Opportunity Abounds...for the Bold
Perhaps you couldn't contain your enthusiasm last night as you watched the plucky, perhaps lucky, UMBC Retrievers dismantle the 2018 overall number one seeded Virginia Cavaliers. I was watching the game in bed...clapping and yelling as if my Boilers were earning their way into the round of eight. I'm sure I'd be vomiting if Matty's boys were cruising like that toward a trip to San Antonio.
I don't think UMBC was lucky in their win, but the bounces were definitely in their favor as Lyles hit absolutely everything he shot down the stretch. Leg cramps be damned...the fact that he was six inches shorter and forty pounds lighter than the UVA player who was guarding him didn't matter either.
He and his teammates played bold, fearless basketball. Their coach, Ryan Odom, a guy who grew up watching his Dad (Dave Odom) hold the same job at Wake Forest, acted like this is exactly what he expected last night. I believe he prepared his team to win...and expected it.
Upsets sometimes fall into the laps of 'David' characters...they might start believing as they hang around, as Goliath seems disinterested. I don't think that was the case last night. Goliath wasn't nonchalant, but instead rigid. Even as UMBC controlled the pace of the game in the second half, Bennett and his staff refused to panic...refused to change pace. Hell,who could blame them? It worked versus Louisville a few weeks ago, and this team definitely wasn't Louisville. Afterall, Louisville chokes away leads. In contrast, he Mighty Retrievers ripped the throats and hearts out of the Cavaliers.
They attacked the heart of the Virginia defense that had terrified bluebloods in the ACC...and their relentless attacks yielded more points than Virginia had given up in a half all season. On the other end of the floor, Virginia calmly ran their offense, slowly, methodically...and with little production. At the same time, UMBC grabbed rebound after rebound after rebound.
History was made by the bold last night. Our perception of what was possible in the dance changed with twenty minutes of dominant basketball by a fearless bunch of misfits.
As you know, it was magnificent.
This sort of magnificence isn't limited just to small schools with 130 pound point guards who never stop running. No, the opportunity for greatness awaits our Boilers, even now, as uncertainty hovers above their heads.
Yesterday, I was in Detroit watching The Forces of Good handle the Titans from Fullerton, California. It took Matty's boys some time to get into rhythm, but once they did, they looked like the aggressor...like a number two seed in a game versus a weak 15.
Cal State Fullerton did everything they could to try to affect Purdue's game plan...but Purdue's shooters actually affected their own offensive output more than CSF's defense; with one exception. Their bigs beat on Purdue's biggest dog with impunity. That's nothing new. But midway through the second half, as Purdue was in cruise control, Haas got locked up by CSF's power forward and headed to the hardwood.
This play was not unlike a play that occurred versus PSU. That one resulted in a double technical cop-out call by the limp-wristed official. This entanglement resulted in a foul on CSF...and a fractured elbow for Isaac Haas.
From the third level of seats in the Little Caesars Arena, I could hear the impact between the floor and Haas' sturdy right elbow. Rumor has it that floor boards had to be replaced...that hasn't been confirmed yet. What x-rays did confirm, was that Haas was injured worse than he had ever been injured in four years of physical play in a Purdue uniform.
Haas has never missed a game due to injury at Purdue. But yesterday afternoon, it looked like he would not only miss the Butler game, but any subsequent games that Purdue might play in this Spring.
Bummer...punch in the gut...swift kick to the groin. This news sucked.
It choked up my twelve year old son who doesn't remember Hummel's ACL. Of course he doesn't remember Glenn Robinson's hip injury back in 1994 either...but you and I both recall these injuries. Many of Purdue's faithful resigned themselves to a fate of a next round loss. But this is not an inevitability.
This afternoon, a few rays of hope started gleaming through the fog of dismay among the Purdue faithful. Allie LaForce reported that not only was Haas at practice, but he gave it a go earlier today in Detroit. He's in pain...he's wearing a big brace...but he wants to keep at it.
Painter sobered everyone by saying Haas probably wouldn't play. Not only did the NCAA have to approve the elbow brace that he will be wearing, but docs had to give him the all clear.
Regardless of Haas' ability to play tomorrow or any game in the coming weeks, if that happens, there is great opportunity for Vince, PJ, Dakota...and everyone on this squad.
A chance to play for a teammate is the best motivator many athletes can have...The chance to overcome naysayers might be an even better one. If Haas can't play, very few outside of their locker room will see the formerly top-3 Boilers as anything but a non-contender destined to travel back home in the near future. Purdue is once again, the underdog.
I said it on Twitter, and will say it again here. Haas' injury, if nothing else should remind Painter, and all of these Boilers that tomorrow isn't guaranteed.
Now is the time to boldly seize opportunities at hand.