Matthew, Have a Seat
Hi, Matt, come on in. Have a seat. Let’s talk. Sure, you can bring the bear claw. Yes, yes, I love them, too. And yes, elephant ears, too. And Boston Creams are good, yes, yes. But let’s talk about something else.
The tournament begins for you and the boys tonight. Everyone is a little jumpy. A bit nervous. Why? Oh, well, I mean yes, I know you guys won the conference this year. It’s not about that. It’s not that anyone thinks you’re not a good coach. But you’re a good “big picture” coach. You’re a good recruiter (when you focus on it) and you get teams ready for the long haul and set your sights on conference significance. And we’re proud of that, we all really are.
But it’s the tournaments, Matt. Something has got to be done about the tournaments.
I know Purdue had a streak not long ago where they won the most consecutive first round games of anyone. But that’s kind of ancient history now. Your last NCAA tournament win was in 2012. And the past two years….hooboy. Blowing late – and significant – leads to Cinci two years ago and then Ark-LR last year…well, that’s two in a row, and so you’re sort of starting a different streak now.
Having AJ Hammons play for you for four years and not win a tourney game is kind of….not good. There are some people scratching their heads at how Cuonzo collected such talent at Cal and then couldn’t even make the tourney this year – and yet landed a sweet gig in Missouri. You really don’t want to be one of those coaches where people wonder how you continue to do not so much with some good talent.
Speaking of talent, you’ve got a national POY candidate on your roster now, probably only for however many more games you survive this season. No run this year would mean a second consecutive – and overlapping – NBA player came through Purdue without tourney success. Oh and hey, you might even have another one or two on your current roster who will play professionally someday.
So what am I saying? I mean… I’m sort of saying that the time is now.
You’ve got a relatively loaded roster, you have big men, you have upperclassmen…you even have a favorable draw, as far as draws go. You get to play in Milwaukee and then only as far as Kansas City. You get to play a Vermont team with nobody taller than me and then an Iowa State team that, frankly, if you play to seed you should beat. And then you’re in the Sweet 16, where you’re always going to play somebody good but hey, if you’re there… then the pressure of losing early is off. And you’re just one win away from being further than you’ve ever been – and two wins from the promised land.
I’m not trying to say it will be easy – it never is. But nothing worth having in life ever comes easily.
Matt, you’re one of ours and we’ll always appreciate the fact that you represent Purdue well, don’t embarrass us and tend to have pretty likable guys on your teams. You win a lot of games, contend for the conference fairly regularly and seem to agree that making the tournament is a base necessity. But at some point, you need to take the next step.
That time is now. Isn’t it?
[An earlier version of this post mistakenly said Purdue would advance to Indianapolis if they made the sweet 16. It has been corrected. Boiled Sports regrets the error and blames Boilerdowd.]