The change in culture
Last night was not fun. Not just because Purdue got smoked by MSU, but also because I had to sit on I65 for over two hours on the way home from the loss.
Many of you follow us on Twitter...many of you were even in the same situation during your drive...and while misery loves company, knowing that others were in the same predicament didn't offer me much solace.
I did like watching Stephens confidently step up on offense while playing sound defense...I enjoyed watching RonJohn drop dimes in the form of wrap-around passes and crafty misdirections off of extra-fancy dribble. I didn't like watching multiple Purdue players miss lay-ups...I hated seeing Purdue rotate slowly and give up open three pointer after open three pointer...and I detested watching many Purdue players return to a brand of emotionless basketball in which they take their beating without even a murmur of protest.
It was fun watching Purdue be the bully versus IU...but in hindsight, all that game shows me is how bad IU is when they're not mentally dialed in...AND how frustrating Purdue is this season since they simply can't play two good games in a row.
Over on the Knucklehead Board a sickening stat was brought up. Our Boilers are 3-23 in the last 26 games versus ranked opponents. That record goes back to 2011...and one of those three wins was against an Illinois team that was barely in the top-25 at the tip-off of that contest...and the Illini never returned to the rankings after Purdue's win against them.
The really bad news about this record is that it's emblematic of the change of culture that's occurred within the Purdue fanbase during that same timeframe. This is a tough pill to swallow for me.
When Purdue is on the road or even at the once-friendly confines of Mackey Arena, Purdue fans no longer expect their squad to win games versus good teams...and I'm included in that group. Call me what you want in this case, but it's pretty tough to think of roses, lollipops and victories knowing what we now know too well.
Blame isn't worth much as to why the state of the program is as it is right now...but facts are facts. My pal J joked that he needed some context for the 3-23 record...so we laugh uncomfortably to try to deal with our existence as Purdue fans. We follow a team that not only isn't involved in the conversation at the top of the conference, it doesn't belong anywhere near that talk.
We can't say this culture has changed quickly...in fact, the slide has been glacial...slow developing...painful. What's worse is that you can hear spin, damage control and (*sigh*) management of expectations when you listen to some Purdue fans, media outlets and people even closer to the program on Twitter as they look ahead to next season: The outlook for '15 isn't great either.
Two straight NCAA tourney-less seasons and as we begin to look ahead to another season, there's not much hope we'll be watching a shoe-in for the tournament or a ranked Purdue squad. I implore my fellow Boilers to try to convince why or how this is acceptable. It surely isn't enjoyable.
It was great hearing Glenn Robinson talk about his fond feelings of Purdue last night during halftime...but as a guy who was on campus for Robinson's final season, all I could think of was how long ago the '94 season really was...and how the 2011 season is starting to feel like ancient history as well. Clearly, the students already think this way as the Paint Crew has consistently been 20-30% empty this season...and as their interest wanes, Mackey becomes less and less difficult of a place to play for opposing teams and the downward cycle continues.
At this point, I'm just hoping that Purdue can scratch and claw its way to an NIT bid. Who would have thought in 2011 we'd be talking that way for one, two, or perhaps even more seasons.