss to 16-seed Western Carolina. I hate watching my own teams in things like this... early rounds are scary. If we advanced a couple rounds, then it would be fun and everything would be gravy... but right now: scary.
The Bears of Baylor are indeed an improved team and they actually had a similar trajectory to the Boilers this season. They were getting a lot of press here in Texas earlier in the season and it was a great story about a program that hadn't been good in a while (and, of course, had the tragedy Tim mentioned) coming into its own and doing well. Coach Drew deserves a lot of credit.
All that said, I tend to agree with Tim. The Boilers are rested and ready to go. While I would not at all be shocked if they lose to Baylor, I am putting my faith in Matty Painter. He got the Boilers ready to play last year in the first round in a tough 8-9 matchup against Arizona. And then they gave Florida all they could handle in the second round... I credit Coach Painter for a lot of this. Preparation is huge in the tourney and I think for a change, a Purdue team has preparation on their side.
Boilers win by 15.
I've read about the Bears quite a bit this week. On Sunday night, they sounded tough to me...By now, it feels to me like Purdue will be facing the UCLA Bruins from the late 60s. So, I'm clearly not in a state to make an accurate, level-headed prediction. I of course, will do so anyway.
My thoughts on Kramer & Grant's injury are unchanged despite Purdue's 6-day layoff. I think both of these guys are extremely important...especially since Baylor's guard play is so sound and they have so many players that are threats to score. Kramer's knee, wrist, back, (etc.) and Grant's knee are probably feeling nearly unbearable to them at this point. So, since Purdue's defense makes the offense go, I think our Boilers will lose.
I look for Moore and Hummel to continue to play well offensively, but Baylor's firepower to simply be too much for Purdue to keep up with. I have a feeling Baylor will be shredding Purdue's defense in the last five minutes of the game as Grant & Kramer's bodies fail them as mine does every day. Baylor wins by about 8 points.
For Purdue to win it will take multiple 20-point efforts and Calasan to pitch in 10-or-more. Plus, Purdue simply must hit about 75% of their free throws as a team. IF Purdue can win, I'm a firm believer they can beat Xavier as they mightily struggle with tall swing guards. But I don't think we'll need to worry about it.
Hey, we're on God's time right now, I predicted our Boilers to be in the NIT this season. Let's enjoy what's remaining of the season...and have a great time soaking up the most fun time of the year.